CASARES, Spain — There’s a difference between good matches and close matches.
The early portion of Friday afternoon’s fourball session at the 2023 Solheim Cup was decidedly full of the latter as warm temperatures and high winds sped up the greens at Finca Cortesin, which seemed to perplex players. Then a switch was flipped early on the back nine.
The Europeans made their move and put blue across the leaderboard for nearly an hour before the Americans responded in kind. In the end the continental All-Stars took the session, 3-1, and cut into the American lead. The U.S. will hold a 5-3 advantage entering Saturday morning’s foursomes matches.
From rookie success to history made and some crazy fan support, here are five things we learned from the first day of play at the 2023 Solheim Cup.
Europe punches back in afternoon
After getting swept in the morning session, the Europeans needed a strong performance in the afternoon and that’s exactly what Suzann Pettersen’s side was able to do down the stretch, winning 3-1 to climb right back into contention.
Team USA’s Megan Khang and Rose Zhang each had birdie putts to win their match and put the first point on the board in the afternoon but both missed, tying the match with Europe’s Gemma Dryburgh and Madelene Sagstrom. The U.S. led for nine holes in this match, and the Europeans just one.
In the next match, Leona Maguire did what she does best and put a point on the board for Team Europe with a chip-in for birdie on the par-5 18th hole.
Lexi Thompson had a chance to get up-and-down for birdie to tie from off the green, but with the ball below her feet, she shanked her chip. Lilia Vu then had a shot to make a lengthy birdie putt but missed, which officially earned Europe it’s first full point of the event.
Minutes later Europe’s Carlota Ciganda and Linn Grant put Angel Yin and Ally Ewing away, 4 and 2, in a match that the Europeans never trailed. In fact, they were only ever tied on the first tee.
Americans Jennifer Kupcho and Allisen Corpuz were in control of their match against Emily Pedersen and Maja Stark for the majority of the day but were unable to score late and earn a point. Each group only won three holes, with the Americans making three birdies and the Europeans winning with par, birdie and a hole-in-one (more on that to come).
History made twice
Team USA’s 4-0 sweep of the Europeans in the morning was the first time the Americans had ever swept a foursomes session, and just the second time they’d swept any session in the event’s 17-year history. They previously won 4-0 in Saturday afternoon’s fourballs at the 2017 Solheim Cup.
In the afternoon, Emily Kristine Pedersen put her name in the record books with just the second hole-in-one of the event’s history. The Dane, playing in her third Solheim Cup, played the slope to perfection on the par-3 12th and joined teammate and playing assistant captain Anna Nordqvist (2013 Solehim Cup) as the two players to make an ace in the biennial competition.
Going for the first green
In the morning foursomes (alternate shot), four players went for the green and four decided to play up. Of the four to go for it, none found the green, and only one hit into the water (Nelly Korda). The U.S. won with par once (went for the green), birdie once (went for the green), lost to par (went for the green) and tied (U.S. laid up while Europe went for it).
In the afternoon, 12 of the 16 players went for the green. Four found the dance floor while Emily Kristine Pedersen and Linn Grant each hit into the water. With each competitor playing their own ball in foursomes, it was more telling for the strategy.
Three birdies were made in the afternoon, and two went for the green (Zhang and Khang) while Carlota Ciganda made birdie after laying up. The two who hit into the water each still made par. The day’s lone player that didn’t make par nor birdie was Angel Yin, who drove over the green and into the woods. Her score wasn’t recorded on the hole.
It’s a small sample size, but on the first day going for the green produced an advantage, albeit a small one.
Anna Nordqvist’s family is First Team All-Fun
Few players have more history in the Solheim Cup than Anna Nordqvist.
The 36-year-old Swede is making her eighth appearance this week (tied for fourth all-time) for Team Europe and is also an assistant captain for Suzann Pettersen’s squad.
Her family showed up to support in Spain and went absolutely bananas.
Anna Nordqvist has a duel role as a playing assistant captain this week for Team Europe.
Her family is taking the phrase “going bananas” to a new level 🍌🍌🍌 pic.twitter.com/AduqOD27R7
— Adam Woodard (@AdamWoodard) September 22, 2023
It was a lively crowd for most of the day at Finca Cortesin as fans packed the grandstand on the first tee and cheered all around the course. Both groups tried to drown each other out with chant’s of “Europe!” and “U-S-A!” with the home-field Europeans largely coming out on top.
There were duck calls and costumes a plenty, which made for a fun atmosphere despite the course being a difficult walk and challenging to navigate from group-to-group.
How’d the rookies do?
Five Americans (Allisen Corpuz, Cheyenne Knight, Andrea Lee, Lilia Vu, Rose Zhang) and three Europeans (Gemma Dryburgh, Linn Grant, Maja Stark) made their Solheim Cup debuts on Friday, with three playing in both morning and afternoon sessions. Here’s how they fared:
Allisen Corpuz (USA): 1-0-1
Linn Grant (Europe): 1-1-0
Cheyenne Knight (USA): 1-0-0
Andrea Lee (USA): 1-0-0
Rose Zhang (USA): 0-0-1
Maja Stark (Europe): 0-1-1
Lilia Vu (USA): 0-1-0
Gemma Dryburgh (Europe): 0-1-0
Corpuz and Grant were the bright rookies for both teams as each played both sessions on Friday.