Team USA need only three-and-a-half points from Sunday’s 12 singles matches to retain the Solheim Cup after another dominant fourballs performance on day two in Iowa.
Europe had staged a late rally in the foursomes with come-from-behind wins in the final two matches of the morning earning a share of the session, but the home side came close to repeating their Friday afternoon whitewash as they won three of the fourballs to open up a commanding five-point advantage.
Brittany Lincicome birdied five of the first six holes in the top match and partner Brittany Lang then holed out for eagle at the seventh, although they were taken all the way by the resilient Mel Reid and Carlota Ciganda in a low-scoring encounter.
“Team Brittany” held firm to clinch a two-up win with their ninth birdie of the round at the last, but Europe finally won their first fourballs match of the week when Anna Nordqvist made it three wins out of three as she and Jodi Ewart Shadoff recorded a 4&2 victory over Lizette Salas and Angel Yin.
But that was the lone success of the afternoon for Annika Sorenstam’s team, with Karine Icher and Madelene Sagstrom unable to keep pace with the brilliance of wildcard pairing Paula Creamer and Austin Ernst in match three, while veteran Catriona Matthew’s winning run came to an end in the final match of the day.
Team Europe’s cause was not helped as Charley Hull had to sit out the entire day to protect the wrist injury she aggravated on Friday morning, although she declared she would be “100% ready” to compete in Sunday’s singles.
But Hull’s willingness to play through the pain looks certain to be fruitless as her team need to pull off the biggest comeback in history to reclaim the trophy on Sunday.
Reid/Ciganda lost to Lang/Lincicome 2up
The two Brittany’s carded a combined 11 under par round to earn the first point of the afternoon for Team USA, although the battling Europeans performed incredibly to take the match the distance.
Lincicome birdied five of the first six holes, begging her hot streak with a pitch to five feet and a putt to match at the first, and after another for a win at the second, she matched Ciganda’s birdie at the short third to stay two up.
Mel Reid did well to snatch a half at the long fifth after Lincicome had made her fourth, and the same pair exchanged further birdie putts at the next before Lang muscled in on the act in spectacular style, holing out from the rough for a thrilling eagle-two.
The feisty Reid halted the American momentum at the eighth as she converted an excellent tee shot to eight feet, and the English ace added another at the 10th for a win before Ciganda finally got one to drop at the 11th for a battling half which kept the deficit to one after Reid found the hazard off the tee.
Lincicome got back on the birdie trail at the 14th and added another after rattling the pin with her eagle pitch at the next with Ciganda already down in four, and Reid channeled her inner Ian Poulter as she celebrated holing a 12-foot birdie putt at the 16th.
But the home pair took a one-hole lead down the last after pars all round at 17, and Lang finished off a match of remarkable quality in fitting style with yet another birdie at 18.
Nordqvist/Ewart Shadoff bt Salas/Yin 4&2
Anna Nordqvist allayed fears over her inability to last two matches in a day after her bout of glandular fever as she retained her 100% winning record alongside Jodi Ewart Shadoff.
Nordqvist got the European pair off to a bright start with a birdie at the second, and the Americans conceded the fourth with Ewart Shadoff lining up a close-range putt for birdie after Salas missed for par.
But Salas atoned at the next as she holed a huge putt for eagle that sent the galleries into raptures, and debutant Yin kept the arrears down to one with a composed birdie putt at the sixth after Ewart Shadoff had holed from 15 feet.
Nordqvist nailed a crucial putt from similar range at the next moments after Salas had come within inches of emulating Lang’s hole-out, and the pumped-up Swede won the eighth with another birdie to restore their two-hole lead before holding her nerve to cancel out Yin’s three at the 10th.
Another birdie from five feet by Nordqvist at the short 14th extended the European lead to three and, after the world No 13 matched a Salas birdie at the next, neither American was able to make the three they needed at the next as Ewart Shadoff capped the winning point for the visitors.
Icher/Sagstrom lost to Creamer/Ernst 2&1
Full of confidence after their morning foursomes win, Ernst got the wildcard pairing off and running again with a winning birdie at the first before Sagstrom, determined to atone for her disappointing maiden performance in Friday’s fourballs, won her first Solheim Cup hole with a birdie at the third.
Veteran Creamer drilled a stunning second to seven feet at the long fourth and confidently rattled in the putt for eagle, but Sagstrom responded with another winning birdie at the sixth before Ernst took the home pair back ahead at the next.
Creamer, a late addition to the team after Jessica Korda withdrew through injury, made it back-to-back winning birdies for her team at the eighth before Icher’s par-five at the ninth proved enough to reduce the deficit to one at the turn.
But the American pair went back to two up with another Creamer birdie at 11, and Ernst came within a whisker of making only the second hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history at the 14th, although Sagstrom responded with a resolute two for a half.
Ernst followed that by chipping in for birdie at the 15th as Icher held her nerve to roll in her putt for a four, but the European pair were unable to find the birdies they needed to extend the contest and defeat was conceded on the penultimate green.
Matthew/Hall lost to Kerr/Thompson 4&2
Fresh from becoming the record American points scorer in the Solheim Cup with her morning win alongside Thompson, Kerr’s sublime touch with the putter continued as she followed a birdie at the third with a 30-footer for another at the third to open up a two-hole lead.
But the fearless Hall fired back with a brilliant eagle at the fourth, only for Thompson to restore the American two-up lead at the sixth which was maintained when Kerr cancelled out a Matthew birdie at the seventh.
Matthew and Kerr, who have a combined age of 86, traded birdies again at the next before the Scot followed a pure approach to the 10th with a composed putt for a winning birdie to get the Europeans back to one down.
Thompson replied with a birdie to win the 11th and Hall almost took the pin out with her second to the next as she and Kerr both birdied, and the same two both threatened the hole with their tee shots at the short 14th.
But Kerr effectively put the result beyond doubt when she holed out from a greenside bunker for a superb eagle which prompted cheers which echoed around the Des Moines resort, and Kerr soon had her 20th career point in the bag one hole later.