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Great Britain

Europe lead USA, but Solheim Cup’s opening day is marred by slow play

A 100-year-old woman earned social media stardom having impressed professionals with a few swings at this weekend’s Dutch Open on the European Tour. The joke goes that Susan Hosang was enjoying her 60s as the 16th Solheim Cup got under way at Gleneagles.

A successful opening day for Europe was overshadowed by a curse of modern golf: slow play. The matter was particularly stark during afternoon fourballs as the maiden match took five and a quarter hours until conclusion on the 16th green. Lizette Salas was singled out for a warning by officials but the unwillingness of those presiding over events to implement proper penalties is as recurring a theme as it is a depressing one. Salas did not appear any worse than many others.

Paul Lawrie, a former Open champion, enjoyed his visit to Gleneagles but spoke out about the “absolutely brutally slow” pace of play. Juli Inkster, the US captain, concurred. “It’s painfully slow out there,” she said.

For television viewers, let alone those who had paid good money to spectate, this was borderline unwatchable. It is to the detriment of what should be a marquee sporting event that the scenario continued, and continued, and continued to the point where it was the key narrative. That Europe enter Saturday with a lead, four and a half to three and a half, felt like an afterthought.

Captaincy can be defined by bold calls. Catriona Matthew would have been subject to criticism had Anne van Dam and Suzann Pettersen slumped to a Solheim Cup loss; instead, this unlikely duo delivered a fourball showing which fully endorsed their captain’s faith.

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Van Dam, a Solheim Cup debutant, was nerveless as Salas and Danielle Kang were swatted aside by 4&2. Pettersen had undertaken pre-tournament media duties whilst barely able to speak because of a throat problem; the Norwegian was duly left out of the opening session. In Van Dam and Pettersen - the latter is playing in this event for the ninth time - Matthew had the perfect mix of youth and experience. Pettersen set the tone with a wonderful putt converted from 50ft at the 6th for a two. By the turn, this European team was four up, an irretrievable situation for the US.

As Matthew celebrated the excellence of Van Dam and Pettersen, this proved a grisly Friday the 13th for Caroline Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist. That Swedes were demolished, 7&5, by Angel Yin and Ally McDonald, matching a Solheim Cup record. McDonald is worthy of special praise; she was an 11th hour substitute here after the back injury suffered by Stacy Lewis.

Europe took a one point lead into session two. And yet, the overwhelming stars of the foursomes show were American. The Korda sisters, Jessica and Nelly, thumped Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Caroline Masson 6&4. Petr Korda, the golfers’ father and a former grand slam tennis champion, was among the Gleneagles galleries.

The opening match of the competition was halved as Bronte Law and Carlota Ciganda couldn’t be separated from Marina Alex and Morgan Pressel. Law and Ciganda earned another half point but were disappointed as Lexi Thompson holed a lengthy putt at the last to haul the Europeans back. Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier enjoyed a 2&1 foursomes success over Thompson and Brittany Altomare. Hall and Boutier sat out the fourballs.

Charley Hull’s fondness for this biennial competition was again apparent as she combined with Azahara Munoz for a 2&1 foursomes win over Megan Khang and Annie Park. In the fourballs, Hull and Munoz shared a point with Altomare and Nelly Korda.

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