Suzann Pettersen helps Europe to Solheim Cup lead
Europe's top player Suzann Pettersen steered her continent to a 4½-3½ Solheim Cup lead over the United States at the end of a dramatic first day marred only by a painfully slow pace of play.
The Norwegian world number two was on the winning side in the anchor matches of both sessions to give the hosts their slender advantage at a windswept Killeen Castle in County Meath.
Pettersen partnered Anna Nordqvist to a two-hole victory in a tense fourball struggle with the top American Christie Kerr and Michelle Wie that was eventually settled on the final green in gathering evening gloom.
On a day when fortunes fluctuated throughout, Paula Creamer reaffirmed her formidable Solheim Cup reputation by holing putts to snatch final-hole comeback wins in both sessions. On each occasion the luckless English rookie Melissa Reid was on the receiving end.
Creamer and partner Morgan Pressel made birdies on the last two holes to earn their win on an afternoon when the home side had led in all four matches.
The victory denied Reid's partner Laura Davies the half point that would have tied Annika Sorenstam's all-time record of 24. More significantly it halted growing European momentum. Creamer's Solheim Cup record now shows 10 wins and only two defeats from 16 matches.
Wie/Kerr (US) beat Hjorth/Nordqvist (Eur) 2&1
Creamer/Lincicome (US) beat Stupples/Reid (Eur) by 1 hole
Matthew/Munoz (Eur) beat Lewis/Stanford (US) 3&2
Pettersen/Gustafson (Eur) beat Lang/Inkster by 1 hole
Pressel/Creamer (US) beat Davies/Reid (Eur) by 1 hole
Matthew/Gal (Eur) tied with Kim/O'Toole (US)
Gustafson/Hedwall (Eur) beat Hurst/Lincicome (US) 5&4
Pettersen/Nordqvist (Eur) beat Kerr/Wie (US) by two holes
Sweden's Caroline Hedwall, a surprise omission from the morning session, made a dream debut playing with Sophie Gustafson who, having earlier partnered Pettersen, won two points out of two on this first day.
Hedwall contributed four birdies in the strengthening wind as Vicky Hurst and Brittany Lincicome were blown away 5&4.
Christina Kim and surprise captain's pick Ryann O'Toole made a stunning comeback for the Americans to force a half against Catriona Matthew and Sandra Gal.
Having trailed throughout, both Americans sank lengthy birdie putts on the 16th and 17th holes before halving the last in pars to share the spoils.
It was the best match of the day with every hole on the front nine bar the first decided with birdies. Matthew, who had five birdies in a row from the sixth, was frustrated not to have gained a full point from a match that took more than five-and-a-half hours to complete.
"When Christina and Ryann make birdies like that on tricky holes like 16 and 17 there is not much you can do," said the Scot, who had won her morning foursomes when she partnered Spanish rookie Azaharah Munoz.
Gustafson's heroics began when she combined with Pettersen to rescue the crucial point that ensured the sides went to lunch level at two-all after the foursomes.
Reid and Karen Stupples had squandered a two-hole lead with four to play, horribly double bogeying the last two holes to lose to Creamer and Lincicome.
Under intense pressure with her match all square on the final tee, Pettersen found the fairway before Gustafson eclipsed Brittany Lang's excellent approach with the shot of the session.
Pettersen then calmly rolled in the winning putt from six feet for a point that had skipper Alison Nicholas leaping across the green in understandable delight.
Her decision to put out her strongest pair in the often pivotal bottom match was thoroughly vindicated, just as it was in the second session as Europe claimed a lead they will be desperate to extend before Sunday's singles.