Davies leads Europe's fightback

SOLHEIM CUP: World No 1 revives home challenge after Americans make flying start on day of close encounters
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Laura Davies (who else?) led Europe back from the verge of annihilation in the fourth Solheim Cup match yesterday afternoon. Having lunched in quiet fashion after gleaning only half a point in the morning foursomes, the home side reclaimed some respectability to trail the Americans 5-3.

Davies and Trish Johnson gave Europe their first win with a 6 and 5 steamrollering of Pat Bradley and Kelly Robbins. Johnson, the European Open champion two weeks ago, was the steady hand that allowed Davies, winner of the English Open last week, to have a blast. "We ran into a buzz-saw in Laura," said Bradley. "She was not letting up."

The world No1 started with three birdies, ended with three birdies, collecting seven of the English pair's nine birdies in 13 holes. Davies almost hit the flag as she drove the green at the 309-yard eighth hole, and chipped in at the 11th. "Trish and I gelled from the start," Davies said. "I made a few putts early on, she came in and I finished it off. "

After a morning session played in cold and blustery conditions when bogeys were more prevalent than birdies, the gallery of 9,765 was delighted to see the Europeans put the flag sticks under bombardment. "We were having a very quiet lunch time, all disappointed," Davies said. "And then Kathryn Marshall came in, put on a tape with loud music, and all of a sudden the mood changed."

Like Johnson, Marshall had not played in the morning, but combined with double US Open winner Annika Sorenstam to beat Val Skinner and Jane Geddes. The tape Marshall had put on in the team room was of Snap's "We've got the power". "They all looked so serious," Marshall said. "I wanted to remind them that this was meant to be fun." A couple of monster putts from the Scot helped to build a three-up lead, but four birdies in five holes from Skinner and a timely first from Geddes at the 17th prolonged the agony.

A theme of the day was for matches to get to the last only for America to win, but Sorenstam holed from five feet as the Europeans recorded a betterball 65.

Europe had been up in all four matches for much of the afternoon, but the Americans fought back as they had earlier. Dottie Pepper holed putts as if her life depended on it, as she does most things, and she and Betsy King reclaimed the 18th for the visitors against Lotta Neumann and Catrin Nilsmark. Then, Beth Daniel, whose second shot bounced back into the fairway off a tree, pitched and single putted to ensure a half in her game with Meg Mallon against Helen Alfredsson and Alison Nicholas.

Europe's captain, Mickey Walker, had stressed the importance of making a good start in the morning foursomes. Europe went to the turn up in two and down in only one, but the first whitewash in a series of Solheim Cup matches was only just avoided. "All the matches were very close," said Walker. "It's amazing in matchplay and team golf how quickly things can change."

None more so than in the top match. The Swedes, Sorenstam and Nilsmark, went three up on Robbins and Michelle McGann at the eighth before the Americans responded with three birdies in a row from the 11th. They only picked up one hole, but pars were good enough to win the 15th and 16th. Both teams birdied the par-five last, Nilsmark holing from seven feet, Robbins from four. "I tried to think about all the times I've holed from that range in the past," Robbins said. "From three down, that was a great half."

As in the afternoon, all but one of the foursomes went to the 18th. The exception was Pepper and Brandie Burton's 2and 1 win over Alfredsson and Neumann despite being two down after 10 holes. Burton, who sprained her right ankle earlier in the week, said she could have gone another 18 holes, but was rested by the US captain, Judy Rankin.

Davies's quick start in the afternoon may have had something to do with losing her unbeaten foursomes record with Nicholas to Patty Sheehan and Rosie Jones. Putting, Davies had said, would be the difference between the sides and the world No 1 missed three short ones.



0800: Davies and Johnson (Eur) v Sheehan and Jones (US)

0815: Sorenstam and Nilsmark (Eur) v Pepper and Burton (US)

0830: Neumann and Marshall (Eur) v Mallon and Geddes (US)

0845: De Lorenzi and Alfredsson (Eur) v Robbins and McGann (US)

Yesterday's foursomes




Sorenstam and Nilsmark (Eur)

Robbins and McGann (US) match halved

Davies and Nicholas (Eur)

Sheehan and Jones (US) won 1 hole

De Lorenzi and Reid (Eur)

Daniel and Skinner (US) won 1 hole

Alfredsson and Neumann (Eur)

Pepper and Burton won 2 and 1

5 5 2 4 4 3 4 4 4 5 3 5 4 4 4 5 4 5 74

5 4 3 4 5 3 5 4 4 4 4 5 3 4 5 4 4 5 75