Golf / Solheim Cup: Europe shed fears to take the initiative: Davies and Nicholas lead from the front and leave Americans trailing: Tim Glover reports from Edinburgh

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The Independent Online
THE captains of Europe and the United States predicted that the second Solheim Cup match would be fought tooth and nail. The teeth were gnawing at the fingernails after the first day's play here yesterday when the Europeans established a lead of 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 in the foursomes.

Two years ago, in the inaugural competition at Lake Nona in Florida, the Americans won the foursomes 3-1 and took possession of the Cup by the convincing margin of 11 1/2 to 4 1/2 . Mickey Walker, the captain of Europe then and now, emphasised that there had been several significant changes. 'We are much more of a team,' she said. 'We know each other much better and the players have really gelled. The other thing is that we have no fear of playing against the United States. At Lake Nona we were in awe of them.'

Walker might have added that the weather at the Dalmahoy Golf and Country Club, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, has been somewhat different to the all- American sunshine that accompanied the event in Florida. It rained here for most of the day and Beth Daniel, for one, was upset by the conditions. She and Betsy King were four down after 10 holes against Laura Davies and Alison Nicholas and Daniel's frustration surfaced at the 11th.

Both pairings were just short of the green at this par-five hole and while Nicholas was preparing to play, Daniel became embroiled in a discussion with a rules official. Daniel, who earlier in the week was quoted as saying that Europe had no strength in depth, was upset at not getting a ruling in her favour over the question of casual water between her ball and the flag.

Throughout the day, the greens staff were 'squeegeeing' water from the putting surface and Daniel wanted them to get their mops out again. Because the American ball was not on the green, her request was denied. 'I had to tell her to be quiet while I played my shot,' Nicholas said. 'I didn't object to her asking for a ruling but not while I'm about to play. I wanted to get on with it.'

Daniel subsequently left her chip short and the hole was halved in fives. 'The official made the right decision,' Davies said. 'We had casual water on a lot of our putts coming in and we just got on with it.' The European pair were two up after birdies at the first two holes, all square after six and then they birdied the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th, winning all four holes. They were on in two at the ninth, Davies smashing a seven-wood 222 yards on to the green and at the 10th Nicholas, who barely comes up to her partner's elbow, hit a four-wood three inches from the flag.

'We were against two of the best players in the world,' Davies said. 'We knew that if we left the door open they'd step in.' Daniel and King won the 13th with a birdie three, the 16th where the Europeans had a bogey five, and the 17th with another birdie three. One up with one to play, Davies drove into the left rough but Nicholas struck the decisive blow, finding the heart of the green after floating the ball over two trees. The hole was halved, giving the Europeans victory by one up. In strokeplay Davies and Nicholas went round in 69.

Daniel, who had a 100 per cent record at Lake Nona with three victories, has been omitted from today's series of fourball matches. Alice Miller, the American captain, committed herself to giving every member of her team a game on the first two days. Danielle Ammaccapane has also been rested and Brandie Burton and Deb Richard brought in. Walker, on the other hand, has kept the same pairings, which means that Kitrina Douglas and Catrin Nilsmark will play only in the singles tomorrow.

Europe went 2-0 ahead when the Swedish pair of Liselotte Neumann and Helen Alfredsson, who have both made an impression on the US Tour this season, defeated Pat Bradley and Dottie Mochrie, one of America's blue- chip partnerships, 2 and 1. The Americans, three down after 12, won the 14th and the 15th but were stopped in their tracks at the 16th, one of Dalmahoy's hardest holes. Alfredsson hit a four-wood to within 15 feet of the flag from 210 yards and Neumann, whose putting had been influential throughout the match, holed out for a three.

America's only victory came from the two debutants, Ammaccapane and Meg Mallon, who beat Florence Descampe and Trish Johnson one up. In the final match, Dale Reid and Pam Wright halved with Patty Sheehan and Juli Inkster after being three down with eight to play. Walker, fast running out of superlatives to describe her team, came out with 'gutsy' for the two Scots. A crowd of 3,740, 99 per cent of them Scottish and 98 per cent of them sheltering under umbrellas, lent moral support. 'There's no question of hyping the team up. Rather, I've got to try and stop them getting too excited,' Walker said. 'The job's started. We want to finish it.'

MATCH DETAILS FROM DALMAHOY

FOURSOMES (Europe names first)

L Davies and A Nicholas bt B King and B Daniel. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 hole

L Neumann and H Alfredsson bt P Bradley and D Mochrie 2 and 1

F Descampe and T Johnson lost to D Ammaccapane and M Mallon. . . . .1 hole

D Reid and P Wright halved with P Sheehan and J Inkster

Score after first day. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Europe 2 1/2 United States 1 1/2

DRAW FOR TODAY'S FOURBALLS (Europe names first)

10.30: L Davies and A Nicholas v P Sheehan and J Inkster

10.45: T Johnson and F Descampe v B Burton and D Richard

11.00: D Reid and P Wright v M Mallon and B King

11.15: L Neumann and H Alfredsson v P Bradley and D Mochrie

The Solheim Cup consists of four foursomes, four fourballs and 10 singles

(Photograph omitted)

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