Momentum swung fast and furious in the Solheim Cup at Carmel, Ind., stopping only when Paula Creamer holed a 5-foot par putt to win for the second time Saturday and leave the matches where they started – all square, with 12 singles matches left to decide who wins.
The 19-year-old Creamer and five women old enough to be her mother led an American rally at Crooked Stick, none more spectacular than 45-year-old Rosie Jones. Playing in her final Solheim Cup, Jones made a 30-foot birdie putt up the ridge on the 18th for an unlikely halve.
Annika Sorenstam recovered from a meltdown in the morning by teaming with Laura Davies for the first time and picking up an easy point. Trish Johnson and Sophie Gustafson came up with clutch putts for Europe.
Creamer’s par putt gave her and Cristie Kerr a 1-up victory over Cationa Matthew and Carin Koch, leaving the matches tied at 8 going into today’s singles. The other time the Solheim Cup was tied going into the last day was in 1994, and the Americans won.
This might be the first time they have an advantage.
The United States typically does its best in singles, having won five of eight times and outscoring Europe 51 1/2 -36 1/2 in Solheim Cup history. But the way these matches have gone the first two days, expect anything.
Meg Mallon, who has won both her better-ball matches with Jones, made a 12-foot birdie putt to halve the 16th hole and keep their match all square with Gustafson and Suzann Pettersen. On the 18th, Gustafson hit a terrific approach into 10 feet, and the Americans appeared to have no shot.
But after Mallon lagged her putt from below the ridge, Jones studied the line and played it right at the hole. It never left its line, and Jones pumped her fists as she jogged off the green.
“That’s got to be the best putt I’ve ever made,” Jones said. “I went straight at it. Unbelievable.”
Not to be outdone, Gustafson curled her putt in the right side for a halve.
Johnson also came up big for Europe, hitting her tee shot into 6 feet on the difficult par-3 17th for a birdie to tie Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster. Europe had a chance to win the match on the 18th, but Iben Tinning pulled her 10-footer for birdie.
Creamer continued to emerge as a star, teaming with the 45-year-old Inkster to make six birdies against no bogeys in an alternate-shot match victory in the morning. Creamer carried Cristie Kerr in the afternoon, rallying from 3-down after three holes to seize control and keep it.
Davies and Sorenstam had never been a team before, and they were the dominant force everyone expected, leading from the opening hole. Both have won 19 matches and 20 1/2 points, and they have sustained Europe over two days at Crooked Stick.
It helped Sorenstam erase some awful memories.
She had control of her alternate-shot match in the morning with Matthew, 3-up after five holes against Pat Hurst and last-minute replacement Michele Redman, called upon when Kerr awoke with a stiff neck. The match got close when Sorenstam began missing putts, and before long it was all square through 13.
The Americans pulled ahead with a birdie on the 14th and kept their 1-up lead going to the last hole. Hurst drove perfectly into the fairway. Sorenstam’s drive leaked right and into the water, a stunning collapse by a player with 74 victories around the world and nine majors.
It was a small measure of redemption for the 40-year-old Redman, part of the team that blew a 4-up lead with six holes to play Friday against Sorenstam and Pettersen. She played a key role, holing a 15-foot par putt that allowed the Americans to take a 1-up lead to the final hole.
They got plenty of help in front of them.
For the second straight time, European captain Catrin Nilsmark benched two of her rookies the first day and put them out together as sacrificial lambs. Ludivine Kreutz and Gwladys Nocera of France never had a chance, losing 4 and 2 to Christina Kim and Natalie Gulbis while playing 16 holes in 4 over par.
The best golf came from Creamer and Inkster, who was the LPGA Tour rookie of the year in 1984, two years before Creamer was born.
Inkster delivered a Solheim Cup moment – and showed her dance moves have only slightly improved. Clinging to a 1-up lead at the turn, Inkster was in deep rough above the 10th green with Europe in range for a birdie that would square the match – with a par 5 coming up, reachable only by big hitters.
The chip came out perfectly and dropped into the cup for birdie. Inkster did two pirouettes, ran to the edge of the green and did a shimmy shake. They won the next hole when Davies hit over the gallery with her second shot and Europe made bogey, and then Davies made a charge – an 8-foot birdie on the 13th, a 15-footer on the 14th, to get within one.
“Once that momentum slips a little bit, it can go all the way,” Inkster said.
Not this time. Creamer came to the rescue with her best tee shot of the day on the par-5 15th, allowing Inkster to reach with a 7-wood that set up a birdie to restore the margin to 2-up. Creamer then took a little off a 6-iron to reach the back pin on the 16th from 155 yards, and Inkster holed the 8-footer for birdie to win the match.
In Europe’s only foursomes win of the day, Gustafson and Koch defeated Laura Diaz and Wendy Ward of Edwall, Wash., 5 and 3.
Stephen Ames shot a course-record tying 64 and Craig Barlow made a hole-in-one to surge into contention as Mark Calcavecchia’s lead shrunk to one stroke after three rounds of the Canadian Open at Vancouver, B.C.
Calcavecchia, the 1989 British Open champion, started the day with a five-shot lead but battled inconsistent drives and missed putts in a round of 2-over-par 72 for a 6-under 204 total.
Calcavecchia’s struggles gave the rest of the field the opening it needed, and 12 players moved within five shots of the lead entering the final round at Shaughnessy Golf Club.
After opening with rounds of 65 and 67, Calcavecchia didn’t make a birdie in the third round. He had back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 9-10 and scrambled to eight pars on the back nine, including getting up-and-down from 60 yards at No. 18 to remain in the lead.
He also saved an improbable par at the par-4 13th after hitting his tee shot so far left into the trees that he had to chip out to the adjoining 14th fairway. He hit his third shot within 20 feet of the cup and made the putt.
“After missing so many, I had a feeling I was going to make it,” Calcavecchia said. “That’s one of my better pars of the year.”
Calcavecchia is seeking his first win on tour in four years and will have to hold off a host of challengers to pull off the feat, including Barlow, who shot 65, and Jesper Parnevik (67), one shot back at 5 under. Ryan Moore (67), the 2004 U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion, is two shots back.
Ames is in a four-way tie at 3 under in a group that also includes defending champion Vijay Singh (68), Jerry Kelly (69) and Brian Davis (66).
Barlow, who was at even-par through 13 holes, played the last five holes in 5 under. He drove the 289-yard par-4 14th and made a 6-foot eagle putt. He followed with a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th.
He aced the par-3 17th with an 8-iron, landing his approach about 10 feet short before the ball rolled into the hole for his first hole-in-one on tour.
“When it was in the air, I never thought of it going in,” Barlow said. “I just knew I’d hit it good.”
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