• Solheim Cup

Europe take early lead as Americans whinge

ESPN staff
August 16, 2013
An official uses a laser distance finder to measure the distance to the hole after Europe's Carlota Ciganda lost her ball. The incident left the Americans far from happy © AP

Europe ended the first day of the Solheim Cup at Colorado Golf Club with an important 5-3 lead but the Amercians were left fuming over what they insisted was an incorrect ruling. There is still a long way to go but Europe have their noses in front in a bid to win the Cup on American soil for the first time.

The disputed incident came when Spain's Carlota Ciganda was allowed to hit from the wrong spot and salvaged an unlikely par from a hazard on the par-five 15th hole, keeping her and Suzann Pettersen from falling behind in a pivotal fourballs match. Pettersen won the next hole with a birdie, sending them from two down at the turn to a 1-up victory that staked Europe to a 5-3 lead.

A long day ended with Stacy Lewis, on the losing end of that match, getting into a heated discussion with an official over the use of a laser by the official to determine the right drop. At one point, Lewis threw her hands in the air. Along with using a laser, she was upset with the length of the chaotic ruling.

The laser was used to make sure Ciganda's options would be equal distance from the hole. "Part of the problem we had with it was the rules official lasered the flag and made it public information," Lewis moaned. "So he gave them a number."

Ciganda was allowed to drop some 40 yards behind, which is not allowed. LPGA Tour rules official Brad Alexander, called in for a second opinion, incorrectly allowed Ciganda to hit from that spot. Because an official made the ruling, it stood even though it was wrong. It was the first of four matches in the afternoon. Momentum was on the American side. And the three groups behind them were stacked up for a half-hour waiting for the situation to get cleared up.

"Obviously, I'm not happy about it," US captain Meg Mallon said. "The thing I'm most unhappy about is that it ... took about 25 minutes for this to happen. And from our perspective the momentum, which was coming in our favour at that point in time, obviously had stopped.

"People make mistakes in rulings. That's not my issue. We have four matches out there and we have officials with every group, and it shouldn't take that long for something like that to happen.

Lewis said the explanation from the rules official "was about as bad as ruling." "I don't think it was correct," she said, before learning that it was wrong. "It took way too long. It killed the momentum of our match. It killed the momentum of the matches behind us, and it's just not what you want the rules officials to ever do."

The incident took the gloss off a superb European showing. The tone was set in the morning when Azahara Munoz and Karine Icher knocked off Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer to help defending champions Europe take a 3-1 lead at the break Munoz made a 10-foot par putt to close out the match on the 17th hole for a 2-and-1 victory in the morning's final alternate-shot match.

Pettersen and Carolina Hedwall won both their matches. In her first match Pettersen, playing in her seventh Solheim Cup, hammered a fairway metal within 20 feet on the 16th hole that set up Beatriz Recari for the eagle putt to take charge in a foursomes match. In the afternoon, it was Pettersen's seven-foot birdie putt on the 16th - after Thompson three-putted for par - that gave Europe the lead.

America's rookie, 20-year-old Jessica Korda, had a most unusual start. After a breakfast of milk and cereal, she was munching on a banana down the first fairway when she became nauseous. She walked over to the side of the fairway and threw up.

Anyone hoping for more tranquillity after the boorishness of the crowd at the US PGA would have winced when Thompson, another rookie, asked the crowd to crank up the noise as she hit the opening tee shot.

Europe also had the lead after the opening day two years ago in Ireland and went on to win the Solheim Cup. This is the largest lead they have had on Friday since 5-3 at Crooked Stick in 2005. The Americans came back to win.

Material from ESPN.com was used in this report

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