Solheim: Europe leads U.S., 5-3

PARKER, Colo. -- With a little help from an incorrect ruling, Europe took an important step Friday toward winning the Solheim Cup on American soil.

Carlota Ciganda of Spain was allowed to hit from the wrong spot and salvaged an unlikely par from a hazard on the par-5 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 2 down at the turn to a 1-up victory that staked Europe to a 5-3 lead.

A long day at Colorado Golf Club 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. So he gave them a number," Lewis said.

Turns out that wasn't the problem. Ciganda was allowed to drop some 40 yards behind, which is not allowed under Rule 26-1-c.

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," U.S. 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 favor 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."

It was a tough day for Lewis, coming off a Women's Open Championship title at St. Andrews.

Lewis struggled with the pace of lightning fast greens on the front nine as she and Lizette Salas fell too far behind to catch up in morning foursomes. Lewis played with another U.S. rookie, Lexi Thompson, who twice squandered good birdie chances late in the fourballs.

Lewis is 1-5 in the Solheim Cup.

Pettersen and Carolina Hedwall led the European charge by winning both their matches. Pettersen, playing in her seventh Solheim Cup, drilled a fairway metal into 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 7-foot birdie putt on the 16th -- after Thompson three-putted for par -- that gave Europe the lead.

Hedwall was part of what European captain Liselotte Neumann called her "Swedish Vikings" to lead off the warm, sunny opening session south of Denver. Hedwall and Anna Nordqvist finished the front nine with two birdies to build a 3-up lead, and they never let Lewis and Salas any closer.

Angela Stanford's overall record dropped to 3-9-3 as she lost both her matches -- with Brittany Lang in the morning and with rookie Gerina Piller in the afternoon.

The day was not a total loss for Mallon's squad.

She was scrutinized for taking Michelle Wie as a captain's pick. Wie's superb short game combined with Cristie Kerr making big putts early as they disposed of Catriona Matthew and 17-year-old Charley Hull, 2 and 1, in the final match. The Americans picked up another point in the afternoon behind Lang and Lincicome, with Lang holing a bunker shot on the 14th hole to give her side control of the match.

In the morning, the lone American point came from Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda, a 20-year-old rookie who had a most unusual start.

Korda described the opening tee shot as "very scary," and the rest of the first hole as simply surreal.

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, news that spread quickly across the expansive course and gave her teammates a moment of levity.

"After I got past the first hole, I was pretty OK," said Korda, whose 7-foot par putt to halve the 16th hole clinched the match.

Thompson, another rookie, stole a page from Bubba Watson at the Ryder Cup when she asked the crowd to crank up the noise as she hit the opening tee shot. Thompson smashed one on the 635-yard hole, and with help from the mile-high air, reached the green in two.

That was the highlight. Even with Ciganda scrambling out of the hazard, Thompson was just short of the green in two on the 15th. She hit a poor pitch some 18 feet from the hole and missed the birdie putt. On the next hole, Thompson three-putted from the back of the green or par, badly missing the birdie putt from 5 feet.

Europe also had the lead after the opening day two years ago in Ireland, and it went on to win the Solheim Cup. This is the largest lead it has had on Friday since 5-3 at Crooked Stick in 2005. The Americans came back to win, and still have never lost the cup on home soil.

That might be tested this week in Colorado.

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