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Europe Builds A Lead On American Soil At Solheim Cup

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Carlota Ciganda of Spain and the European Team playing the 18th hole during practice for the 2013 Solheim Cup at The Colorado Golf Club on August 15, 2013 in Parker, Colorado.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Carlota Ciganda of Spain and the European Team playing the 18th hole during practice for the 2013 Solheim Cup at The Colorado Golf Club on August 15, 2013 in Parker, Colorado. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

PARKER, Colo. (AP) – Europe took an important step Friday toward winning the Solheim Cup on American soil.

Carlota Ciganda of Spain salvaged an unlikely par from a hazard on the par-5 15th hole and kept her and Suzann Pettersen from falling behind. Pettersen won the next hole with a birdie, sending them from 2 down at the turn to a 1-up victory in a pivotal fourballs match 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, Lewis 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.

PHOTO GALLERY: Solheim Cup At Colorado Golf Club

That was a moot point, however, when Ciganda eventually dropped from an entirely different spot. She hit her fourth shot just off the green, and holed a 15-foot putt right when it looked as if the Americans would take the lead.

“The explanation was about as bad as the ruling, I thought,” Lewis said. “I don’t think it was correct. 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 British Open 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 Meg 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.

SCORE: Europe 5, United States 3.

EUROPEAN STARS: Suzann Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall each won both their matches with different partners.

AMERICAN STARS: Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda gave the Americans their only win in foursomes. Michelle Wie, scrutinized as a captain’s pick, delivered consecutive birdies with her short game in teaming with Cristie Kerr to win a fourballs match.

THE NERVES: Jessica Korda made an auspicious start to her Solheim Cup career when she threw up in the trees next to the first fairway.

WINLESS: Stacy Lewis lost both her matches as her Solheim Cup record fell to 1-5. Angela Stanford also went 0-2 on Friday and has a career mark of 3-9-3.

SHOT OF THE DAY: Michelle Wie chipped in from behind the 13th green to give her team momentum and a 2-up lead.

PUTT OF THE DAY: Carlota Ciganda holed a 15-foot putt to salvage a par from the hazard on the 15th that swung momentum in Europe’s direction.

NOTABLE: The team leading after the first day has gone on to win the Solheim Cup nine of 11 times.

QUOTABLE: “This game, it just never really gets old. It just brings out the best in you.” – Suzann Pettersen.

TELEVISON (EDT): Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Golf Channel.

- By DOUG FERGUSON, AP Golf Writer

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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