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Europe off to a dream start at Solheim Cup despite controversial ruling in United States' favour

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Europe off to a dream start at Solheim Cup despite controversial ruling in United States’ favour after Madelene Sagstrom was penalised for picking up the ball too early

  • Defending champions Europe take a 5½-2½ lead into day two at Solheim Cup
  • A controversial ruling benefitted Nelly Korda during afternoon fourball
  • Madelene Sagstrom was penalised and United States went on to win the match


Controversy came calling at the Solheim Cup on Saturday, as it usually does, and this time it involved a fairly outrageous ruling in favour of world No 1 Nelly Korda. 

But it still couldn’t take the shine off a terrific first-day showing from Europe’s feisty mix of proven performers and prodigious rookies.

The visitors followed up a 3½-½ success in the opening foursomes matches by sharing the spoils in the afternoon fourballs. It left Europe with a first-day lead of 5½-2½ — their biggest in Solheim history after day one.

Nelly Korda (left) received a helping hand after Madelene Sagstrom (right) was penalised

Nelly Korda (left) received a helping hand after Madelene Sagstrom (right) was penalised

They’d been playing for almost 10 hours in Toledo, Ohio before the Americans finally earned a full point — and what a hotly disputed point it was. Korda had performed way below her recent imperious standards in losing her morning match alongside her sister Jessica, and was given a different partner in Ally Ewing. Things were not going to plan in the afternoon either at all square with six to play.

Korda struck a fine eagle putt at the 13th and it seemed to sum up her day when the ball came to rest agonisingly on the edge of the hole. Her Swedish opponent Madelene Sagstrom stepped in quickly and threw the ball back to her.

Leona Maguire (L) and Mel Reid (R) got Europe off to a dream start in the Solheim Cup

Leona Maguire (L) and Mel Reid (R) got Europe off to a dream start in the Solheim Cup

Too quickly, as it happens, for the liking of official Missy Jones. She determined the ball was overhanging the hole, which meant that Korda was allowed a reasonable amount of time to see if the ball dropped in — which clearly did not happen. Korda, therefore, was deemed to have holed the putt for a win.

However, you could tell from Korda’s reaction she knew the ball was not going to fall below ground. Sagstrom was adamant there was no chance. ‘I believe in honour and integrity and there’s no way I’d have picked the ball up if there had been any chance of it going in,’ said the Swede. ‘I don’t agree with the ruling, it sucks.’

This was one of those occasions where the letter of the law was applied rather than the spirit of the game. Whatever happened to the idea that golf is self-policing?

On American television, former US captain Judy Rankin summed up the general feeling when she said the Europeans should have been taken at their word that the ball had come to rest. Korda said: ‘It was definitely awkward, you never want to win a hole like that.’

World No 1 Nelly Korda (pictured) and her sister Jess were beaten by Maguire and Reid

World No 1 Nelly Korda (pictured) and her sister Jess were beaten by Maguire and Reid

Just to complete the galling scenario, the Americans went on to win the match on the strength of that one hole. Imagine if they end up winning the Solheim Cup by a point?

Other than that momentary aberration, it was impossible not to admire Europe’s play, full of flair and defiance. What about the two rookies, Matilda Castren from Finland and Leona Maguire from Ireland? This is the first time those two nations have had a Solheim Cup player and their representatives did them proud, delivering two points each to the cause. Maguire, alongside her English partner Mel Reid, took on the Korda sisters in the morning and took full advantage of their comically bad display. Then she teamed up with Georgia Hall to win again. Castren and Open champion Anna Nordqvist proved an irresistible all-Scandinavian combination.

The three-point lead came about thanks to the extraordinary drama on the 18th hole in the morning. All four matches went that far — and all fell Europe’s way, three for wins and one for a half from Hall and Celine Boutier.

Two down with two to play, it was the first time since the first tee they had been level. It was that sort of day for Europe — at least when the ref kept her nose out of it.

Charley Hull and partner Emily Pedersen played some fabulous golf over the back nine

Charley Hull and partner Emily Pedersen played some fabulous golf over the back nine

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