The Solheim Cup kicked off on Friday afternoon at the challenging Finca Cortesin course in Spain. As the wind picked up, so did the excitement and intensity of the matches. After a disappointing start to the foursomes for Europe, they made a comeback in the fourball matches, while the American players who rested in the morning took to the course in the afternoon.
One of the most anticipated rookies on the American team was Lilia Vu, a two-time major champion and former top-ranked player in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. She was paired with Lexi Thompson in Match 6, where they faced off against Leona Maguire and Georgia Hall.
Although Europe ultimately won the match by 1 up on the final green, it was a nail-biting and dramatic contest. Thompson showcased her skills and kept the Americans in the game, while Vu struggled to find her groove. Hall made an impressive eagle on the 4th hole to give Europe a 1-up lead, which remained unchanged for two-and-a-half hours as Thompson fought back with strong ball-striking and solid putting.
The momentum shifted on the 14th hole when Thompson hit a drive that landed near the hole, setting her up for an eagle two to tie the match. However, on the next hole, Thompson three-putted for bogey, giving Maguire and Hall a 1-up lead once again.
The next 30 minutes witnessed some of the best match-play golf of the Solheim Cup so far. Vu, who struggled throughout the match, hit a remarkable 7-iron on the 17th hole to 12 feet and made the birdie putt to tie the match going into the 18th hole. With a large crowd and an important point at stake, Maguire chipped in for birdie from a difficult lie to secure the win for Europe.
Thompson had a chance to tie the match on the 18th hole, but her chip from six yards missed the mark, leaving it up to Vu, who also fell short from 30 feet. Maguire’s chip-in ensured Europe’s victory in the fourball session, with a final score of 3-1 in favor of Europe. The overall score on day one stood at 5-3 in favor of the Americans.
Despite the criticism Thompson may receive for her performance on the 18th hole, she was a standout player throughout the day. In the morning foursomes, she and Megan Khang defeated the strong Swedish pair of Maja Stark and Linn Grant. Without Thompson’s resilience in the afternoon, the match could have ended much sooner.
Thompson’s ball-striking has always been her strength, and her recent hard work is paying off. Her coach, Joe Hallett, noted that her swing is now more balanced, allowing her to work the ball in both directions. This change in setup, reminiscent of the styles of golf legends Mickey Wright and Annika Sorenstam, has given Thompson more control over her shots.
Reflecting on the day, U.S. Captain Stacy Lewis acknowledged the closeness of the matches and the high level of golf on display. Lewis highlighted that the score could have easily been 6-2 in favor of the Americans with a hole-in-one and chip-in.
As the Solheim Cup continues over the weekend, the battle between Europe and the United States promises to deliver more thrilling and fiercely contested matches.