Leona Maguire and Mel Reid arrived in Inverness last week as foreigners.
They will leave as good friends. Maybe with the Solheim Cup.
The European duo helped the visitors take a 9-7 lead over the United States in Monday’s singles, combining to overthrow top Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing in an alternate shooter on Sunday morning, then striving for ‘Match Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas in four-ball in the afternoon.
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Reid and Maguire crushed the struggling Korda and Ewing 5 and 4 – the biggest blowout in all of the first 16 games – then halved with Kupcho and Salas when Reid knocked him down to 3 feet on the 18 par 4 to equalize.
Reid’s heroism came minutes after Kupcho stepped in from the sidelines on the 17th to put the Americans ahead. Reid, struggling with a throbbing pain in his right shoulder that required medical attention earlier in the lap, responded by dropping a rainbow from the 18th fairway that bounced off the pass of a bunker ahead of the green before rolling to almost reach.
Reid and Maguire, who barely knew each other before European captain Catriona Matthew paired them up following a series of energetic practice laps, went 2-0-1 this weekend. Maguire, a 26-year-old former college star at Duke who is the first Irishwoman to make a Solheim Cup squad, is 3-0-1 so far.
Europe is trying to win on American soil for just the second time in the event’s 31-year history. This is the ninth time that Europe has led singles matches. The Europeans have won just four of the previous eight wins after two days, the last in 2013 when they claimed their only road victory at Colorado Golf Club.
Europe started Sunday with a three-point lead and looked set to overthrow the United States after briefly taking a lead in the morning’s four alternate shootout games.
The Americans rallied to win three of four games to return to the race and took the final nine lead in three of four four-ball games.
Only rookies Mina Harigae and Yealimi Noh held on for the victory. Harigae and Noh never lagged behind beating Céline Boutier and Sophia Popov 3 and 1, definitively passing Harigae’s birdie on the 14th par 4 and taking command of the birdie from Noh, 20, on the 16th par-4 short .
Megan Khang and Jessica Korda saw a slim 1-up lead after 11 holes against Carlota Ciganda and Nanna Koerstz Madsen turned into a 1-up loss after Ciganda’s long birdie at 15th par 4 put the Europeans in the lead and the Americans’ tie birdie attempts in the 18th fell short.
Emily Pedersen’s eagle in the eighth par 5 allowed her to face the American team of Austin Ernst and Danielle Kang with that of Charley Hull. On the 12th, the Europeans were on their way to a 3rd and 2nd victory.
The Americans played the afternoon without Olympic champion Nelly Korda, who looked like she needed a break after a series of unusual mistakes against fiery Reid and Steel Maguire.
Korda, who triumphed in Tokyo a month ago, threw from a fairway bunker on the fourth par 4 out of bounds, landed an approach shot at the seventh par 4 and had a chip uphill from the fringe on the par 4 the ninth only arrives halfway through the hole before reversing.
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With Korda struggling, his teammates took over. Ernst and Kang turned a one-hole deficit against Georgia Hall and Madelene Sagstrom into a one-hole lead after wins on 13-14 and held the rest of the course. It was the only game of the morning that reached the 18th green a day after seven of eight games reached the last hole.
Two of the afternoon’s games hit 18, with Reid’s birdie giving Europe some leeway before the singles. As the reigning champions, the Europeans only need five points on Monday to keep the Cup while the Americans need 7 1/2 to win for the 11th time in 17 games.