CASARES, Spain — With the help of a hole-in-one, a hole-out from the fairway and a chip-in, Europe rallied against the United States after being swept in the opening foursome matches at the Solheim Cup, winning two of the afternoon fourball matches to reduce the Americans' lead to 5-3 on Friday.
Denmark's Emily Pedersen aced the par-3 12th hole to ignite the Europeans' comeback after the U.S. team had its best start ever in the biennial competition, and then Scotland's Gemma Dryburgh holed out from the fairway on the 16th and Ireland's Leona Maguire chipped in from off the green on the 18th to make it close again for Europe at Finca Cortesin.
"I'm really proud of the way the entire team fought back in the afternoon," European captain Suzann Pettersen said. "It's not easy to stand on that tee in the afternoon knowing you're down four after the first session. So I've got to say hat's off to all my players, the way they fought and the way they showed their character on this Friday afternoon. You get knocked down, you stand up, and you try it again, and that's kind of what I told the girls, and they did."
The Europeans also got a boost from Carlota Ciganda, the only Spaniard on the roster. After sitting out the morning session, Ciganda made six birdies in a 4-and-2 win with Sweden's Linn Grant against Ally Ewing and Angel Yin.
"I'm just trying to put a leash on (Ciganda) this week. I mean, she would jump off and fly if she could," said Pettersen, a Norwegian who played in nine editions of the Solheim Cup. "So I'm really just trying to keep her grounded. She's playing fantastic. It's just fun to see how she can cope with the pressure being on home soil playing for Spain in front of literally her entire nation."
Maguire's chip-in helped lead to a 1-up win with England's Georgia Hall against Lexi Thompson and Lilia Vu. Dryburgh's hole-out came in a tie while playing with Sweden's Madelene Sagstrom against Megan Khang and rookie sensation Rose Zhang.
Pedersen's hole-in-one was on the 178-yard 12th. Her shot landed on the bank to the left of the green, and the ball bounced back toward the target and went rolling several yards to the bottom of the cup. Pedersen jumped up and down at the tee box to celebrate with her teammates. She and Sweden's Maja Stark ended tied with Allisen Corpuz and Jennifer Kupcho.
It was only the second ace in Solheim Cup history, with the first coming in 2013 by Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, who is both playing and serving as a vice captain this year.
The Americans, who are trying to avoid losing three Solheim Cups in a row for the first time, had dominated in the opening session to take a 4-0 lead. The previous best start for the U.S. was 3 1/2-1/2 in 1996, and it had swept a session of any type only one other time, in the afternoon fourballs on the first day in 2017.
"Obviously the start this morning was somewhat, I think, unexpected," U.S. captain Stacy Lewis said. "But it was a great, great start. The level of golf this afternoon was really, really good. Just proud of the girls that fought and the number of matches that came down to 18 and, you know, half points are really, really important come Sunday. So those two halves this afternoon were really big for us."
The Europeans came in with the label of favorites after bringing an experienced squad to Spain. The Americans arrived with a young team that included five rookies, though several of the players have won big tournaments recently.
After the morning sweep by the U.S., both captains made changes to their rosters. Lewis brought on 20-year-old Zhang, while Pettersen added Ciganda to her lineup.
Zhang made an early statement by reaching the green with her tee shot on the short par-4 first hole and making a birdie. However, she missed a short putt on the 18th that would have given the U.S. the win against Dryburgh and Sagstrom.
In the morning, Ewing and Cheyenne Knight easily beat Pedersen and England's Charley Hull, 5 and 4, while Khang and Thompson defeated European rookies Stark and Grant, 2 and 1.
Andrea Lee and Danielle Kang were 1 down through eight holes but came back to win 1 up against Hall and France's Celine Boutier. Corpuz made a short putt on the final hole to secure a 1-up victory with Nelly Korda against Maguire and Nordqvist. Maguire won four matches in her Solheim Cup debut two years ago.
There was a lively crowd on the first hole ahead of the opening tee shots, with the American fans in smaller numbers but being heard just as loud as the Europeans.
Spanish golfer José María Olazábal, who won the Masters in 1994 and 1999, brought the trophy to the first tee and lauded what he called "one of the most important tournaments in women's golf."
Spain is hosting the Solheim Cup for the first time, 26 years after the country's Real Club Valderrama hosted the Ryder Cup, the equivalent men's team event pitting Europe against the U.S.
The premier team event for women's international golf is being held a week ahead of this year's Ryder Cup, which will take place at Marco Simone in Italy.