DUNSANY, Ireland -- Steve McQueen and James Garner were nowhere to be seen, but the United States still managed to pull off the golfing equivalent of the "Great Escape" at Killeen Castle in Ireland. At the end of a seemingly endless opening day marked by a quite disgraceful pace of play that will have done nothing to sell women's professional golf to an already dubious public, Europe, despite dominating much of the proceedings, will carry only a slender one-point lead into the second day of the 12th Solheim Cup.
By way of example, the top afternoon four-ball match between Morgan Pressel/Paula Creamer and Laura Davies/Mel Reid took more than five and a half hours to complete. But even that was outstripped by the bottom game between Suzann Pettersen/Anna Nordqvist and Cristie Kerr/Michelle Wie. That far from sprightly quartet took a mind-numbing five hours and 40 minutes to complete all 18 holes.
Three of the four post-lunch matches, in fact, exceeded the prescribed -- and incredibly generous -- time of five hours and 20 minutes. It wasn't pretty but it was definitely ponderous. A huge factor in the slowness being the much-criticized need of so many players to have their caddies line them up for both full shots and putts. It is surely time for that time-consuming and often-pointless practice to be outlawed.
Still, none of the above was bothering the visiting side or captain Rosie Jones even a little. Down for most of the day in both series of matches, the Americans found their collective putting touch at just the right moments to leave the home side wondering how their lead is not at least three clear points. Pressel for one was unrepentant at the time it had taken to get around.
"Five hours 20 (in reality it was 11 minutes more)? I thought that was actually pretty quick," she said with a remarkably straight face.
While still making all the right noises, Jones' opposite number, former U.S. Women's Open champion Alison Nicholas, found it hard to disguise an understandable disappointment at her side's inability to capitalize on what was, for long periods, obvious superiority.
"You can't change the past," she said. "You have to expect 'nip and tucks.' It's tight. You have to put everything behind you. We're not dwelling on what might have been. Let's move forward."
For all that much of her team were found wanting down the stretch -- from either level or one up with three holes to play, they failed to win as many as four of the eight matches -- Nicholas shows signs of being able to out-think Jones. Certainly, the Englishwoman's pairing of rookies Azahara Munoz and Sandra Gal with the able Catriona Matthew made a lot more sense than did the American teaming a callow Vicky Hurst with the emotionally and technically inconsistent Brittany Lincicome.
Laura Davies, never the most comfortable in a team environment for all her vast Solheim experience, will need some lifting though. Needing one point to pass Annika Sorenstam as the leading European points scorer in cup history, the only lady to play in all 12 of the biennial contests was a sorry-looking figure as she trudged off the 18th. No wonder, mind. One up with two to play, Davies and Reid lost to a brace of closing birdies from first Creamer, then from a heartbreaking 25 feet across the final green, Pressel.
For what it is worth at this early stage, history is on Europe's side. On three of the four previous occasions on which the old world has previously carried a lead into the second day, it has gone on to lift the trophy. Let's just hope though, whatever happens over the weekend, it happens a bit quicker than it did today. All of which only added to a last-minute irony. When Pressel and Creamer came in for interview, the media were asked to keep it short as the players were running late and "had to catch the team bus."
Yes -- and whose fault was that exactly?
-- John Huggan
(Photo: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)