GLENEAGLES, Scotland — Americans Angel Yin and Ally McDonald had played only three Solheim Cup matches between them (all by Yin) before they partnered in Friday’s four-ball session at Gleneagles. But the record-tying fashion in which they dominated Europe’s Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall, 7 and 5, would make you think differently.
Yin and McDonald went out as the second match of the afternoon session, the Americans trailing, 2½-1½, after the morning play, and won the first hole. And the second. And the third. By the 12th tee, they were 7 up. When the match was finally over, the two had tied the record for the largest four-ball victory in Solheim Cup history, set in 1998 by Pat Hurst (an assistant captain on this team) and Rosie Jones.
McDonald wasn’t even supposed to be there. When Stacy Lewis had to withdraw from the event on Tuesday because of an injured back, McDonald stepped in as captain Juli Inkster’s alternate selection. And Yin’s second Solheim Cup appearance got off to an ominous start. Aer Lingus lost her bags, so she didn’t get her clubs until Wednesday.
It was no small point for the U.S. In the remaining three matches, Team USA was struggling. Danielle Kang and Lizette Salas never led in their match against Suzann Pettersen and Anne van Dam. On the 16th hole, a birdie by van Dam ended the match, 4 and 2.
The other two matches weren’t going great for the U.S., either, all the energy seeming with Team Europe
But in the 40 minutes, all that changed in a big way. Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson were playing Carlota Ciganda and Bronte Law. In the tense match, easily the closest of the day, the largest lead was on the 14th, when the Americans were 2 up. But then they lost 15, 16, and 17. Another point appeared as if it was going to go toward Team Europe.
But Thompson, who had gone the entire day without a signature moment that has marked her previous Solheim Cup starts, was due when she stood over an 18-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. Make it, and the Americans would win the hole and halve the match. When it fell in the cup, it was hardly unexpected.
It was the sign of things to come for the other Korda sister’s group.
Nelly and her four-ball partner, Brittany Altomare, had lost control of their match against Charley Hull and Azahara Munoz early in the back nine. On the 12th hole, they were 4 down. But steadily, they worked their way out of the deficit, winning the 13th, 16th and 17th holes (when Nelly nearly made the second hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history) to shrink the Euro’s lead to 1 up.
Then, on the 18th, Altomare, one of America’s six Solheim Cup rookies, made a 16-foot birdie putt on 18 to win the hole and grab another halve for the Americans. But it felt like a win for Team USA.
“No one really ever talks about the half point,” Inkster said. “And I have to say those two half points at the end were huge. For two rookies to be 4 down with five holes left and to come back and tie, you can’t teach that. It’s just in your belly. I’m just so impressed with them.”
Instead of trailing 5½-2½, Team USA is down 4½-3½ at the conclusion of Day 1. They are still losing, but at the end of chilly Scottish evening, the momentum was decidedly on their side.
The late comeback is what many will talk about, but that early point from McDonald and Yin shouldn’t be forgotten, either.