20-foot-par putt caps exciting opening day
The cars started rolling into Sugar Grove in the wee hours of the morning and seemingly never stopped - except when slowed in traffic.
The rain tried to roll in all day but never really did, save for a few afternoon sprinkles.
Then there were the crowds. Wave after wave rolled in throughout the day, some 30,000 or so lining the fairways and circling the greens at Rich Harvest Farms on Day 1 of the 2009 Solheim Cup.
And if watching America's top women golfers take on Europe's best is indeed like attending an Olympic event, as U.S. captain Beth Daniel has often said, this opening day was darn near a perfect 10.
And it ended with a gold-medal moment in the final match of the day when Paula Creamer sunk a 20-foot par putt on No. 17 to halve the hole and give her and her partner Juli Inkster the win and the U.S. squad a 41/2 to 31/2 lead over Europe.
"Yeah, it's about time my partner made a putt, I'll tell you," joked Inkster, who at 49 became the oldest player in Solheim Cup history to win a point.
"She's one of those players that lives for those moments, and that's why you want her on your team," Daniel said. "She got me out of my golf cart. I ran all the way to the green to give her a hug."
She wasn't alone.
Creamer's putt set off a big celebration among the American players, capping off a big day for the 23-year-old, who partnered with Cristie Kerr for a win over the imposing duo of Suzann Pettersen and Sophie Gustafson (0-for-2 on the day) in the morning before winning alongside Inkster in the gloaming.
"I love playing with Juli," Creamer said. "We have a great chemistry together on the golf course. We know each other. We just have that good connection.
"We went out, we played good, we got up early, and we just stayed there."
Europe actually held a 3-1 advantage early on in the morning round, but Creamer and Kerr and the Brittanys - Lang and Lincicome - each captured their matches.
And when Morgan Pressel and rookie Michelle Wie halved their match against Catriona Matthew and Maria Hjorth, the U.S. squad headed into the afternoon round with a 21/2 to 11/2 lead, an advantage they would maintain.
"A tough morning, but the girls hung in there and played hard and really stuck with it," European captain Alison Nicholas said. "I'm absolutely delighted."
But after watching an opening round that featured a couple of near six-hour matches, Nicholas also was absolutely exhausted.
"It's time for bed, isn't it?" she said. "Oh, dear, a long day. Fantastic."
Pretty much her counterparts' sentiments as well.
"I'm pleased to have a 1-point lead," Daniel said. "There were some really good matches out there, some tough matches, particularly after the morning when we were behind and we kind of rallied on the back nine and pulled out a couple. I think that made a big difference for us.
"It's nice to have that 1-point lead."
The U.S. kept that 1-point advantage in the afternoon despite the absence of Kerr and Wie, whom Daniel decided to sit. Saturday morning they'll be without Creamer, thanks to Daniel's insistence that no player should compete in all five rounds.
All part of the big picture, according to Daniel.
"There are players that want to play all five matches, absolutely," she said. "I explained to this team that that's my philosophy, and they're going with it.
"I want them strong for Sunday. We'll see if it works out."
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