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Solheim Cup: Team Europe fights back to leave contest evenly poised ahead of final day

By Matt Foster, CNN

(CNN) — The destiny of the Solheim Cup hangs in the balance after Team Europe fought back to level the scores 8-8 ahead of the final day at Finca Cortesín, Spain.

Team USA went into Saturday with a 5-3 lead, after whitewashing its counterparts in the first session on Friday, but failed to capitalize on that advantage with a second straight afternoon session defeat.

Team Europe is seeking a record third consecutive Solheim Cup win, needing to reach 14 points on Sunday owing to the fact it’s the current holder.

Dramatic day

Two of the morning’s four foursomes matches – which sees players of each pair take alternate shots with one ball – proved to be topsy-turvy affairs. The last contest between the Swedish pair of Linn Grant and Maja Stark and America’s Danielle Kang and Andrea Lee was decided by the final putt on hole 18.

Grant needed to make a 12-foot putt on the last to secure Europe’s second point of the session amidst palpable tension – and the 24-year-old rookie delivered to the obvious delight of the partisan crowd at Finca Cortesín.

That dramatic putt provided a fitting end to a match which saw momentum swing in favor of Suzann Pettersen’s team, despite Team USA still holding a 7-5 advantage after the morning session.

The afternoon fourballs session – a format that has each player hitting their own ball and recording the lowest score on each hole for their pair – immediately saw the leaderboard flooded with European blue after Leona Maguire’s birdie on the second hole, and that impetus remained almost constant in the Spanish sunshine.

Maguire and her partner Charley Hull made light work of Nelly Korda and Ally Ewing, finishing after just 15 holes behind a slew of birdies, before making their way back out onto the course to support the rest of the team and bathe in the adulation of the spectators in attendance.

Europe’s brilliance was exemplified by home favorite Carlota Ciganda and Grant’s lightning start to the fourballs, as they made eight straight birdies as a team to seize the initiative in their match against Kang and Lilia Vu.

Kang and Vu kept pace admirably, with the former in particular pouring in clutch putts throughout to stay within touching distance – only to fall short with Ciganda and Grant leveling the scores at 8-8.

Sunday’s decisive singles matches – where all 12 players compete against a member of the opposing side – could prove a test of endurance for several of the European team who have played in all four sessions so far.

Grant, Maguire, and Emily Pedersen will have all taken part in every session by the competition’s end, while Team USA have not used any players in all of Friday and Saturday’s action under the stewardship of captain Stacy Lewis.

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