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Europe takes early 3-1 lead at Solheim Cup

PARKER, Colo. (AP) - Three straight long putts stunned America's No. 1 power pairing Friday and helped the Europeans get off to a surprising early lead at the Solheim Cup.

Azahara Munoz and Karine Icher made consecutive birdies from 15, 25 and 20 feet on holes 8 through 10 to open a big lead over Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer en route to a 2-and-1 victory that gave Europe a 3-1 lead after the opening alternate-shot matches.

``We had an amazing stretch on 8, 9 and 10,'' Munoz said. ``And after that, we just kept plugging along and we just did our job.''

America's only point came from Morgan Pressel and rookie Jessica Korda in a 3-and-2 victory over Catriona Matthew and Jodi Ewart-Shadoff.

Before Munoz and Icher were through, Europe already had two points on the board. The all-Swedish pairing of Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall beat British Open champion Stacy Lewis and Lizette Salas 4 and 2, and Suzann Pettersen's partner, rookie Beatriz Recari, made a 20-foot eagle putt on 16 to close out a 2-and-1 win over Brittany Lang and Angela Stanford.

``It's early. It's Friday morning. We're going to be ready for this afternoon,'' Stanford said.

For the afternoon best-ball matches, U.S. captain Meg Mallon put Michelle Wie in the lineup, pairing her with Kerr against Matthew and 17-year-old Charley Hull, the youngest Solheim Cup player ever.

Other matches: Lang and Brittany Lincicome against Nordqvist and Giulia Sergas; Stanford and Gerina Piller against Hedwall and Caroline Masson; Lewis and Lexi Thompson against Pettersen and Carlota Ciganda.

The United States is trying to recapture the cup after losing it to the Europeans in Ireland two years ago. The Americans were considered favorites coming in, having never lost the Solheim Cup at home.

Figuring Creamer and Kerr would be a big part of any victory, Mallon put them together in the anchor position for the opening matches, showing confidence in a pairing with a 2-0-1 record together, along with a combined three major titles.

The match started getting away early, when Kerr missed short putts on Nos. 1 and 5. Then, it was Icher and Munoz opening up a lead with their putters. Munoz sandwiched a 15-footer on 8 and a 25-footer on 10 around Icher's 20-footer on No. 9 to help the Europeans to a 4-up lead heading into No. 11.

``They seemed to throw three really long (putts) at us on 8, 9 and 10 and we didn't get the momentum until our last couple holes, and then it's too late,'' Kerr said.

She and Creamer made things interesting, pulling within two heading to the 17th, but Icher ended it with an 8-foot par putt for the win on the par-3 green. Icher and Munoz are ranked 24th and 27th, while Creamer and Kerr came into the week at Nos. 11 and 12.

``It was great to win this match and I think I found a friend forever,'' Icher said.

Korda lost her breakfast on the first fairway and Pressel, who improved her Solheim Cup record to 8-2-2, helped calm her down the rest of the way.

``I had milk and cereal for breakfast, and then I decided to have a banana,'' Korda said. ``And then I felt it coming and I was like, `What the heck is that?'''

Despite that unsettling moment, she drilled a wedge to about 8 feet for a quick 1-up lead.

``After I got past the first hole, I was pretty OK,'' Korda said.

They seized control of the match by making solid par putts on the ultra-quick greens. Korda holed a 7-foot par to halve the 16th hole and seal America's only point in the morning.

Pressel was impressed with the Solheim Cup rookie, and her choice of words to describe Korda were appropriate.

``She's got some fire in her belly,'' Pressel said.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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