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Golf

Sorenstam, Pettersen strike a blow at U.S.

By Wire services
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 14, 2003

LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden - Annika Sorenstam leapt high, thrust her arms skyward and sent her putter flying like a baton.

Not exactly the cool Swede golf fans have come to know. Sorenstam had never looked so pumped.

Meanwhile, Laura Diaz never looked so low, wiping tears from her eyes as she left the green.

The final two holes Saturday brought a sudden change in emotion and momentum to give Europe a strong grip on the Solheim Cup.

Sorenstam and Suzann Pettersen denied another late charge by the Americans at Barseback Golf & Country Club, making birdies on the closing three holes for a 1-up victory to give Europe a 91/2-61/2 lead going into today's singles matches.

But Europe's victory wasn't locked up.

"This is a trip that starts Friday morning, and we're not there until Sunday afternoon," European captain Catrin Nilsmark said.

No one helped Europe more than Sorenstam and Pettersen.

With Diaz already in the hole for birdie on the 17th hole of a better-ball match, she and Kelly Robbins were poised to take a 1-up lead to the final hole. But Sorenstam knew her 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe was good. When it disappeared, Sorenstam showed more emotion than when she shot 59 on the LPGA Tour, won any of her six majors or hit any shot at the PGA Tour's Colonial.

"The putt on 17 I won't forget in a long time," she said.

On No.18, Diaz hit first into the green and raised her arms when the ball stopped 4 feet behind the hole. Pettersen hit her approach to 15 feet, and Sorenstam's shot brought the loudest cheer from 15,000 people swarming around the green when it stopped 6 feet right of the cup.

Robbins was 50 feet away across the green, but the Americans elected to have Diaz hit her short putt first with hopes of putting pressure on Europe. The ploy failed when she pulled it badly to the left.

Pettersen went next, and the 22-year-old Norwegian charged across the green as the ball rolled. When it fell she ran into Sorenstam's arms.

"Both myself and Annika would have hated to lose that match," Pettersen said. "I think it was important to get one more point on the board."

Europe needs all the points it can get.

Singles matches are what the Americans do best. They trailed 9-7 last year in Minnesota and won 81/2 points on the final day for victory. They trailed by the same margin in 1996 in Wales and won 10 of the final 12 matches.

"Nobody is panicking," U.S. captain Patty Sheehan said. "We're used to being in this position."

Nilsmark's lineup today has some of her best players at the top, hoping to prevent another American rally.


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