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Veterans give U.S. golf a lift

Daniel, Inkster keep Americans close with win

LODDEKOPINGE, Sweden — The only stage Beth Daniel and Juli Inkster ever shared was when they were inducted into the Hall of Fame on the same night three years ago.

All they wanted was a chance to play together for the first time in the Solheim Cup.

They delivered a performance for the ages, grinding out a 1-up victory over Annika Sorenstam and Carin Koch — Europe's top tandem — in a best-ball match that turned the Americans' fortunes Friday.

"It was huge for the team," U.S. captain Patty Sheehan said. "It lifted us."

As the sun finally set over the southern coast of Sweden, the United States trailed 4 1/2-3 1/2 but carried a ton of momentum into the second day of matches.

The pivotal match was Daniel and Inkster, a combined 89 years old with 63 LPGA victories between them, who took on a European duo that never had lost and came through with clutch shots over the final seven holes.

Neither side made a bogey.

"There was a little pride for both of us," said Daniel, at 46 the oldest player in Solheim Cup history. "We're two Hall of Famers, playing possibly their best tandem. We needed that point."

They got plenty of help along the way.

Kelli Kuehne, a controversial captain's pick after going 0-4 last year in Minnesota, teamed with childhood pal Cristie Kerr for a 2-and-1 victory over Laura Davies and Catriona Matthew.

Michele Redman — whom European captain Catrin Nilsmark once said had "absolutely no talent" — finished off the rally when she and Rosie Jones made five straight birdies down the stretch in a 2-up victory over Iben Tinning and Sophie Gustafson.

The only best-ball victory for Europe came from the team of Patricia Meunier-LeBouc, who is four months' pregnant, and Suzann Pettersen, the only player from either team to win two matches Friday.

"I'm happy. We're in front," Nilsmark said. "It could have gone a little more in our favor. I felt we left a few out there."

It almost went entirely in Europe's favor. Fog delayed the alternate-shot matches for 90 minutes in the morning, and the Americans continued playing in a fog after the Solheim Cup resumed.

With a raucous gallery that clapped, chanted and sang along the tree-lined fairways of Barseback, Europe won three of the alternate-shot matches.

The only point for the Americans came when Kelly Robbins made 12-foot putts on the final two holes — one for par, the other for bogey — that gave her and Daniel a halve when Europe three-putted the 18th for bogey.

"I don't know what it is, but we don't seem to get out of the blocks very fast," Sheehan said. "And it didn't look very good early in the afternoon round."

Inkster, who lost her alternate-shot match with Wendy Ward, got her wish when Sheehan paired her with Daniel.

Then she looked on the other side of the draw and saw Sorenstam-Koch.

The Swedish pair had never lost in three previous Solheim Cup matches. Sorenstam is the best player in women's golf, and Koch was 7-0-2 going into the afternoon round.

"I said, 'OK, this is going to be a tough point.' We knew we'd have to work hard to get it," Inkster said.

It was every bit of that.

After they halved the first seven holes, Inkster holed a 45-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 eighth for a 1-up lead, only to see Sorenstam respond with a 10-foot birdie on No. 9 and a 4-iron into 3 feet on the par-3 11th.

Europe was leading three best-ball matches at that point and threatening to grab the largest opening-day lead in Solheim Cup history.

Daniel got the match back to all square with an 18-foot birdie on No. 13, and matching pars over the next two holes set the stage for a dramatic finish.

Inkster hit a bump-and-run into 8 feet on the par-5 16th, while Sorenstam hit a pedestrian chip to about 12 feet.

Although Daniel was away, some 40 feet from the cup, she asked Inkster to putt first to put pressure on Europe.

"She said, 'You want to putt?' And I was like, 'You mean now?' It was a good move, because it worked," said Inkster, who made the birdie putt.

Sorenstam poured in her birdie putt to keep the match square, and the fairways soon were crowded by cheering players from both teams.

DEERE CLASSIC: At Silvis, Ill., J.L. Lewis turned soft greens and fairways into a second straight 6-under 65 and held a two-stroke lead in the second round of the rain-soaked John Deere Classic.

Several groups were still on the course when play was suspended for the day. They will finish their second rounds Saturday morning and then the cut will be made for the final two rounds, followed by the third round.

Jonathan Byrd, the first-round co-leader with Lewis, bogeyed two holes on the back nine in a 67 that left him in second place at 10 under. Vijay Singh was another two strokes back in third after a 68.

A steady morning ran eased for the afternoon rounds at the Tournament Players Club at Deere Run. There was a 35-minute rain delay.

More rain was forecast for Saturday, with a chance of afternoon thunderstorms, said Stewart Williams, a meteorologist at the tournament. He said Sunday should be dry and cloudy, with temperatures in the high 60s.

CONSTELLATION CLASSIC: At Hunt Valley, Md., Des Smyth beat the rain and bucked a trend in the opening round of the Constellation Energy Classic.

Smyth had five birdies on the back nine and shot a 5-under 67 Friday to share the lead of the Champions Tour event with Larry Nelson and Jay Sigel.

Smyth teed off as part of the second threesome and was in the clubhouse well before a persistent rain shower played havoc with the majority of the field.

Sigel and Nelson got caught in the bad weather, but only for the final few holes. Sigel fell back into a tie for the lead with a bogey on 18, while Nelson, who had an eagle and four birdies, bogeyed 17.

The leaders ended the day two shots in front of Gary McCord and Ed Fiori.