GLENEAGLES, Perthshire, Scotland – The Solheim Cup is always a multi-chapter book, the story unfolding slowly, packed with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel. This one has been an especially gripping page-turner. After four sessions and 16 matches at Gleneagles, Saturday ended with the United States and Europe dead even at 8-8.
The weather showed up for Day Two, buffeting players with wind that was steadily near 30 mph, and gusting higher. Balls oscillated, players backed off shots and caddies stared intently at yardage books, trying to do the math that would take into account all factors before selecting a club and deciding on a target line.
Through it all, the players were resolute and, at times, brilliant. Morgan Pressel and Marina Alex played 17 holes of morning foursomes in two under par, making four birdies in a row beginning on No. 9. For alternate-shot, that's great golf even in perfect conditions, let alone in the wind that rattled Gleneagles on Saturday.
Then, in one of the most exciting afternoons in the history of the Solheim Cup, three matches went to the 18th green while the fourth ended on No. 17.
Lexi Thompson and Alex took on Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Caroline Masson in four-ball play and that foursome made eight birdies in six holes beginning on No. 9 despite wind, rain and fading light and halved the match when Masson missed a 7-foot birdie try on No. 18.
Europe's lone victory in the afternoon came when Georgia Hall and Celine Boutier came from 4 down after seven holes and 3 down after 13 to defeat Ally McDonald and Angel Yin 2 up.
Brittany Altomare and Annie Park handled Suzann Pettersen and Anne van Dam with a 1-up win, despite the fact Pettersen made five birdies in six holes beginning on No. 7
The U.S. evened the score when it won the last match of the day 2 and 1 as Danielle Kang birdied No. 17, teaming with Lizette Salas to defeat Carlota Ciganda and Azahara Munoz 2 and 1.
Now the stage is set for the Sunday singles showdown.
"Last week, I kept looking at the weather and I saw that man go whew," U.S. captain Juli Inkster said after Saturday's play, making the blowing motion of the wind icon. "So we knew it was going to be windy. But when you have to play you find it down deep and say, 'This is my job, I have to do it.' It's Scotland."
Europe did on Saturday what the U.S. did on Friday -- rally late to keep things close, and a tie is as close as it gets.
"At one point, it looked like we'd lose the session 4-0 or maybe 3-1," said Europe's captain, Catriona Matthew. "To go 2½ to 1½ and be tied, we are happy with that."
Europe took a 4½-3½ lead into Saturday, an edge that could have been much greater had not the United States rallied brilliantly Friday to earn halves in the final two matches, both of which appeared to be lost at one point. Some of Friday's themes repeated on Saturday.
The Korda sisters were once again unbeatable in foursomes. Jessica and Nelly won the first two holes and the last three in a 6-and-5 victory over Ciganda and Bronte Law, equaling the record for the largest margin of victory in Solheim Cup alternate-shot play.
"Definitely tough weather," said Jessica Korda. "Being able to hit it into the fairway on the first shot is really important. And then having her hit it close on the green after they just stuffed it, and then holing the putt before they did, putting that pressure on them, it was just really good."
Her younger sister agreed.
"It was a dream start again," said Nelly Korda. "We birdied the first two holes and it kind of paved our way for the day."
Also playing off Friday's theme, the Americans staged another stunning comeback when Pressel and Alex fell 4-down through six holes to Anna Nordqvist and van Dam, then won six of the next seven holes for a 2-and-1 victory.
"Anne and Anna played great golf, got off to a great start in really tough conditions," Pressel said. What then got the U.S. duo going was not a birdie but a par save, which is one of the beauties of match play.
"The putt Marina made on 7 was really the turning point," Pressel said. "From there, they started to get a little shaky and all the momentum went toward us. It looked like they were going to win the hole and we were going to go 5-down and Marina made par. And we ended up winning the hole because Anne missed a short putt. That's what match play is all about."
Charley Hull and Munoz continued to be stars for Europe, defeating Kang and Megan Khang 4 and 3. Hall and Boutier never trailed in their 3-and-2 victory over Salas and McDonald.
"It was unbelievably tough," Boutier said about the wind. "The course itself, without the wind, is pretty challenging. So add the wind, it was like 40 kilometers an hour. It's a very challenging course." And it got more challenging as the day wore on.
Fanny Sunesson, who was a caddie for 25 years and carried Nick Faldo to four major championships and now does radio commentary, gave this assessment of the conditions: "This is a four, maybe a five-club wind, depending on how high you hit the ball," she said. "It's very exhausting to play in this. You are fighting it every hole."
The fight was amazing to watch. It felt coming into this Solheim Cup like these two teams were very evenly matched and nothing has happened over the last two days to alter that assessment.
The players have rewarded the large, passionate gallery with some great golf. And the two teams could not have provided better entertainment. Tied going to Sunday singles. It doesn't get any better than that.