The United States staged a dramatic comeback to win the afternoon fourball session 3-1 Saturday and tie Europe 8-8 at the Solheim Cup.
Europe won the morning foursomes 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 to extend its lead to 7-5 over the Americans in the biennial match-play competition.
The Solheim Cup is being played in Ireland for the first time, after previous European editions had been staged in Scotland, Wales and Sweden.
Veteran Laura Davies became the all-time Solheim Cup points record points scorer when she teamed up with Melissa Reid to beat Americans Brittany Lang and Michelle Wie 4 and 3 and put Europe ahead 8-5 at Killeen Castle. But the Americans rallied to win the last three matches, leaving the sides tied heading into the 12 singles matches on Sunday.
In 2005 and 2009 when the matches were tied going into the final day, the U.S. won the singles to lift the trophy. The U.S. needs 14 points to retain the Solheim Cup, while Europe needs 14 1/2 points to win for the first time since 2003.
"We've messed up the singles so many times," Davies said. "This time we need to go out there and not worry."
European Captain Alison Nicholas agreed with those sentiments.
"I'm very confident in my players," she said. "I knew it was going to be all about (Sunday) anyway. I know they're pretty up for it, and they're feeling good."
U.S. rookie Stacy Lewis earned her first point when she teamed up with the fellow first-timer Ryann O'Toole to beat Sandra Gal and Christel Boeljon 2 and 1. O'Toole was regarded as a long-shot choice as a wild card but proved herself by registering two and a half points.
"I feel very calm and confident," O'Toole said.
Morgan Pressel and Cristie Kerr reduced the lead to 8-7 when they beat Europe's top player Suzann Pettersen and impressive rookie Caroline Hedwall by one hole.
Pettersen holed a 40-foot birdie putt at the 16th to square the match, but Pressel sank a winning birdie at the next and the held on for the win at the last hole.
Paula Creamer and Brittany Lincicome completed the U.S. comeback when they rallied from one down at the turn to defeat Maria Hjorth and Azahara Munoz 3 and 1.
"Those last three points were huge for us," said Creamer, who has won three and a half points out of four this week. "Just the momentum, the team room will have a great vibe. We're all very pumped up. We want to do really well. Especially going into singles, we feel like everybody is where we want to be."
Davies, a four-time major winner playing in her 12th Solheim Cup, overtook Annika Sorenstam to become the all-time Solheim Cup record points scorer.
“It’s nice to finally get past Annika who obviously has a spectacular record,” Davies said.
Davies has now won 24 1/2 points from 45 matches with 22 wins, 18 losses and five halved matches. Sorenstam won 24 points from 37 matches in eight Solheim Cups.
Juli Inkster is the record points earner for the United States with 18.
“Obviously, the more you play in it, the more points you should have,” said Davies, who has played in every Solheim Cup match. “So as I’ve played in all of them, if I didn’t have the most points, it would be a bit embarrassing … Now I can go out there and not worry about ‘oh, I want to beat the record because I might never be here again’.”
On Saturday morning, Spanish rookie Azahara Munoz holed a par putt on the 18th to help Europe extend its lead to 7-5.
Americans Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer went 1 up on Munoz and Scotland’s Catriona Matthew in the final match of the morning foursomes when Kerr birdied the 17th. But Kerr bunkered her approach to the last and couldn’t save par from 12 feet, allowing the Europeans to halve the match with a winning par and double Europe’s overnight lead to two points.
“I was just thinking I couldn’t let Catriona down,” the 23-year-old Munoz said of her pressure-packed 3-footer at the last. “We had been fighting so hard all day. I just said I’ve hit a million balls like this, so I just focused and I hit it.”
The United States is bidding to win the Solheim Cup for the fourth straight time. But European Captain Alison Nicholas said she had “a good feeling” about the outcome and hailed Europe’s halved match in the final foursomes as “absolutely massive.”
Europe started the day leading by 4 1/2 to 3 1/2 points and won the morning session 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 as Caroline Hedwall and Sophie Gustafson beat U.S. pair Angela Stanford and Stacy Lewis 6 and 5.
Morgal Pressel and Ryann O’Toole had a 3 and 2 victory over Europe’s Karen Stupples and Christel Boeljon, but Maria Hjorth and Anna Nordqvist defeated Brittany Lang and Juli Inkster 3 and 2 to restore Europe’s two-point advantage.
The U.S. side captained by Rosie Jones had trailed in all four foursomes at one stage of the morning, but looked set to split the session when Kerr and Creamer went 1 up with three to play against Munoz and Matthew.
Munoz birdied the 16th to square the match before Kerr put the Americans in front again at the 17th. However, the third-ranked player bunkered her approach to the 381-yard 18th.
Saturday morning foursomes:
Hedwall/Gustafson, EUR, def. Stanford/Lewis, USA, 6&5
Pressel/O'Toole, USA, def. Stupples/Boeljon, EUR, 3&2
Hjorth/Nordqvist, EUR, def. Lang/Inkster, USA, 3&2
Matthew/Munoz, EUR, vs. Kerr/Creamer, USA, halved
Saturday afternoon fourballs:
Davies/Reid, EUR, def. Lang/Wie, USA, 4&3
Pressel/Kerr, USA, def. Pettersen/Hedwall, EUR, 1-up
Lewis/O'Toole, USA, def. Gal/Boeljon, EUR, 2&1
Creamer/Lincicome, USA, def. Hjorth/Munoz, EUR, 3&1