Did you know that the word to describe the fear of Friday the 13th is “friggatriskaidekaphobia”? Why, of course you did.

There were a few folk muttering another “f” word to describe the pace of play here at the Solheim Cup as a long, long day at beautiful Gleneagles eventually ended with a slender European advantage.

Charley Hull, meanwhile, did more than mutter that aforementioned curse as she watched her crucial putt on the 18th hit the hole and stay out before turning the air bluer than the glorious sky that had ushered in this 16th transatlantic tussle.

On this particular Friday the 13th, it was Catriona Matthew’s Euro stars who tried to put the frighteners on their US rivals as they edged into a 4½ - 3½ advantage.

The sense of what might have been, however, lingered as the USA made fist-pumping, high-fiving putts on the 18th green in the last two fourball matches to earn a brace of half points. In this game of fine margins, the importance of those moments will become fully apparent in the final analysis.


Nevertheless, any kind of lead after day one of a Solheim Cup is always gratefully received and Europe worked hard to get their noses in front.

Without wanting to put too much of a dampener on European exuberance, however, there was no getting away from the excruciating unravelling of affairs yesterday which at times moved along with all the thrusting impetus of a canal boat on the Norfolk Broads. The Solheim Cup? More like the Slo-heim Cup.

The PGA Centenary course greenkeepers were just about mowing round the feet of some of the players as the grass began to grow between ponderous pre-shot routines and plootering palavers.

The first fourball match of the afternoon, for instance, took nearly three hours to complete nine holes. By the time they had finished, you half expected the captains to hastily submit the pairings for the opening session of the 2021 match. The Amer-ican Lizette Salas was given a warning but, surely, she shouldn’t have been the only one?


But back to the cut-and-thrust and the nip-and-tuck. Europe last lost an opening session in the Solheim Cup in 2009 and they followed the recent trend of early success by forging ahead during the morning foursomes and won it 2½ - 1½.

The afternoon fourballs, meanwhile, would provide plenty of ebb, flow and fluctuating fortunes. The US pairing of Ally McDonald and Angel Yin also showed that golf can be a funny old game.

Yin arrived this week with no luggage or clubs after a guddle with her baggage at the airport. McDonald was a late call-up after Stacy Lewis withdrew with an injury.

READ MORE: Pettersen to let clubs do talking in Solheim Cup

Throw all that frantic preparation together and what do you get? A record-equalling 7&5 win over the vastly experienced Swedish pair of Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall during which the US double act winkled out seven birdies in the first nine holes.

That got the holders back on level terms but Europe were making their presence felt elsewhere. Suzann Pettersen, eager to justify her wild card pick, teamed up with Dutch rookie, Anne van Dam, and the European duo prospered even if Pettersen explored parts of the PGA Centenary course that just about required an Ordnance Survey map.

The fact Danielle Kang, who had noised up the hosts with some pre-match sabre-rattling, was in the US pairing along with Salas made the 4&2 win even sweeter.

Van Dam simply revelled in her debut. After Pettersen had holed a monstrous putt on the fourth to give Europe the lead, Van Dam reeled off birdies at six, seven and nine to propel them into a commanding four-hole advantage.


“I have the best partner in the world,” Pettersen gushed. “I felt a bit like Seve [Ballesteros], I was left and right and everywhere. But this girl [Van Dam] is the best golfer I’ve ever seen on the women’s side. And today she was just a rock star.”

Van Dam seemed as relaxed as some of those more liberal Dutch cafes and thrived on the big stage. “Standing on the first tee Suzann told me, ‘just enjoy this experience’, and that’s what I did,” said the 23-year-old.

Further down the order, Bronte Law and Carlota Ciganda, who played the full 18 in getting a half point in the morning, went the full distance again in the fourballs against Jessica Korda and Lexi Thompson.

The Europeans had been two down with four to play but Law birdied the 15th and Ciganda made “vamos” screaming birdies at 16 and 17 to turn that deficit into a one-hole lead.

When Thompson cosied in a curling putt on the 18th to pinch a half for the US, the visiting camp let out a sigh of relief that could have dislodged some of the slates on the Gleneagles Hotel roof.

“Ultimately they’re two up with four holes to play and they got away with a half,” said Law, as she looked on the bright side despite the last gasp disappointment.

There wasn’t a bright side to look on for Hull and Azahara Munoz, though. The Europeans were four up with six to play against Nelly Korda and Brittany Altomare and were still three up with three to play but they couldn’t close out the win.

In fairness to the US duo, they did birdie five of the last six holes in a rousing, flag-waving comeback which was completed by Altomare’s raking putt on the 18th.

Hull had a chance to win it with a birdie putt of her own on the last but her effort hit the hole on its way by and the “f” word summed up the general mood.

There were probably a few watching on in the European ranks who uttered it as well.