They owed their slender advantage to a hole-in-one by Anna Nordqvist and a half-point from out of nowhere.
Nordqvist crashed a 7-iron on the 175-yard 17th into the pin, then the hole, to give Europe its only win in Saturday morning's alternate-shot matches. It was the highlight of a topsy-turvy stretch of golf on the back nine that ended with Europe holding a 6½-5½ lead over the United States.
"It was just an unbelievable shot," Nordqvist said after she and Caroline Hedwall beat Jessica Korda and Morgan Pressel 2 and 1. "It was the right shot at the right time."
Pressel, who watched her dreams of a U.S. Open title disappear in 2005 when Birdie Kim holed out from a greenside bunker up the road at Cherry Hills, saw another one slip away cruelly in Colorado.
"Are you kidding me?" she said on the tee box as she watched the shot go in.
The Americans were feeling the same way in the day's third match after letting a half-point get away.
Brittany Lincicome missed a short putt on No. 17 that would have clinched a win against Caroline Masson and Catriona Matthew. Moving to No. 18, Matthew holed a 6-footer for birdie to pull into a tie with Lincicome and Lizette Salas, who had led since the second hole but couldn't close it out.
"I feel like I was not putting good," Lincicome said. "We had so many chances and Lizette played so good today, and just a couple of 5-footers that needed to go in just didn't."
It wasn't all bad news for the Americans.
Brittany Lang and Michelle Wie teamed for a 2-and-1 victory over Suzann Pettersen and Beatriz Recari. The victory improved Wie to 5-0-1 when she plays in the Solheim Cup as a captain's pick. The Americans were 2 down at the turn but went 1 up over the next three holes, highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt that dropped for Lang on No. 10.
"Lang was a superstar today," Wie said.
The United States' other point came from Stacy Lewis and Paula Creamer, who beat Azahara Munoz and Karin Icher 1 up in the day's most tumultuous match.
The Europeans won four straight holes to go from 4 down to even heading into No. 15. They fell behind on the next hole, then drew even again on the 17th. Europe appeared to have the advantage on No. 18 when Lewis smothered her approach shot into the brush and trees left of the green.
But Icher, playing out of a bunker about 50 yards in front of the green, thinned a shot that got stuck in a yucca plant. All Creamer needed was to chip the ball back in the vicinity of the green and the Europeans, who had taken a drop, then hit a mediocre shot short of the green and conceded the match.
"They rallied on the back nine, made a bunch of birdie putts," Lewis said. "They made us make putts. We had to play some golf today."
The afternoon best-ball pairings looked like this: Jodi Ewart-Shadoff and Charley Hull against Creamer and Lexi Thompson; Munoz and Carlota Ciganda against Gerina Piller and Angela Stanford; Hedwall and Masson against Wie and Korda; and Recari and Icher against Pressel and Cristie Kerr.
American captain Meg Mallon was hoping the two late-morning victories would help the United States pick up steam in the afternoon.
"It was very nerve-racking, an unbelievable turn of events," Mallon said. "Watching a ball go in the hole like that, then to watch some of the other matches finish the way they did, was a great momentum turn for the U.S."
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