ANDALUCIA, Spain – The crowd went wild when Carlota Ciganda walked onto the first tee to begin her afternoon fourball match alongside Linn Grant and against Angel Yin and Ally Ewing. And why wouldn't they? The 33-year-old hails from Pamplona, Spain, and is a Solheim Cup stalwart, earning a 7-8-4 record in her five previous appearances. So when she showed up for her 2:25 p.m. tee time in front of stands chock full of frenzied, fanatical European fans, you knew that Ciganda was going to perform, a worthy opponent on the most neutral of soils.
And perform she did, as the Spaniard and her partner Grant defeated the Americans 4&2, one of the largest margins of victory on Friday.
Ciganda showed out early, making birdie on the drivable, par-4 1st hole to put the Euros 1 up early. They then recorded a birdie on hole 4 to extend their advantage to two, but a Yin birdie on No. 6 got the Americans back to 1 down. The next four holes were tied until Grant birdied the par-4 11th to put the European team once again at 2 up, this time with seven holes to play.
The Spaniard showed her grit and fire on the par-4 14th, enjoying the crowd's roar when her birdie putt found the bottom of the cup to put the Euros 3 up with four to play. After tying the 15th hole, Ciganda and Grant slammed the door shut with one final birdie on 16 to close out Yin and Ewing 4&2 and get the Europeans their first point of the 2023 Solheim Cup.
"I'm so glad I'm here with Carlota," said Grant of her Friday fourball partner. "I think we had a great day. We played very solid. It was amazing. I'm really glad to play with her."
While she definitely enjoyed her match alongside Grant, it didn't really matter who she was partnered with in the afternoon on day one, as Ciganda was going to play as hard as she possibly could and have as much fun as she could in front of the Spanish and European crowds who turned out in droves for the day-one action.
"I was just embracing it and having fun," said the LPGA Tour winner. "I think the atmosphere on the first hole it's amazing. I'm so happy that we get to play here in Spain. It's very special for me. I feel very comfortable with Linn. She's an amazing player. I like how she is on the course, and I think that we played a really good fourball and we were in control all the time. Hopefully, we can keep it the same tomorrow."
Captain Suzann Pettersen was pleased with Ciganda's performance on Friday afternoon and knew that her longtime Solheim Cup teammate would pull out all the stops when she finally got to Finca Cortesin. It's not an easy thing to do to show up and play your best golf when everyone on property expects you and is rooting for you to do so, but Ciganda likes a challenge and likes the big moment, something Pettersen knew would have her raring to go this week.
She also knew that the fiery Spaniard would be a huge bolster for her teammates as they look to capture their third Solheim Cup in a row.
"Carlota, I'm just trying to put a leash on this week. She would jump off and fly if she could so I'm really trying to keep her grounded," said Pettersen. "She's playing fantastic. She's played fantastic coming into this event. She's been dying for this to be here over the last two years. It's just fun to see how she can cope with the pressure of being on home soil playing for Spain in front of literally her entire nation. Super proud of how she's coped with everything. Great for her to go out there today and get her win. That keeps us going, it keeps the crowds going, and it keeps the energy on the team going."
Solheim Cup rookie Grant got an up-close-and-personal taste of that energy during the second session of day one team play and fed into it despite her quiet, reserved nature on the golf course. While she may not be taking any pages out of Ciganda's book when it comes to egging on the crowds with fist pumps and waves, the Swede definitely appreciated the opportunity she got to play alongside – and win alongside – as beloved a Spanish player as Ciganda.
"(Carlota is) good at making some noise herself and pumping them up, which is good," Grant said. "I think I'm a bit more on the quiet side, so I think we complement each other very well. I love to play with her. She's a great player and she makes it look so easy."