Britain and Ireland lead day one
Britain and Ireland have taken a 7-5 lead over the United States on the first day of the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen.
Britain and Ireland have taken a 7-5 lead over the United States on the first day of the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.
The underdogs, who were beaten in the first three matches of the singles, owe their strong position to the combination of a great start – winning the first three of four foursomes in the morning – and then finishing strongly in the afternoon singles matches.
There was an American fightback inbetween as the visiting team went from 3-1 down at the start of the eight singles matches to 4-3 up, but, after some torrential rain, 17-year-old Welshman Rhys Pugh, English champion Steven Brown, Scot James Byrne and Irishman Paul Cutler all came back to win their singles matches.
Cutler was the only double winner of the day, but Pugh put in arguably the best performance, the baby of Nigel Edwards’ BG&I side beating world number three Patrick Rodgers 2&1.
“It was like playing in a dream,” he said. “He was five under after five (and three ahead), but I stayed patient and came back in the end.”
Controversey briefly raised its head, but quickly disappeared. Jack Senior teamed up with fellow Englishman Andy Sullivan to beat American champion Kelly Kraft and Russell Henley in the foursomes, but it then emerged that his caddie, his brother Joe, is a professional golfer – something that is not allowed under Walker Cup rules.
That could have turned a 3-1 lunchtime lead into 2-2 if the game had been awarded to the visitors, but it was decided that because it came to light after the completion of the match the and the USA did not object, it should be of no consequence
Royal and Ancient Club chief executive Peter Dawson explained: “We are quite satisfied there was no advantage gained and the US captain (Jim Holtgrieve) was the first to say that.
“It’s been in the rules of the competition for a long, long time, but Jack was unaware of it.”
Edwards stated: “I asked Jack a long time ago who he was having as caddie. We knew Joe was a professional and that it would be okay – but apparently it’s not!”
Senior teed off in the singles with another caddie, but lost his match against Jordan Spieth, the teenager he defeated in the quarter-finals of the US Amateur two weeks ago, while Britain and Ireland’s highly rated Tom Lewis lost to Peter Uihlein in the top singles match
Uihlein, who lost out to Lewis in the race for the silver medal as leading amateur at The Open in July, had earlier suffered a morning defeat when Lewis and Scot Michael Stewart beat him and Nationwide Tour winner Harris English in the foursomes.
Sullivan looked all set to beat English in the singles, but from four up after seven he lost 2&1. The key moment came on the 11th where Sullivan, three ahead, hit his tee shot to two feet, but English sank a 75-footer from off the green to share the hole
“It’s the longest putt I’ve hit in a while,” English said.
The last point of the day went to the Americans, world number one Patrick Cantlay getting the better of Stewart.
There are 14 points to play for on the second day – four foursomes again, but 10 singles rather than eight.
It’s going to be some fight.
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