HEXHAM, England – The United States needs just two and a half points from 10 singles matches to retain the PGA Cup, but U.S. captain Allen Wronowski has one simple message to his team.
The U.S. leads Great Britain & Ireland 10.5-5.5 heading into the final singles session. Two and half points would see the match end 13-13, and the U.S. could retain the cup they won two years ago at Cordevalle, Calif. Three points will win the cup outright for the fourth straight time and 18th time in 26 competitions, but Wronowski says his team should not get complacent.
“They need to keep grinding, keep firing at pins and play hard. We only needed 4 1/2 points at Medinah and look what happened there?”
The difference between last year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah is that there were 12 points on offer compared to 10 in the PGA Cup’s final session.
Don’t expect a repeat of the Medinah Miracle. Barring a GB&I singles rout, a U.S. victory is virtually guaranteed.
Trailing 6-2 after the first day’s play, GB&I needed a big result on day two. The GB&I players had to go after that result without team captain Russell Weir. The 62-year-old Scot, a diabetic, was taken a few miles to a hospital as a precautionary measure because of a high blood sugar level. Vice captain Jon Bevan took over Weir’s responsibilities and will continue into the singles.
Weir’s team halved the morning foursomes 2-2, so it all came down to the four-balls for GB&I to make up ground.
Former European Tour players Scott Henderson and Greig Hutcheon led the GB&I charge, defeating U.S. pair J.C. Anderson and Kelly Mitchum 6 and 5. The Scots pair recorded seven birdies over the first seven holes to go seven up.
Captain’s pick Hutcheon birdied six of those seven holes, with Henderson adding a birdie at the fifth. A par at the eighth broke the string, but Henderson then hit his approach at the par-4 ninth hole to inches for another birdie to make it eight up after nine holes.
“Are we stroking on this hole?” quipped Anderson after he left his bunker shot short of the hole.
The Scots played the front nine in a better-ball score of 28, 8 under par.
“It was good today,” Hutcheon said. “I’m tired at the end of a long season, but dug in deep today. We just took control on the front nine.”
It looked for a while that the Scots pair would inspire the rest of the team. At one point GB&I was up in one of the remaining three matches and square in the other two. However, only Benn Barham and Daniel Greenwood added to the GB&I tally. They earned a half point against Matt Dobyns and Ryan Polzin.
The U.S. won the remaining two matches 3 and 2. Chip Sullivan and Mark Sheftic defeated Graham Fox and David Callaway, while Rod Perry and Jeff Sorenson downed Gareth Wright and Nicolas Brennan.
The visitors took the crucial session 2.5-1.5 to set up what should be a fairly easy task in the final 10 singles.
“When we get to 13 1/2 points, that’s when I’ll relax and feel good,” Wronowski said.