Walker Cup blog: Breaking down Day 1

Andy Sullivan of Great Britain and Ireland celebrates a birdie putt on the fourth green during the day one morning foursomes matches of the 2011 Walker Cup held on the Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club on September 10, 2011 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Andy Sullivan of Great Britain and Ireland celebrates a birdie putt on the fourth green during the day one morning foursomes matches of the 2011 Walker Cup held on the Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club on September 10, 2011 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Time to start reading, boys

I will never question a professional golfer again when he neglects to read the “local rules.”

When Dustin Johnson deemed it unnecessary to read the local rules that any sand was considered a hazard at Whistling Straits in the 2010 PGA Championship, I was flabbergasted.

How could he not read a half-page document with millions of dollars (and a major championship) at stake?

Rules officials on the PGA Tour for years have joked about the fact that players don’t read anything put in their lockers or posted on bulletin boards in the locker room.

Now it turns out that Walker Cup captains are just as illiterate when it comes to important documents - like the Conditions of Competition - as professional golfers.

Both Nigel Edwards, the captain for the GB&I team, and Jim Holtgrieve, the captain for the U.S. team, admitted they did not read the document that controlled the tenor of the competition.

Now I have to admit I don’t like reading boring documents either, but this particular document is a one-page, two-sided document and represents the rules of the competition. I have to think it is worth their time, at last during the six-hour flight across the pond or the 90-minute bus ride from Edinburgh to St. Andrews. Or maybe even the two-hour drive from St. Andrews to Aberdeen.

Many may say: So what? Well, maybe, but the Conditions of Competition have the following information:

What is Out of Bounds, what are deemed Temporary Immovable Obstructions, the match format, Caddies, Pace of Play and Disqualification Penalties.

Of course, the caddie condition was the one that came into play on Saturday, but others could easily come into play over the last day of competition.

The Walker Cup has been a great amateur competition since 1922; its roots are deep in amateur golf and are a bridge between the USGA and the R&A. By creating a controversy that could have been potentially avoided, it seems in a small measure that the captains disrespected the Walker Cup and their captaincy.

The job as captain is an important one. With most of these players planning to turn professional, they will come into contact with rules issues. One of the captain’s jobs is to know the rules and impart them to his players. In turn the players will be better for it and hopefully learn to read local rules sheets when they get out in the real world of professional golf where a mistake can cost you dearly.

Just ask Dustin Johnson.

- Alex Miceli, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

U.S. trails 7-5 heading into Sunday

Day 1 at the Walker Cup is complete. Great Britain & Ireland leads, 7-5. Here are the individual records for the players on each team. The United States' Patrick Cantlay and Great Britain & Ireland's Paul Cutler were the only players to go 2-0 on Day 1.:

USA

• Patrick Cantlay, 2-0

• Jordan Spieth, 1-0

• Chris Williams, 1-0

• Harris English, 1-1

• Peter Uihlein, 1-1

• Blayne Barber, 0-1

• Patrick Rodgers, 0-1

• Russell Henley, 0-2

• Kelly Kraft, 0-2

• Nathan Smith, 0-2

Great Britain & Ireland

• Paul Cutler, 2-0

• James Byrne, 1-0

• Alan Dunbar, 1-0

• Rhys Pugh, 1-0

• Steven Brown, 1-1

• Tom Lewis, 1-1

• Jack Senior, 1-1

• Michael Stewart, 1-1

• Andy Sullivan, 1-1

• Stiggy Hodgson, 0-1

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Getting tighter

Things are getting really tight as the afternoon singles session nears its conclusion. Four matches remain. Two are all square. GB&I has a 1-up lead in the other two. The two teams are tied 4-4 after the United States won three of the first four singles matches. The conclusion of this afternoon session will go a long way toward determining the winner of this Walker Cup.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Americans strike back

Peter Uihlein and Jordan Spieth got revenge in the opening two matches of the afternoon singles session. Uihlein beat Tom Lewis, 2 and 1, in the session’s opening match. Lewis bested Uihlein in the morning foursomes, and beat him out for low-amateur honors at the Open Championship.

Spieth beat Jack Senior, 3 and 2. Senior beat Spieth in their previous meeting, in the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals.

The victories by Spieth and Uihlein tied the Walker Cup at 3-3. The final six matches of the afternoon session will be very important. Great Britain & Ireland leads has a 1-up lead in two matches, and leads 2 up in another. The other three matches are all square.

There was a time in the singles matches when GB&I was on pace to earn 5.5 of the session’s eight points. The United States has started to rally, though.

The session’s closing matches will be an opportunity for Great Britain & Ireland to reclaim its lead, or for the Americans to mount a comeback.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Some tips for Sunday . . .

With the lead singles matches making the turn, we’re still a couple hours from the captains setting their Sunday lineups. Here’s some things I’d like to see Jim Holtgrieve do with his foursomes lineup card for Sunday:

Pair Patrick Rodgers and Jordan Spieth. Conventional wisdom might say that the kids shouldn’t be paired together because they may have trouble handling the Walker Cup’s pressure. Both Rodgers (Stanford) and Spieth (Texas) are incoming college freshmen. What else do they have in common? They both lead big in their singles matches as I write this.

Spieth and Rodgers aren’t your standard freshmen. Spieth has twice contended in the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship. Rodgers won the Porter Cup, one of the summer’s biggest amateur events. They’re Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Holtgrieve inexplicably benched Rodgers and Spieth for morning foursomes. Hindsight is 20/20, but Rodgers and Spieth would’ve been a stronger team than Nathan Smith and Blayne Barber. Smith and Barber, the United States’ two worst-ranked players in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking, lost to Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar, 5 and 4, on Saturday morning.

Reunite Nathan Smith and Peter Uihlein. The grinding mid-am and young phenom may seem to be an odd pairing, but they’re close friends and good partners. They went 2-0 at the 2009 Walker Cup. When Uihlein played Royal Aberdeen before this year’s Open Championship, he texted Smith with strategies for how they should play the course. It’s time to bring that team back.

Keep Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams together. The two West Coasters have a good chemistry and play steady games that are well-suited for foursomes. It showed as they won the United States’ only point in the morning foursomes session, beating Steven Brown and Stiggy Hodgson, 5 and 3.

Front-load the singles lineup. It looks like the United States is going to be trailing at day’s end, possibly by a large margin. Holtgrieve should stack his stars at the front of Sunday’s singles lineup. Start with Peter Uihlein and Patrick Cantlay and plan accordingly. The goal tomorrow is to get to 12 1/2 points (the U.S. retains the Cup if the teams tie at 12). It doesn’t matter if a team does so early or late. But if you remember the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club, the United States got out of the gates fast and kept the momentum. It’s easier to play when your team is rallying, not when it’s standing one point away from a loss.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Rodgers in command

Talk about coming out of the starting blocks with a flurry.

Patrick Rodgers, who sat out the morning foursomes competition for the U.S. team, birdied the first five holes of his afternoon singles match against Rhys Pugh.

Even with that, Rodgers managed just a 3-up lead during that span as holes 2 and 3 were halved with birdies.

After six holes, Rodgers still did not have a par on his card. His lead, however, was just 2-up as Pugh won the sixth when Rodgers made bogey.

And speaking a a birdie barrage, Andy Sullivan of GB&I was pretty much as impressive. Sullivan made four consecutive birdies from holes 2-5 for a 3-up lead over Harris English. He added his fifth birdie at No. 7 to go 4-up. After eight holes he was 3-up as English won the seventh with a par.

- Ron Balicki, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

Teams tightly-matched in singles action

All eight afternoon singles matches are on the course. The United States leads three, Great Britain & Ireland leads three and two are halved.

• The United States’ Peter Uihlein is 2 up through eight against Tom Lewis. Uihlein is trying to avenge his loss to Lewis in foursomes this morning. Uihlein also was second to Lewis in the race for low-amateur honors at the Open Championship.

• The United States’ Jordan Spieth is 2 up through seven holes against Jack Senior. Spieth was 2 up through 13 holes in their quarterfinal match at the U.S. Amateur, but Spieth lost, 1 down.

• Great Britain & Ireland’s Andy Sullivan birdied Nos. 2-5 to go 3 up on Harris English.

• The United States’ Patrick Rodgers birdied the first five holes to go 3 up on Rhys Pugh.

• Great Britain & Ireland’s Steven Brown is 1 up through four holes on Russell Henley.

• The United States’ Nathan Smith is all square through four holes against former Arizona State player James Byrne.

• Great Britain & Ireland’s Paul Cutler is 1 up through three holes against U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft.

• British Amateur runner-up Michael Stewart is all square through one hole against U.S. Amateur runner-up Patrick Cantlay.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

• • •

Teams split early singles action

Four of the eight afternoon singles matches are on the course. Great Britain & Ireland leads two of them, as does the United States.

Tom Lewis is 1 up on Peter Uihlein through five holes. Lewis and Michael Stewart beat Uihlein and Harris English, 2 and 1, in morning foursomes. Uihlein and Lewis both made the cut at this year’s Open Championship.

Jordan Spieth is winning in his quest to get revenge on Jack Senior. Spieth is 1 up after three holes. Senior beat Spieth, 1 up, in the quarterfinals of this year’s U.S. Amateur.

Andy Sullivan is 2 up through 3 holes against Harris English, and Patrick Rodgers birdied the first hole to go 1 up on Rhys Pugh.

Great Britain & Ireland won the morning foursomes session, 3-1.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

• • •

Rules violation?

I heard chatter in the Media Center about a "bit of a row" between the GB&I and USA teams. I figured it was a rules question and lo and behold, the next thing you know we have an unscheduled press conference with the CEO of the R&A, Peter Dawson.

It seems that there is a "Condition of Competition" in the Walker Cup that prohibits a player from using a professional golfer as their caddie. Jack Senior's brother - as was noted by a member of the media who recognized him - is a professional. The U.S. Amateur, where Senior played so well, has no such condition and his brother was there with him. But at the Walker Cup, the condition exists and had Senior read the two page Conditions sheet he that particular rule would have stood out like a sore thumb. Since Senior made no attempt to knowingly violate the rule and keep it from his opposition, and the fact about his brother wasn't brought to life until after the result of the match was announced (Senior and Sullivan defeated Henley and Kraft 3-and-1), the result stands.

Mr. Dawson said that both parties were happy with the result, and that it fit in with the "ethos" of the competition. But when I asked him how long the Conditions were, R&A Rules Director David Rickman just shook his head and said "I know."

- Pete Wlodkowski, www.amateurgolf.com

•••

Back in action

Afternoon singles are already underway at the Walker Cup. Here’s a look at the pairings and the respective players’ rankings. The U.S. players are listed on the left, with their position in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking in parentheses. According to the ranking, the U.S. is the favorite in six of the eight matches. Great Britain & Ireland starts the session with a 3-1 lead:

Peter Uihlein (4) vs. Tom Lewis (7)

Jordan Spieth (2) vs. Jack Senior (11)

Harris English (6) vs. Andrew Sullivan (5)

Patrick Rodgers (3) vs. Rhys Pugh (75)

Russell Henley (20) vs. Steven Brown (23)

Nathan Smith (108) vs. James Byrne (66)

Kelly Kraft (12) vs. Paul Cutler (24)

Patrick Cantlay (1) vs. Michael Stewart (14)

•••

History not on Americans' side

Wind, rain, and playing links golf. Those were the key items Great Britain & Ireland Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards hoped would be the equalizer when his team took on a very talented, and heavy favorite United States team in the 43rd Walker Cup Match.

So far so good for the home team.

Under those conditions, GB&I surged out to a 3-1 lead following the opening foursomes session Saturday morning at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

Eight singles matches follow this afternoon, but the Americans certainly have their backs to the wall early.

And history is not on the side of the U.S.

In the last 40 years (20 competitions since 1971) only twice has a team been down after the morning foursomes and come back to win the overall match. And no team in that span has been able to overcome either a 4-0 or 3-1 deficit.

In 1985, GB&I held a 2.5 to 1.5 lead to start, but when it was all over, the U.S. had come away with a 13-11 victory.

In 1995, the Americans were up 2.5 to 1.5 in the initial foursomes, only to have GB&I surge back and win, 14-10.

Now, if the U.S. hopes to make a bit of Walker Cup history it is going to have to dig down deep, shake off the weather conditions, and make whatever adjustments to better handle the links of this sixth oldest course in the world nestled up against the shores of the North Sea.

One of those adjustments I can see happening for Sunday morning’s foursomes is U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve reuniting Peter Uihlein and Nathan Smith as partners.

Two years ago at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, Uihlein and Smith paired up to win their two foursomes outings by 1-up and 5 and 4 margins.

Uihlein, who was 4-0 at Merion, partnered with Harris English Saturday in the opening match. They won the first hole and were 2-up after seven holes, but GB&I’s Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart charged back, winning holes 10 and 11 with birdies and 16 with a par en route to a 2-and-1 victory.

Smith, who went 2-1 in ‘09, was paired with Blayne Barber. They were 2-down after three to Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar, but won the next three holes to go 1-up. It was all GB&I after that as it won 6 of the next eight holes for an impressive 5-and-4 win.

No, a team has never overcome such a deficit after the morning foursomes. But with 22 points still on the table, I, for one, am not counting the Americans out of it. This is a very talented team and if there is one to turn things around, it is this one.

More wind and rain is expected. But with the exception of the 34-year-old Smith, seven of the nine remaining members played college golf last season and two enter the college ranks this fall.

Trust me, I’ve been to enough college tournaments to know that these guys have played in their share of cold, wind and rain. They know what it takes to be successful in these conditions.

- Ron Balicki, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

It's not the first time

Can it be deja vu? With the GB&I winning three of the four points in morning foursomes, I had to look back to see when it happened last and it didn’t take much research.

In 2003 at Ganton, GB&I won three of the four points in morning foursomes and eventually went on to win the Cup 12.5 to 11.5. The interesting thing was that one of the foursomes matches won that Saturday morning was a 3 and 2 victory by Nigel Edwards, current GB&I captain, and Stuary Manley over Chris Nallen and Ryan Moore.

The U.S. would come back in singles in the afternoon to take the lead, but in the end GB&I would prevail.

What exactly will happen over the two days may be totally different than at Ganton eight years ago, but history does has a weird way of repeating itself.

- Alex Miceli, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

Underdogs take early lead

The key for Great Britain & Ireland in the Walker Cup’s opening session? It got good play from its stars. Yes, the United States has the top four players in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking, but GB&I's first four aren't too shabby. They're all ranked 14th or better in the world.

GB&I captain Nigel Edwards was wise to pair his stars together for Saturday’s opening session. The team’s four leading men comprised two of GB&I’s winning foursomes teams. GB&I won the first session, 3-1.

Andrew Sullivan (No. 5 in the R&A World Amateur Ranking) and Jack Senior (11) beat Kelly Kraft (12) and Russell Henley (20), 2 and 1. It was a bit of revenge for Senior, who lost to Kraft, 3 and 2, in the U.S. Amateur semifinals. Based on rankings, GB&I was the favorite in this match.

Tom Lewis (7) and Michael Stewart (14) beat the strong team of Peter Uihlein (4) and Harris English (6), 2 and 1, even though Lewis lost his tee shot on the opening hole. This was a key victory for GB&I.

Here's the results from the Walker Cup's opening session:

GB&I 3, USA 1

Tom Lewis-Michael Stewart (GB&I) def. Peter Uihlein--Harris English, 2 and 1.

Jack Senior-Andrew Sullivan (GB&I) def. Russell Henley--Kelly Kraft, 2 and 1.

Paul Cutler-Alan Dunbar (GB&I) def. Nathan Smith--Blayne Barber, 5 and 4.

Patrick Cantlay-Chris Williams (USA) def. Steven Brown--Stiggy Hodgson, 5 and 3.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Bad omen?

An early U.S. deficit is something we’re used to seeing at the Ryder Cup, not the Walker Cup. It looks like the U.S. will be trailing, 3-1, when the Walker Cup’s opening session comes to a close. That’s not a good omen.

The last time the Walker Cup was held on British soil, in 2007, the teams were tied, 2-2, after the opening session. The United States went on to win 12.5-11.5.

The good news for the Americans? There are eight singles matches Saturday afternoon. The U.S. traditionally excels in singles play, while GB&I is better at foursomes.

The United States is seeking its fourth consecutive Walker Cup victory. It is 1-3 in the past four Walker Cups on foreign soil, though.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

U.S. down early

The United States is the heavy favorite for this Walker Cup, but the Americans are trailing in three of four matches as the final match heads to the back nine. The Americans are 5 up through 10 holes in the anchor match, which pits Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams against Steven Brown and Stiggy Hodgson.

Cantlay (UCLA) and Williams (Washington) are Pac-12 rivals, but proving to be ideal foursomes partners. They have a good camaraderie. Both said well before the Walker Cup that they wanted to be paired in foursomes. They both have steady demeanors and games. Those are important traits in foursomes, where the bad feeling that comes from an errant shot is magnified by the fact that your teammate must now play the result of your mishit. There’s no worse feeling that missing a green after your teammate’s perfect drive, or missing a short birdie putt after your partner has stuffed one in there close.

Here’s how the matches stand:

Tom Lewis--Michael Stewart (GB&I) 1 up thru 14 vs. Peter Uihlein--Harris English-

Jack Senior--Andy Sullivan (GB&I) 3 up thru 13 vs. Russell Henley--Kelly Kraft

Paul Cutler--Alan Dunbar (GB&I) 4 up thru 12 vs. Blayne Barber--Nathan Smith

Patrick Cantlay--Chris Williams (USA) 5 up thru 10 vs. Steven Brown--Stiggy Hodgson

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Live from Scotland . . .

ABERDEEN, Scotland - The Walker Cup officially teed off in a light Aberdeen rain early Saturday morning, and not much more than five minutes later the first ball of the day in the GB&I opening foursomes pairing of Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart was lost in the gorse. Here are a few early observations:

The atmosphere: No disrespect to the Ryder Cup, that larger-than-life media phenomenon, but the Walker Cup is as good as it gets for competitive golf. Even in Scotland, where the heaviest rain doesn't drive golfers away from the course, the number of fans is reasonable enough that you can get up close and personal with players like Peter Uihlein, Patrick Cantlay, Russell Henley, and Tom Lewis (who will turn pro immediately after the event) - the stars of the future. The "ropes" are moved after players hit their approach shots in a way that allows for closer access, similar to the way the PGA Tour was watched in a time gone by.

"It's the founding of team play. Obviously the Ryder Cup came out of the Walker Cup," said U.S. captain Jim Holtgrieve. "Walker Cup was born first. It was born for the right reason, to bring friendship and build relationships between two continents after World War I."

The first tee shot - it's scary: The first hole at Royal Aberdeen plays straight downhill with a postcard view (if you could see it through the fog) of the North Sea behind the green. There are three pot bunkers on the right side of the sliver of a fairway, and deep rough and gorse on the left. In both the first match (Peter Uihlein and Harris English of USA vs. Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart of GB&I) the American side (with the honor as visitors) hit iron on the 413-yard downhill par 4, while their counterparts used driver. After Peter Uihlein split the fairway with a long iron (leaving an easy shot to the green for his partner English), Lewis pulled his driver into the gorse and ended up going back to the tee after a 5-minute search. It's strange watching one of the best amateurs in the world search for a lost ball. He had lots of help, but no ball. Kelly Kraft also chose an iron to lead off in the second match, but so much for safety - he also ended up losing his ball in the same gorse bush as Lewis. Andy Sullivan, teeing off with driver for GB&I, came very close to doing the same but found his in the deep rough after two minutes of searching.

9/11 anniversary on Sunday: Holtgrieve downplayed the effect on his team, and let's face it these guys are able to tune everything out when they are in the heat of battle. The USA team has multiple players that have played U.S. Opens (some more than once) and two Nationwide Tour winners in 2011. But Holtgrieve does not downplay the significance of the anniversary. He had commemorative hats made for the team (and some of his friends that were effected by the tragic event) that they will break out on Sunday, after being read letters from Presidents Bush and Obama. That should stir emotions regardless of how the match stands.

- Pete Wlodkowski, www.amateurgolf.com

Walker Cup 2011: Preview, Part II

By Golfweek Magazine in Golfweek Special Editions

12 pages, published 9 SEP 2011

Check out the second of four digital-only 2011 Walker Cup editions, presented exclusively by Titleist. Our second issue acts as a preview to this weekend's action in Scotland.
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