Walker Cup blog: U.S. comeback stalls

Alan Dunbar of Great Britain and Ireland celebrates after sinking a putt on No. 17 during the Day 2 morning foursomes matches of the 2011 Walker Cup held on the Balgownie Links at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club on September 11, 2011 in Aberdeen, Scotland.

A look at the numbers

Here are your final individual records from the Walker Cup, which Great Britain & Ireland won, 14-12. Great Britain & Ireland’s Paul Cutler and Rhys Pugh and the United States’ Jordan Spieth were the only players to go undefeated. Great Britain & Ireland beat the United States, 6.5-1.5, in foursomes. The United States beat GB&I, 10.5-7.5, in singles.

Spieth beat had two impressive singles victories, besting Andy Sullivan, No. 5 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking, and No. 11 Jack Senior. Cutler beat the U.S. Amateur champion, Kelly Kraft, and halved the world’s top-ranked amateur, Patrick Cantlay.

USA

• Jordan Spieth, 2-0-1

• Patrick Cantlay, 2-1-1

• Chris Williams, 2-1

• Harris English, 2-2

• Peter Uihlein, 2-2

• Russell Henley, 1-2

• Patrick Rodgers, 0-2-1

• Blayne Barber, 0-2-1

• Nathan Smith, 0-2-1

• Kelly Kraft, 0-4

Great Britain & Ireland

• Paul Cutler, 3-0-1

• Rhys Pugh, 3-0

• Jack Senior, 2-1-1

• Michael Stewart, 2-1-1

• James Byrne, 2-1

• Alan Dunbar, 2-1

• Andy Sullivan, 2-2

• Steven Brown, 1-1-1

• Tom Lewis, 1-2-1

• Stiggy Hodgson, 0-2

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

It's over.

The Walker Cup is over. Paul Cutler guaranteed that Great Britain & Ireland would win the Walker Cup by going dormie 4 against Patrick Cantlay in the day’s final match.

The United States rallied late to make it close, but it was too little, too late. The United States needed to sweep the final four matches after U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft lost to Rhys Pugh. The Americans were leading three matches of those matches when Cutler went dormie on Cantlay.

Great Britain & Ireland’s Steven Brown holed the putt that won the Walker Cup. Brown won No. 18 to salvage a halve with Blayne Barber. (the Cutler-Cantlay match was still on the course when Brown earned the clinching half-point).

Great Britain & Ireland started the singles session with a 10.5-5.5 lead after winning 3.5 points in the four morning foursomes matches. Victory seemed a certainty -- the home team needed to earn just three points out of a possible 10 in the singles session, but it took much longer than anticipated for GB&I to clinch the Cup. The United States needed to earn 7 1/2 points in singles to retain the Cup.

Cutler and Pugh were two of Great Britain & Ireland’s stars. Cutler will likely end the week with a 4-0 record. Pugh, a 17-year-old from Wales, went 3-0.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Closing in

Michael Stewart’s 3-and-2 win over Patrick Rodgers earned Great Britain & Ireland its first point of the afternoon session. The home team only needs two more points to win the Walker Cup. It seems certain that they will get those points. Of the seven matches remaining on the course, GB&I leads in five of them.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Outlook for U.S. is bleak

Russell Henley just holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole to go 3 up on Tom Lewis. Henley, seeking his first point of the competition, looks like a good bet to win the first match of Sunday’s closing session.

The Americans’ outlook is bleak after that, though. Chris Williams won the first four holes of his match with Alan Dunbar, but no other American has the lead. Jordan Spieth, Nathan Smith, Patrick Rodgers and Harris English are all square in their matches.

Great Britan & Ireland, which needs just three points to win the Cup, leads in four matches.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

A bright spot

Jordan Spieth was one of the last players picked for the U.S. Walker Cup team but he’s emerging as one of his team’s few bright spots in this rout.

Spieth, the only undefeated American (1-0-1), is 2 up through six holes against Andy Sullivan in Sunday’s singles session. Sullivan, at No. 5 in the R&A's World Amateur Golf Ranking, is Great Britain & Ireland's top-ranked player.

Spieth provided the United States’ one highlight in the morning foursomes, holing an 18-foot par putt to win the final hole and halve his match. It was the only point the United States earned in the session.

Spieth beat Jack Senior, 3 and 2, in Saturday singles. Spieth’s victory wasn’t just revenge – Senior beat Spieth in the U.S. Amateur quarterfinals - but it was the most lopsided result of a tight singles session. Senior is No. 11 in the R&A ranking.

Spieth, who will start his freshman year at Texas when he returns to the States, Kelly Kraft and Blayne Barber were the final three players picked for the U.S. team. Kraft and Barber are a combined 0-5.

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Home is where Nathan is . . .

Where’s home? That’s what U.S. Walker Cup team member Nathan Smith’s parents might be asking themselves.

It’s been quite a journey for Larry and Vicki Smith over the last few weeks and it’s far from being over.

It started when the Smith’s left their home in Pennsylvania the third week in August to watch Nathan compete in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Erin Hills Golf Club just outside Milwaukee, Wis.

Their planning actually began a few weeks before when Nathan, 34, was selected to compete in his second Walker Cup.

And their trip would take them to America’s Midwest, the northern edge of Scotland, and the southern part of Texas.

After Nathan missed making the 64-player match play field (losing out in a playoff), Larry and Vicki began their trek to Scotland to watch their son in the 43rd Walker Cup Match at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.

“We’ve never been to Scotland so we decided to come over a week or so early and play tourist, see and enjoy the country,” Larry said Sunday morning was he watched from the first tee area the start of foursomes competition. “It’s really been great. We’ve had a fantastic time. Nathan getting picked for the team gave us a reason to come over here, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.”

While most of the American parents and family members here in Aberdeen this week will be heading back to their homes Monday and Tuesday, Larry and Vicki are making their way to Houston for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which begins this coming Saturday at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, just south of the big city.

Nathan will be attempting to win his fourth U.S. Mid-Am title and third in a row.

“We figured we might just as well go from place to place,” Larry said. “It would have cost a lot more if we went home in between each event. Now, it’s just one big trip.

“We’re retired so we have the time and it’s been wonderful. But it will be nice to finally get home and get things back to normal.”

- Ron Balicki, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

Youth is served

The young and the restless - that would be Americans Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers.

At 18, they are the youngest members of the U.S. squad. Neither has yet to hit a golf shot in college - Spieth an incoming freshman at Texas and Rodgers the same at Stanford.

Both sat out the first day morning foursomes competition, making them anxious and antsy to get into the action. That happened in the afternoon singles where Spieth won his match 3 and 2, while Rodgers dropped a 2-and-1 decision.

U.S. captain Jim Hotgrieve put them together and sent them first out in Sunday morning’s foursomes. They didn’t win, but they put forth one heck of a gutsy performance in a come-from-behind effort to earn an important halve point against the most formidable GB&I duo of Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart.

It turned out to be the lone shining spot for the Americans, who lost all three of the other foursome matches.

As Yogi Berra once said, “It’s not over ‘til it’s over.” And that certainly was the case in that opening match.

Lewis and Stewart led for 16 of the 18 holes. The only times the match was all square were after the first hole and last hole. GB&I went 3 up after seven holes and 4 up with six to play. Spieth and Rodgers won the 13th hole with a par, halved 14 with bogey and won 15 and 16 with pars.

They were 1 down going to the final hole, but managed to pull it out when Spieth drained an 18-foot par putt to put the finishing touch on the remarkable comeback.

“It was an unbelievable match,” said an elated Spieth shortly after sinking the putt. “It feels like we won the match.”

No, it wasn’t a win, but, depending on what happens in the 10 singles matches this afternoon, it could prove to be a most crucial half point.

- Ron Balicki, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

Winds of change

Great Britain and Ireland won the Sunday foursomes session, capturing three matches and halving another.

The big reason - the home squad was able to mange the windy conditions much better.

From start to finish the wind blew, at times howling with close to 35 mph gusts. And it showed in the scoring.

There were four matches; 66 holes played; 132 scores on the board.

Of those there were only 14 birdies (10 by the GB&I squad) and one eagle (also by GB&I). On the flip side the Americans made 20 bogeys and seven double bogeys, while GB&I came in with 23 bogeys and a lone double.

- Ron Balicki, follow him on Twitter here.

•••

Final match-ups

The Walker Cup's final session is about to get underway at the Walker Cup. Here’s the lineup for the 10 singles matches. Great Britain & Ireland leads 10 1/2-5 1/2, needing just three of 10 points to win the Walker Cup. The United States needs 7 1/2 points to retain the cup. (Note: GB&I players listed on left; R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking in parentheses):

• Tom Lewis (7) vs. Russell Henley (20)

• Andy Sullivan (5) vs. Jordan Spieth (2)

• Jack Senior (11) vs. Nathan Smith (108)

• Michael Stewart (14) vs. Patrick Rodgers (3)

• Stiggy Hodgson (33) vs. Peter Uihlein (4)

• Steven Brown (23) vs. Blayne Barber (51)

• Rhys Pugh (75) vs. Kelly Kraft (12)

• Alan Dunbar (216) vs. Chris Williams (10)

• James Byrne (66) vs. Harris English (6)

• Paul Cutler (24) vs. Patrick Cantlay (1)

- Sean Martin, follow on Twitter here.

•••

Where the players stand

The morning session is over at Royal Aberdeen. Here is a look at the records for the players on each squad:

USA

• Patrick Cantlay, 2-1

• Jordan Spieth, 1-0-1

• Chris Williams, 1-1

• Harris English, 1-2

• Peter Uihlein, 1-2

• Patrick Rodgers, 0-1-1

• Blayne Barber, 0-2

• Russell Henley, 0-2

• Nathan Smith, 0-2

• Kelly Kraft, 0-3

Great Britain & Ireland

• Paul Cutler, 3-0

• James Byrne, 2-0

• Alan Dunbar, 2-0

• Rhys Pugh, 2-0

• Jack Senior, 2-1

• Andy Sullivan, 2-1

• Tom Lewis, 1-1-1

• Michael Stewart, 1-1-1

• Steven Brown, 1-1

• Stiggy Hodgson, 0-1

- Nick Masuda

•••

Needing a miracle?

The United States will need something special to happen this afternoon in the 10 singles matches after it went 0-3-1 in the Sunday morning foursome matches. The U.S. now trails 10.5-5.5 and will need to win seven matches and halve one in the afternoon to retain the title at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland.

Here is how it played out on Sunday morning:

• Tom Lewis-Michael Stewart (GB&I) vs. Jordan Spieth-Patrick Rodgers (U.S.), Halve

• Jack Senior-Andy Sullivan (GB&I) def. Peter Uihlein-Harris English (U.S.), 3 & 2

• Paul Cutler-Alan Dunbar (GB&I) def. Kelly Kraft-Blayne Barber (U.S.), 2 & 1

• James Byrne-Rhys Pugh (GB&I) def. Patrick Cantlay-Chris Williams (U.S.), 5 & 3

- Nick Masuda

•••

U.S. sluggish early

It seems the U.S. had little energy on the first tee and that was borne out by the early scores.

Match 1: GBI’s team of Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart went 2 up in the first three holes with the U.S. team of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers making two bogeys in the first three holes.

Match 2: The U.S. also started poorly in this one, with GB&I's Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan taking a 2 up lead over Harris English and Peter Uihlein . Just like match one, the U.S. team made two bogeys in the first three holes.

Match 3: The GB&I team took a 1 up lead after a par from Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar beat a bogey from Blayne Barber and Kelly Kraft.

Match 4: The only U.S. team to win in Saturday foursomes, Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams, are tied with Rhys Pugh and James Byrne after one hole, with both teams picking up a bogey.

- Alex Miceli, follow him on Twitter here.

Walker Cup 2011: Day One

By Golfweek Magazine in Golfweek Special Editions

16 pages, published 10 SEP 2011

Check out our special digital edition, presented by Titleist, surrounding Day One of the Walker Cup in Aberdeen, Scotland.
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