GB&I takes early advantage; Thomas-Rodgers win point

GB&I led by captain Nigel Edwards, center, clap at No. 18 as they gained a point on Saturday of the 2013 Walker Cup at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.

GB&I led by captain Nigel Edwards, center, clap at No. 18 as they gained a point on Saturday of the 2013 Walker Cup at National Golf Links of America in Southampton, N.Y.

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SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Justin Thomas’ best shot of the day came at a most crucial time. Lodged in a fairway bunker with a high wall at National Golf Links’ 17th, Thomas climbed in and left the U.S. team with 4 feet for the victory. Patrick Rodgers tapped in with ease to put the only full American point on the board on Saturday morning. The crowd at the green was, in places, five deep.

“It’s a totally forgotten shot if the putt doesn’t go in,” Thomas said of that shot, arguably his best of the morning.

Thomas fought a hook early in the match, and leaned on Rodgers to keep the U.S. close in its anchor match. The rest of the scoreboard was in Great Britain & Ireland’s favor for most of the morning. Thomas and Rodgers fell farther and farther behind as the sun rose over the property on Peconic Bay. Mired in the tightest match, there were few conceded putts in their match against Kevin Phelan and Gavin Moynihan.

“We both watched the scoreboard a little bit,” Rodgers said.

By the time Thomas and Rodgers reached the door of the U.S. team room, the Americans trailed by a full point, 2 1/2 to 1 1/2. The day started with a back-and-forth lead match between the U.S. duo of Alabama players Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett and GB&I’s Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin. They halved the first hole with birdie before GB&I took a lead at the second hole. The U.S. spent the rest of the day fighting against that lead, and entered the 18th hole 1 down after a bogey at No. 17.

GB&I should have claimed the match from there, but three-putted from 30 feet. Orrin sent his birdie putt about 8 feet past the hole and Kimsey missed the comebacker. Meanwhile, the U.S. team two-putted for birdie from 35 feet for an unlikely halve.

Neil Raymond was the dominant force in the second match, pairing with U.S. Amateur champion Matthew Fitzpatrick to surge to a 2-up lead on Jordan Niebrugge and Nathan Smith by No. 6. The Americans won Nos. 15 and 16 to get back to all square, but GB&I birdied the 18th to put a point on the board.

“It was definitely a close one throughout,” Fitzpatrick said. “We got an early lead, which was quite nice and then they made a couple of good birdies to get it back. That was a nice way to finish on the last.”

The third match was the most lopsided of the day as GB&I’s Garrick Porteous shined. He and Pugh defeated U.S. rookies Michael Weaver and Todd White, who struggled Saturday to find his game. GB&I won that match, 3 and 1.

Play will resume with eight singles matches after lunch.

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