Aberdeen, Scotland – They never led. They trailed for 16 of the 18 holes. They were 4 down with six holes remaining. And they were trying to manage their golf games amid the toughest winds they ever have played in.
Somehow, American teenagers Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers managed to gain a half-point in their foursomes (alternate-shot) match against Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart Sunday morning at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
Spieth sank an 18-foot par putt on the home hole to provide the most remarkable and improbable and lonely half-point for the members of Team USA as the 43rd Walker Cup began slipping away from them. The rest of the proceedings were favorable only to Great Britain & Ireland. Its side negotiated the blustery conditions off the North Sea more proficiently and added three wins to the tie for a 10½-5½ advantage with only the 10 singles matches remaining Sunday afternoon.
All the home team needs to win back the cup is three points.
Obdurate performances like the one from the 18-year-old Spieth and 19-year-old Rodgers are about the only thing that can keep that from happening. The American pair, which sat out Saturday’s foursomes session, simply wouldn’t go away quietly.
“We believed it the whole time,” Spieth, of Dallas, said of their comeback. “The reason we believed it is because of the way the conditions made the course play today. With this whole back nine into a 45-mph wind, everyone is going to spray it. All we wanted to do is stay patient and stay smooth.”
Patience was undoubtedly in short supply when the USA duo double-bogeyed the par-5 12th to fall 4 down.
“We never gave up, that’s for sure,” Rodgers, of Avon, Ind., said. “Four down with six to go, that’s not looking too good. But we believed, and I knew with the conditions – some of the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in – if we could make pars we could win holes.
“Jordan played great coming in and got it done. He was the man.”
The Americans finally won their first hole of the match at No. 13 with a par, and additional pars at 15 and 16 cut the margin to 1 down. Stewart missed a short putt on the former and the GB&I team took four to reach the green on the latter after hitting left into the gorse.
Rodgers could have squared the match at the par-3 17th, but his 8-foot birdie attempt slid by on the right, blown off line by the strong winds.
Spieth took note.
On the 18th, Rodgers sprayed a tee shot way right, forcing Spieth to hit a provisional. Fortunately for them, the Americans found the original drive and played their second up the fairway short of the green. Meanwhile, Stewart and Lewis needed three to reach the front edge after finding trouble on the left.
After Rodgers pitched up the slope, Lewis nearly ended the match, his 40-foot par attempt coming up inches short. Spieth then poured in the 18-foot par putt, let out a yell, and shared a hug with Rodgers and USA captain Jim Holtgrieve.
“It was a tricky putt,” Spieth explained. “The hill kind of holds it up. It looks straight from below the hole, but from above it looks like it has to break right. Honestly, what I did was I played the wind. Patrick’s putt, the wind blew it off line on 17. It was right in the middle. All that was going through my head was you better get this ball to the hole; you better give it a chance. It was a great feeling watching it go in.
“I still don’t know how we won that last hole. It was a team effort there. We both encouraged each other and stayed positive, and that’s why we came back.”
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose material has previously appeared on USGA websites.