SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – The 44th Walker Cup Match began at 7:15 on Saturday morning under clear blue skies and comfortable temperatures at the National Golf Links of America. Great Britain and Ireland holds a 2½ to 1½ lead following the foursomes session.
Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt (USA) halved Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin (GB&I)
How They Halved: Whitsett and Wyatt never led in this close match, and Kimsey and Orrin never led by more than 1 up. The GB&I duo held that margin six different times, but the USA came back to tie each time, including on the 18th hole.
First Blood: Kimsey and Orrin won the second hole after Whitsett hit his second shot over the green, leading to bogey.
Turning Point: With a 1-up lead on the final hole, Orrin hit his eagle putt 12 feet past the hole. Kimsey could not make the comebacker, and GB&I lost the hole and a chance to win the match.
Clinching Moment: Wyatt sank a 2-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to win the hole and halve the match.
Best Shot: Whitsett’s winning 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to tie the match.
Best Team Effort: After Whitsett hit approach shots over the green to lose both the 15th and 17th holes, he apologized to Wyatt, who replied, “Dude, let’s get half a point.” The team won the 16th hole and on the 18th, Whitsett hit a good drive, Wyatt hit the green with a hybrid, and Whitsett lagged the 40-footer to 2 feet for a birdie that halved the match.
Winning Words: “It was a real dogfight. It was pretty nerve-racking there toward the end. It’s unfortunate that we gave away some shots, but we made a lot of birdies to come back from those and keep the match even.” –Bobby Wyatt
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond (GB&I) def. Jordan Niebrugge and Nathan Smith (USA), 1 up
How They Won: Fitzpatrick and Raymond rarely got into trouble and recovered quickly when they did. They held an advantage from the fifth through 15th holes, never allowing the USA to take a lead.
First Blood: Following four halved holes, all with pars, Fitzpatrick and Raymond won the par-4 fifth hole with a par after Niebrugge and Smith needed two shots to escape from the grass face of a greenside bunker.
Turning Point: All square on the par-5 18th hole, both teams went for the green in two. Niebrugge’s shot finished short and left of the green, while Fitzpatrick striped a 3-wood from just over 250 yards, into the wind, that settled on the back fringe.
Clinching Moment: Raymond hit GB&I’s eagle attempt on No. 18 to 3 feet, and Fitzpatrick calmly rolled in the short tester to secure the birdie, and the win, after the USA had to settle for a par.
Best Shot: On the par-5 seventh hole, Matt Fitzpatrick failed to escape from the deep greenside pot bunker. Raymond stepped in and hit a bunker shot to 3 feet, setting up a par that halved the hole and maintained their 2-up lead.
Best Team Effort: On the par-4 16th hole, Niebrugge’s approach caromed off the hill to the left of the green – below the famous windmill – to 12 feet from the hole. Smith sank the birdie putt in front of a large crowd to pull the USA to all square for the first time since the fourth hole.
Winning Words: “To go out in foursomes over here and get the first solid point on the board was very important. I was just really happy to get it done. I believe in my ability, and obviously believe in the World No. 1 [Fitzpatrick] over here.” – Neil Raymond
Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh def. Michael Weaver and Todd White, 3 and 1
How They Won: Porteous and Pugh were the equivalent of six under par for the 17 holes, with the usual match-play concessions. They had three conceded birdies, including a 35-footer at the par-4 15th hole when the Americans made a double-bogey 6.
First Blood: Porteous, of England, nearly holed a 20-yard pitch shot from behind the green at the 309-yard second hole. The 2-foot birdie putt was conceded by the Americans, and Weaver missed an 18-foot birdie try.
Turning Point: GB&I holed clutch par putts on Nos. 6 and 12 to keep its momentum going. Porteous drained an 8-footer on No. 12. Earlier on the par-3 sixth, Porteous blasted out from a greenside bunker to 10 feet and Pugh made the comebacker for par. White had a chance to win the hole, but missed a 7-foot birdie putt and GB&I remained 1-up in the match.
Clinching Moment: At the 372-yard, 17th hole, Pugh, of Wales, stuffed his wedge approach shot to 4 feet. Weaver also hit a fine wedge approach to 7 feet, but White missed the birdie attempt. Porteous’ birdie was conceded and GB&I claimed a 3-and-1 victory.
Best Shot: Despite coming up short in the match, Weaver knocked his approach to the par-4 11th hole to 4 feet to set up a birdie for White that trimmed GB&I’s lead to 2 up.
Best Team Effort: The 165-yard 13th hole produced two great tee shots and two solid putts. After Pugh made a 17-foot birdie putt for a 2, Weaver answered by making a 15-footer for birdie.
Winning words: “It gets my [competitive] juices flowing playing for Great Britain and Ireland. It’s an honor and brings the best out of me.” – Pugh on improving his overall Walker Cup record to 4-0.
Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas (USA) def. Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan (GB&I), 2 and 1
How They Won: The USA took the lead for good in the see-saw match when Patrick Rodgers hit a 47-yard lob wedge to 18 inches for a conceded par on No. 15 and the GB&I side failed to get up and down after Moynihan bunkered his approach to the left of the green. Justin Thomas then set Rodgers up for the match-clinching birdie on No. 17, hitting a 111-yard wedge to 6 feet.
First Blood: The USA won hole No. 2 when Rodgers made a short par putt and the GB&I side made bogey from just to the left of the green on the short par 4.
Turning Point: Rodgers gave the USA the lead for good with a 60-degree wedge shot to 18 inches for a conceded par on No. 15. Each side had earlier held a 2-up lead and quickly lost it.
Clinching Moment: Rodgers sank a 6-foot birdie putt on No. 17 after Phelan missed his birdie try from 14 feet.
Best Shot: Thomas’ shot from the fairway bunker on No. 17 set up Rodgers for the match-clinching birdie.
Best Team Effort: Thomas bunkered his approach on No. 11, but Rodgers blasted out to 5 feet and Thomas made the par-saving putt; when Moynihan missed a 4-foot par putt, the USA squared the match.
Winning Words: “I just wanted to get him on the green because I feel really solid about him making a putt.” – Justin Thomas, on his 111-yard bunker shot on No. 17 that set up the clinching birdie by Rodgers.