Monday, September 09, 2013


By JAMES CORRIGAN, Southampton, New York State
Aptly enough, considering the fact that the first Walker Cup match was played here at the National Golf Links of America, it seemed just like the old days, with America looking the ultimate golfing super power in humbling Great Britain and Ireland
The Stars and Stripes needed only five matches of the singles to retain the cup they lost two years ago at Royal Aberdeen. With five matches left out on the course at the end this was a wretched anticlimax for Nigel Edwards’s team, who came to Long Island with high hopes of winning for only the third time on away soil. 
In the end the scoreline was a lopside USA 17, GB and Ireland 9.
So America have won one back. They still do not hold the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup or Curtis Cup, but at least they have some team golf silverware of significance in their trophy cabinet. In the big four, they had lost their past six matches. It was a freak run which was bound to end soon.
That will be of absolutely no consolation to Edwards, who invested so much faith in a team containing both the US Amateur champion, Matt Fitzpatrick, and the Amateur champion, Garrick Porteous. The damage was done in Saturday afternoon’s singles.
The last time a team managed to compile a 61/2 - 11/2 scoreline was in 2001 at Sea Island, Georgia, by a GB and I outfit boasting the likes of Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell. Edwards himself was in that squad. 
“We just didn’t putt well enough,” he said. “It simply came down to that.”
Edwards had not given up hope of a recovery with his side trailing 8-4 after the first day. But there would be no Lazarus on the Links.
The match was effectively over when the US tied the morning foursomes 2-2 – a 10-6 deficit was too big a challenge. Europe had 12 singles in which to overcome the same task at last year’s Ryder Cup in Chicago. Now GB&I needed to win at least seven of the 10 matches. Perhaps it was a relief they were put out of their agony so early.
If Rhys Pugh and Porteous had been able to convert their one-up advantage with two holes remaining of their morning foursomes there would have been so much more optimism.
But Pugh, who won all three of his matches two years ago, missed a three-footer to lose the 17th and then they took four to get up and down from the side of the final green. The gap should have been two, not four.
But four it was and when Bobby Wyatt saw off Neil Raymond 4 and 3 and Justin Thomas, who actually was forced to sit out the foursomes with a bad back, crushed the out-of-form Max Orrin 6 and 4 in the top two matches the result was all-but sealed.
Todd White, the 45-year-old, beat Pugh 4 and 3 and it was left to the other old man, 35-year-old Nathan Smith, to end the contest with his 4 and 3 win over Nathan Kimsey.
In the third match, Fitzpatrick beat Michael Weaver 3 and 2, to make it three out of four for the 20-year-old from Sheffield. Whatever else GB and I were to claw from the wreckage, the very least they could claim was the hope raised by Fitzpatrick and the 18-year-old Irishman, Gavin Moynihan.
The likelihood is that both will still be amateurs at Lytham in two years’ time. Fitzpatrick, the US Amateur champion, will soon enrol at Northwestern University in Chicago on a four-year degree, while Moynihan will attend Alabama University. Both proved what worthy additions they will be to their respective golf teams.
Fitzpatrick has magic in his hands. His bunker shot from behind the 15th green in the foursomes was “one of the best I’ve ever seen”, claimed partner Raymond. The pair were two-under through 16 holes of the 3 and 2 win over Weaver and Todd White.
Meanwhile, Edwards was not surprised that Moynihan fared so well. He may only be 18 but he has all tools. “Gavin knows how to get his ball around the course,” Edwards said. “He’s good at that. This place suited him. He’s a lovely putter.”
Patrick Rodgers discovered that to his cost. His 2 and 1 reversal on Saturday afternoon to Moynihan was America’s only loss. And Rodgers was again in the opposite corner – with Jordan Niebrugge – when Moynihan and Kevin Phelan fought back from a four-hole deficit after seven holes to prevail on the 18th yesterday.
Moynihan played Rodgers again in the last singles, but when Smith confirmed the result, they were level after eight holes. He deserved better.
But that is golf. And that is team matchplay.



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