SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Trailing in all four foursomes matches at one point Saturday, the United States staged a few late rallies to head into afternoon singles down, 2 1/2 to 1 1/2, in the 44th Walker Cup.
Most important to the Americans was an unexpected halve in their opening match at National Golf Links. The U.S. team of Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt made six bogeys and never led against Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin, but they squeezed out a halve after Team GB&I three-putted the final green from about 30 feet.
“It was a real dogfight,” Whitsett said afterward. “To win it right there was crucial.”
The Americans weren’t quite as fortunate in the second match, as the U.S. team of Jordan Niebrugge and Nathan Smith lost, 1 up, after the GB&I duo of Matthew Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond birdied the 18th hole.
U.S. mid-am Nathan Smith was short of the par 5 in two shots, but he hit a poor first putt that left the Americans about 40 feet for birdie.
“I would have liked to chip it,” he said, “but the ground is firm,we’re going back into the wind, and there’s nothing behind the hole. They made a great 4.”
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick, the U.S. Amateur champion, slung a beautiful second shot to the back of the green from 256 yards away, leading to a birdie and a 1-up victory.
“I’d like to have a couple holes back,” Raymond said, “but I believe in my ability and I believe in the world No. 1 (Fitzpatrick).”
Michael Weaver and mid-am Todd White trailed for all but two holes of their match en route to a 3-and-1 loss to GB&I’s Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh.
And in the anchor match, Americans Justin Thomas and Patrick Rodgers captured two of the last three holes to win, 2 and 1, over Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan.
“That’s still a good score for the session,” said Smith, who is making his third Walker Cup appearance. “For a while there, it was all going the wrong way.”
It is only the second time since 2003 that the Americans have trailed after Saturday morning foursomes. The other was two years ago at Royal Aberdeen, where the U.S. dropped the opening session en route to going 1 1/2 to 6 1/2 in the foursomes format. Only once since 1995 has the U.S. trailed after the first day.
The eight singles matches are set to begin at 1 p.m. ET. Smith and White, the two mid-ams who lost in the morning, will sit out the second session.
The U.S. leads the overall series, 34-8-1, but it has split the last 12 matches (6-6).