The opening day of the Walker Cup had it all; great golf, intriguing contests, a brutal test in Seminole and even the drama of two GB&I players having to be replaced late in the day because of food poisoning. It also sets up for a great Sunday with Great Britain and Ireland right in the mix against their US counterparts, albeit 7-5 behind in Florida.
It was Irish duo Mark Power and John Murphy who got the ball rolling for GB&I, the formidable foursomes pairing coming from three down to beat Quade Cummins and Austin Eckroat on the final green. With it all to do standing on the 13th tee 3 behind for the second time in the match, the Irish pair played their last five holes in one-under, halving the last to win 1UP.
“I said to Mark both times, we’re playing great, we just have to stick to what we’re doing,” said Murphy. “This is a golf course of mistakes so let’s let them make the mistakes, and I think we stuck to our game plan really well and stayed patient.”
The morning foursome were halved 2-2 ahead of some fierce singles battles in the afternoon where Kilkenny’s Power would again put GB&I’s first point on the board with a resounding 3&2 win over Davis Thompson.
Barclay Brown and Matty Lamb also enjoyed victories but the US team are notoriously strong in the singles and their individual strengths showed with Kinsale’s Murphy going down 3&1 in the final match of the evening against the impressive Cole Hammer. The American was four-under par to the turn and 5UP in the match before Murphy rallied; the Corkonian eventually beaten on 17.
“You know what, at the end of the day golf is pretty hard, and you can’t play perfect golf all day long,” said Hammer. “I got off to a hot start, got to 5-up and kind of felt like I was coasting at that point. The next thing you know I make bogey on 10 and he’s kind of right back in it. Luckily I was able to make a nice 10-footer on 15 for birdie that really kind of set up my last couple holes and had a good up-and-down [on 17].”
At 7-5, it means this is the eighth consecutive time the USA Team has led after day one when playing at home, seven of which resulted in overall victories for the stars and stripes. Having won the Walker Cup two years ago at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, the USA needs to earn 6 out of an available 16 points on Sunday to retain the cup, while Great Britain & Ireland needs to take 8½ points to claim their first Walker Cup win since 2015.
“A lot of ups and downs,” said USA captain Nathaniel Crosby when asked to describe the day. “It’s just amazing that we’re actually playing this match with everything that happened to us this past week. If it wasn’t for COVID, we wouldn’t be here with two alternates, and we were able to play one this morning due to three guys getting sick yesterday.
“They’re a great bunch of guys, and the best part about this whole experience for me has been getting to know them. It’s sad when they lose, but it’s great when they win, and hopefully we’ll carry the day tomorrow.”
Sunday’s action will be aired from 4pm on Sky Sports Golf.
- Full scoring HERE