Rónán MacNamara at the Old Course
The 49th Walker Cup is back in the balance after the United States of America rallied in the Sunday morning foursomes session to win 3-1 and narrow the gap to the minimum as they trail Great Britain and Ireland 8.5-7.5 at St Andrews.
Great Britain and Ireland need five points from the ten afternoon singles matches to win the Walker Cup for the first time since 2015 but after winning their first session of the weekend, the USA are favourites to continue their momentum.
At one stage GB&I were trailing in all four foursomes ties on another sunny but extremely blustery morning, but a back nine birdie blitz from Irish pair Liam Nolan and Mark Power in the anchor match salvaged what could be a vital point for the hosts with a 4&3 win over Austin Greaser and Dylan Menante to keep them in front in the match.
“We were both saying in our singles match yesterday, we were both coming off the back nine 2- and 3-down, and we said we were even after 10, and we said, look, let’s just get something going,” said Power. “Geez, we got on a little birdie run. We both hit some great shots, both hit some great putts. We just really fed off the crowd and we’re both dogged competitors, so once we got into it, we just loved it all.
Nolan and Power made heroic pars on the seventh and ninth for a win and a half respectively to turn all square before a shot of the day contender from Power into the treacherous par-3 11th set up a stunning birdie for Nolan and paved the way for four birdies in a row as they steamrolled their opponents. The all-Irish pair coming up trumps on a special morning for Irish golf on the Old Course.
“When you have home crowd out here with you and you’re hitting close wedge shots and you’re holing putts, you’ve got to get the whole place going because we still have the evening session to go, and you want a really strong wave of momentum going into that,” added Nolan who has two wins from two heading into the afternoon.
Meanwhile, Matthew McClean and John Gough suffered their first defeats of the weekend in the top match as they fell to a 2&1 loss to Caleb Surratt and Ben James.
“It was really good. Captain had his trust in us. We’re great friends, and we know each other’s game really well, so we just trusted in each other and helped each other along the way when we needed a pick-me-up. It was just awesome that Captain wanted to throw us out first, and we got it done for him,” said James.
Scottish duo Calum Scott and Connor Graham saw their back nine rally come up shy as they were beaten on the 18th by world number one Gordon Sargent and US Amateur champion Nick Dunlap.
Alex Maguire and James Ashfield came from 3DN to 1DN in their match against Preston Summerhays and Nick Gabrelcik after recovering from a two-over through six start to go four-under from 9-14. However, they ran out of holes in a 2&1 defeat as the USA claimed the first three foursomes matches.
GB&I Captain Stuart Wilson feels the experience of playing the course in the changing conditions will help his team heading into the afternoon.
“Ideally we would have liked to have maintained the gap going into the singles on Sunday, but there’s still a bit of a gap there.
“The course changed, like we always knew that the chances of links golf and the conditions changing from one day to the next or one afternoon or one back nine to the next. The guys will be well-versed with the conditions by the time they get out here this afternoon.”
USA skipper Mike McCoy stressed the importance of an improved morning performance last evening and he was delighted to see his side deliver a winning session.
“Yeah, very happy with the morning. We knew we needed a big morning, and I guess we got that morning we needed. You know, both these teams have shown a lot of heart, and I think it’s going to be tougher this afternoon with this wind, and I’m just going to tell these guys and remind them of the skills needed on this golf course.”