Great Britain & Ireland could use nine more Stiggy Hodgsons. Maybe then they’d have a chance of winning this Walker Cup.
As it stands, they need the diminutive Hodgson to infuse the rest of the team with his bulldog spirit.
Great Britain & Ireland trail the United States 8-4 heading into the last day, but it could have been worse. Much worse.
After trailing the US 3-1 after the foursomes, GB & I looked like being swept aside in the afternoon singles. They trailed in all eight matches at one point, but slowly battled back to cut the deficit to four points.
Gavin Dear, Wallace Booth, Matt Haines and Chris Paisley all battled back from sizeable deficits to gain valuable half points.
Sam Hutsby, Tommy Fleetwood and Niall Kearney all lost in individual play. Hutsby suffered the biggest defeat, going down 7 & 6 to American powerhouse Rickie Fowler.
The pint-sized Hodgson was the only player to record a GB & I win. He came back from two down after nine holes to defeat Brendan Gielow 2 & 1. In fact, the pint size amateur is the only GB & I player with two points. He won with Kearney in the morning session.
In the singles, Hodgson went into overdrive after losing the 8th and 9th holes. Birdies at the 10th, 12th, 13th and 15th holes gave him a two up lead which he turned into a winning hand.
“My head is the strongest part of my game,” Hodgson said. “I knew there was a lot of birdies to be had on the back nine. I knew I wasn’t out of it.”
GB & I captain Colin Dalgleish had a big speech to give his troops after the morning play. He won’t need to gee up Sunningdale Stiggy.
“This is far from over,” Hodgson said. “A lot of matches have been tight and could have gone either way. My point could be vital. There’s still a lot of golf to be played.”
GB & I has a bit of a mountain to climb, but at least it’s not quite Mount Everest without oxygen. However, as GB & I captain Colin Dalgleish led his side into the team room at the end of play, he was facing the biggest speech of his Walker Cup captaincy so far.
“The morning obviously hurt us, Dalgleish said. “What looked like all square ended up two down. At the end of the day we will take 8-4. We fought back well and are still very much in contention.”
Walker Cup Foursomes update
Great Britain & Ireland’s Walker Cuppers are going to have to learn to relax if they hope to wrestle back the Walker Cup.
The visitors look much more tense than the home team, which might explain why the US won the opening foursomes 3-1.
The opening tee shots said it all about the reflective moods of both teams. Scotland’s Wallace Booth had the honour of opening the 42nd Walker Cup. He hit the first tee shot, but the 24-year-old Crieff native didn’t rise to the occasion. Booth missed the first fairway, even though he was only hitting a long iron on the 350-yard, par-4 hole.
Unfortunately, that set the tone. Booth and England’s Sam Hutsby lost the hole to a par from the American duo of Brian Harman and Morgan Hoffman. Harmon had no trouble finding the short grass off the tee.
Somehow the GB & I pairing managed to stay with the Americans through the next eight holes, making the turn just one down. However, they lost the short 10th when the Americans made birdie and it looked like the match would end quickly.
The GB & I Pair clawed a hole back at the 14th when the Americans three putted. However, the turning point came at the 15th.
Booth’s nerves showed again later in the match when he left a 25-foot approach putt four feet short on the 15th. Hutsby missed and that was basically the match. A half in fours at the tough par-3, 17th gave the Americans the point and meant the US had gained the all important momentum factor.
The US won the next two matches. Only Stiggy Hodgson and Niall Kearney came up trumps. They ran out 3 & 1 winners over Cameron Triangle and Adam Mitchell. Behind them Luke Goddard and Dale Whitnell lost 6 & 5 to Rickie Fowler and Bud Cauley, while Gavin Dear and Matt Haines lost by one hole after losing the 18th to Peter Uihlein.
“That was an important win,” Harman said of the opening match. “We just wanted to get out there and get a point on the board. We should have won easier but we let them in a few times. We three putted three times.”
Perhaps most refreshing about the opening session was the pace of play. The first match was played at a fast pace, leaving the second match at least two holes behind when it ended. That was no surprise. Harman is one of the fastest players on the US team.
Most worrying for GB & I captain Colin Dalgleish and his 10 players is that if things go the way of the opening session then the US is in danger of running away with the cup.
WALKER CUP PREVIEW
Mother Nature might just decide the outcome of the Walker Cup – and the old lady seems to favouring Great Britain & Ireland.
Heavy overnight rain fell on Merion Thursday and continued all day Friday. The wet stuff played havoc with practice rounds, and turned the normally fast and fiery East Course into a course more favourable to the GB & I team.
Nearly 20 inches of rain has fallen in the Merion area in the last three weeks. Another two and a half inches fell overnight. The normally quick greens have slowed down considerably as a result.
“Early this week this course was great and the greens were quite crispy,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of rules and competitions. “It was ideal championship conditions.”
Not now. Merion is like one giant sponge. The soft greens should benefit the GB & I team more than the Americans.
“The rain actually makes the fairways play a bit wider,” said Scotland’s Gavin Dear. “It’s slowed up the greens a little bit. I would think it’s actually a good thing. It’s going to allow a bit more attacking play.”
GB & I captain Colin Dalgleish concurred with that take. “If you get wind and rain it is a bit of a leveller. We would be happy to play in this.”
US captain Buddy Marucci knows Merion better than most. He is a long time member of the club. He has prepared his team for a course that plays hard and fast, but the weather has changed that strategy.
“The playing conditions are going to be altered quite a bit,” Marucci said. “At the beginning of the week, the golf course was firm, fast. The greens were receptive but not very friendly.
“Obviously this (the rain) is going to change that. We’re going to have softer greens. The rough’s going to be wetter. The ball is not going to roll as far in the fairways.
“The one difficult thing for the players will be we’ve practiced on a golf course one way all week and we’re going to end up with a different golf course.”
Dalgleish may also have the upper hand when it comes to the foursomes pairings. Marucci is relying on chemistry since none of his players have played foursomes golf together. Dalgleish doesn’t have that problem.
The 48-year-old Scot has a team full of players who have played a lot of foursomes golf with one another, especially the seven strong English contingent.
“There are some pairings that are tried and tested,” Dalgleish said. “It’s good to know they have been tried and tested in the heat of battle.”
In other words, the golfing gods seem to be favouring the GB & I team.
Foursomes Draw (GB & I names first)
7:30am Wallace Booth & Sam Hutsby V Brian Harman & Morgan Hoffman
7:40am Gavin Dear & Matt Haines V Peter Uihlein & Nathan Smith
7:50am Luke Goddard & Dale Whitnell V Rickie Fowler & Bud Cauley
8:00am Stiggy Hodgson & Niall Kearney V Cameron Tringale & Adam Mitchell
1pm Gavin Dear V Brian Harman
1:10pm Sam Hutsby V Rickie Fowler
1:20pm Wallace Booth V Cameron Tringale
1:30pm Matt Haines V Morgan Hoffmann
1:40pm Tommy Fleetwood V Peter Uihlein
1:50pm Chris Paisley V Drew Weaver
2pm Niall Kearney V Bud Cauley
2:10pm Stiggy Hodgson V Brendan Gielow