124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2



Amateurs

The world’s top amateur is playing like it, putting the Americans in position to ruin GB&I’s Walker Cup upset dreams

September 03, 2023
1642051492

Paul Devlin

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — It got a wee bit windy on Sunday morning of the 49th Walker Cup at St. Andrews. And a bit cooler than the balmy conditions enjoyed by all Saturday. So, armed with the three-point lead it enjoyed overnight, things should have got even better for a Great Britain & Ireland side more versed in the nuance and subtleties that make links golf—and the Old Course in particular—such a fascinating test of golf.

Well, yet again in an event where just about every cliché has been blown out of the water, that supposition was shown to be flawed. Taking the morning foursomes 3-1, the visiting American side closed the gap between the two teams to a single point heading into the 10 afternoon singles that will decide the destination of the massive trophy.

Further emphasizing the closeness of the contest, only one player on either side remains unbeaten. Paired with U.S. Amateur champion Nick Dunlap, World No. 1 Gordon Sargent beat the Scottish pair of Connor Graham and Calum Scott by one hole to stretch his record to 3-0-0. Every other player on both teams has lost at least once, although only two Americans (David Ford and Austin Greaser) and two home players (Barclay Brown and Jack Bigham) are still without a victory.

Indeed, Sargent has stood out amongst this elite field of his peers from both sides of the Atlantic. Especially off the tee. Noticeably longer than anyone else, the soon-to-be junior at Vanderbilt has impressed with both his distance and accuracy. An example from today. On the 351-yard par-4 12th, one of the Old Course’s most thought-provoking tests with its two blocks of cross-bunkers, Sargent knocked his drive over the three-tier putting surface. No one else was within 30 yards of even the front of the putting surface.

Predictably, the two captains were cautiously optimistic about their prospects of ultimate victory. So far, 12 of the 16 matches have reached at least the 16th green, underlining the lack of dominance on either side.

“Ideally we would have liked to have maintained the three-point gap going into the singles,” said GB&I skipper, Stuart Wilson. “We knew the Americans were going to come out hard because that's what they do. They play with a lot of pride and a lot of fight themselves, so it's no surprise that they've come out and played well this morning. But there's still a bit of a gap there. The course changed, like we always knew it could. Conditions changing from one day to the next or one afternoon or one back nine to the next o a links s hardly unusual. But the guys will be well-versed with the conditions by the time they get out here this afternoon.”

American captain Mike McCoy was content to look back before thinking of what still lies ahead. As they had to do after losing both sessions Saturday, his side had to close the gap that had developed. Which they did, a fact that clearly pleased the Iowa-native.

“I’m very happy with the morning,” McCoy said. “We knew we needed a big morning, and I guess we got that morning we needed. I challenged them, and they were pretty quiet last night. We went to bed a little early knowing that they had a big job to do today. That's what happened. It's going to be tougher this afternoon with this wind. I’m just going to remind them of the skills needed on this golf course.”