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The Loop

Historic rally needed for U.S. to win Walker Cup

September 11, 2011

__ABERDEEN, Scotland—U.S. captain__Jim Holtgrieve read a letter from former President George W. Bush to his team Sunday morning in hopes of inspiring them before the day's foursome matches at Royal Aberdeen GC. It would appear he'll need to fly in Ben Crenshaw (circa 1999 Ryder Cup) to provide a rallying speech at lunch big enough for the Americans comeback against Great Britain & Ireland and retain the Walker Cup.

In howling winds gusting upwards of 35 miles per hour, thanks to Hurricane Katia making its way toward the British Isles, the U.S. team struggled finding fairways and greens. After losing three of four matches while salvaging a half point in the other, the Americans deficit stood at 10.5-5.5 with the final afternoon session remaining.

Just to retain the Cup with a tie of the matches will require the U.S. to grab 7.5 of the 10 points available in Sunday afternoon singles. To win it for a fourth straight time, means the U.S. must win eight of the 10 matches.

While the strong winds seemed to knock the Americans off their game, Holtgrieve wasn't going to use the weather as an excuse. "I'm not so sure it had any effect," Holtgrieve said. "The conditions are the same for everybody. Obviously they are used to playing the wind. I was talking with [GB&I] captain [Nigel] Edwards and he said, 'Can you imagine playing 72 holes in this?'

How rough was it for the Americans? It wasn't until 14 holes had been completed collectively in the four matches that an American pair finally won a hole.

Indeed, the tone was unfortunately set early with Peter Uihlein and Harris English losing four of their first five holes against Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan, en route to an eventual 3-and-2 defeat.

Similarly in the last match,Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams couldn't duplicate their foursomes play from the previous day, three holes in a four-hole stretch on the front side to fall behind GB&I's James Byrne and Rhys Pugh, eventually losing 5 and 3.

Even the one match that seemed to be going the Americans way wound up becoming a false promise.Kelly Kraft and Blayne Barber had a 2-up advantage on GB&I's Paul Cutler and Andy Dunbar, but lost the lead two holes later. With the match still all square through 14 holes, Cutler and Dunbar then made a birdie on 15 to take the lead and won the 16th hole with a bogey to go 2 up They eventually closed out the match on the 17th hole, beating the U.S. side 2 and 1.

"A tremendous job again by the lads," Edwards said of the GB&I effort. "As I've said all week, I've got a lot of faith in them, and they are enjoying it. That's the way it should be."

The lone bright spot came from the pairing of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers, who looked to be having the same fate as their teammates. The pair of incoming college freshmen struggled early, eventually going 4 down against GB&I's Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart with six holes to play when they lost to a bogey on the 12th hole. From there, however, they made five pars compared to the GB&I's one, rallying to claim a half point when Spieth holed an 18-foot par putt on the 18th hole to halve the match.

"We believed it the whole time," Spieth said of their eventual comeback. "The reason we believed it is because of the way the conditions made the course play today. This whole back nine into a 45-mph wind, everyone is going to spray it. All we wanted to do is stay patient and stay smooth."

Patient and smooth, however, isn't likely to get it done Sunday afternoon. The Americans will need to be the aggressors, at least to a certain extent, to begin to put pressure on the GB&I side during the singles matches. That, combined with the formidable elements could create cracks in the home side's confidence that otherwise haven't yet to be seen for a day and a half.

"The Americans can play," Edwards said. "We've got to keep on it. We've got to finish the job."

Sadly for fans of the U.S. side, that task isn't as difficult as they would like it to be.