HOYLAKE, England — It’s getting closer. Taking Sunday morning’s foursomes session, 2½-1½, the United States Walker Cup side narrowed the gap between itself and Great Britain & Ireland to a single point, 8½-7½. With 10 singles matches still to play over the Hoylake links on Sunday afternoon, the home side needs a 5-5 split to regain the trophy. The U.S. team must pick up 5½ points to tie the overall match and keep the Cup (after winning it in 2017), or 6 points to win it for the first time on the road since 2007.
In truth, the general standard of play failed to live up to either the glorious weather or the exciting example set on the opening day. In the first match, Americans Brandon Wu and Alex Smalley failed to make a birdie in their 2-and-1 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick and Conor Purcell. The home pair, in fact, conceded the 14th, 16th and 17th holes during a late and rather dramatic collapse. It was ugly stuff, with many fairways, greens and putts missed on both sides. Fitzpatrick was especially culpable, sending a series of shots well right of his intended targets.
“We were feeling a little bit of pressure being first off this morning,” Smalley said. “It was important for us to put a point on the board. And although we got off to a slow start, we didn’t drop a shot after the eighth hole. We’re happy with how we played. There is a big difference between being one point behind and three behind.”
Elsewhere, the golf wasn’t much better. Only Stewart Hagestad and Akshay Bhatia, shooting the equivalent of one under par with normal match-play concessions to beat Harry Hall and Conor Gough, 3 and 2, played to anything like the standard one might expect at this level. Cole Hammer and Steven Fisk made only one birdie in their 3-and-2 loss to Tom Sloman and Thomas Plumb. That was one more sub-par hole than Andy Ogletree and John Augenstein managed in their halved match with Sandy Scott and Euan Walker. The all-Scot duo came back from 3 down through seven holes to keep the British & Irish noses in front.
“We were never up the whole match so to come away with something is good,” said Scott, who plays college golf at Texas Tech. “You always want the whole point but we have to be happy with that.”
GB&I skipper Craig Watson was also quick to identify holding on to the lead, albeit by the slimmest of margins, as a boost to his side going into the final session.
“We’re still ahead, but this thing is going to be close,” said the Scot, who won the 1997 British Amateur. “It’s a wee bit harder for us because we have to win the match. So that half in the morning could be crucial.”
That theme was repeated by American captain Nathaniel Crosby, who expressed confidence in Fisk and Hammer, despite both golfers failing to record a point thus far.
“It’s a ‘one-run’ game and 10 points out there,” Crosby said. “Our guys are definitely motivated. Steve and Cole are both anxious to earn their keep this week so that’s why they are going to play nine and ten this afternoon. Either one of them could have the winning point or winning moment. I’m expecting them to come through.”
Both skippers can’t be right. All is still to play for.