Portstewart’s Paul Cutler has been handed the responsibility of anchoring Great Britain & Ireland’s bid for Walker Cup glory when he takes on world amateur No 1 Patrick Cantlay in the final singles at Royal Aberdeen today.
But before that the 22-year old Ulsterman will again join forces with Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar in the morning foursomes as Nigel Edwards’ GB&I side defends a 7-5 first day lead.
“I have got a lot of faith in them,” skipper Edwards said of his team. “They are good players and they have been playing in tough conditions all year. They have been battered all year by the elements and they have risen to the challenge today.”
Cutler is emerging as the strongman of a GB&I side that was expected to be soundly defeated by a USA outfit that features five of the top seven in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
On a day of mixed weather in Scotland, the home side held a 3-1 lead after the morning foursomes and went on to share the eight singles with Cutler a 2 & 1 victor over reigning US Amateur champion Kelly Kraft.
The 3-1 foursomes success was the best GB & I first-session effort since 2003 when it defeated the USA at Ganton by one point. The first-day lead was also the first by a GB&I side since 1995 at Royal Porthcawl in Wales. Edwards team is battling to avoid a fourth successive defeat to end a three-Match losing streak to the USA.
Each side won four of the eight singles matches in the afternoon, but the US gained some momentum by taking the first three before Welshman Rhys Pugh, the youngest competitor at 17 and the reigning Irish Amateur Open champion, overcame a 3-hole deficit to beat Patrick Rodgers, 2&1. Rodgers started the match by making six birdies over the first seven holes.
“He’s a great lad, Rhys,” said Edwards. “And dealing with that barrage that came at him, five birdies [in a row to start] and then Patrick chipped in for birdie on seven, but I saw Rhys come in off the 10th green, and I knew he was okay. I played foursomes with him myself for Wales, and he’s got me out of trouble lots of times.”
Following Pugh’s victory, GB&I won three more consecutive singles matches.
Cutler and Cantlay were the only players to go 2-0 on the first day with the Portstewart man combining with Dunbar to hammer Nathan Smith and Blayne Barber 5 and 4.
Smith, a three-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion (2003, 2009 and 2010), was a member of the victorious 2009 USA Walker Cup Team and went 2-0 in foursomes with partner Peter Uihlein. Barber, 21, who will be a junior at Auburn this season, was a member of this year’s Palmer Cup team.
Cantlay, the low amateur at the 2011 U.S. Open, won the US’s sole point of the morning with Chris Williams. He followed with a 2&1 victory over Scotland’s Michael Stewart in singles to break the GB&I run of three consecutive wins.
“They putted really strongly today and made a lot of putts,” US captain Jim Holtgrieve said of GB&I. “So putting is the name of the game. I think our guys will sleep well tonight [and] come fired up for tomorrow.
“We had a little team meeting and we are okay. We are at peace with everything that happened today. We had some matches that we were done; they fired, came back, and some other matches where we were up that went the other way. But you know, that’s what Walker Cup golf’s all about.”
Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart of GB&I were two down through seven holes in the morning’s first foursomes match against Peter Uihlein and Harris English, but birdied the eighth, 10th and 11th holes en route to a 2&1 win.
In the second and third matches, respectively, Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan of GB&I defeated Russell Henley and Kraft, 2&1.
The Walker Cup concludes tomorrow with four foursomes (alternate shot) and 10 singles matches.
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Day 1 Results
Foursomes (GB&I, 3-1)
Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart (GB&I) d. Peter Uihlein and Harris English (USA), 2 and 1
Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan (GB&I) d. Russell Henley and Kelly Kraft (USA), 2 and 1
Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar (GB&I) d. Nathan Smith and Blayne Barber (USA), 5 and 4
Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams (USA) d. Steven Brown and Stiggy Hodgson (GB&I), 5 and 3
Singles (GB&I and USA, 4-4)
Peter Uihlein (USA) d. Tom Lewis (GB&I), 2 and 1
Jordan Spieth (USA) d. Jack Senior (GB&I), 3 and 2
Harris English (USA) d. Andy Sullivan (GB&I), 2 and 1
Rhys Pugh (GB&I) d. Patrick Rodgers (USA), 2 and 1
Steven Brown (GB&I) d. Russell Henley (USA), 1 up
James Byrne (GB&I) d. Nathan Smith (USA), 2 and 1
Paul Cutler (GB&I) d. Kelly Kraft (USA), 2 and 1
Patrick Cantlay (USA) d. Michael Stewart (GB&I), 2 and 1
Total (GB&I leads 7-5)
Sunday’s pairings and starting times for foursomes and singles matches on Day 2 of the 43rd Walker Cup Match
8:30 a.m.: Tom Lewis and Michael Stewart (GB&I) vs. Jordan Spieth and Patrick Rodgers (USA)
8:40 a.m.: Jack Senior and Andy Sullivan (GB&I) vs. Peter Uihlein and Harris English (USA)
8:50 a.m.: Paul Cutler and Alan Dunbar (GB&I) vs. Kelly Kraft and Blayne Barber (USA)
9 a.m.: James Byrne and Rhys Pugh (GB&I) vs. Patrick Cantlay and Chris Williams (USA)
1:15 p.m.: Tom Lewis (GB&I) vs. Russell Henley (USA)
1:25 p.m.: Andy Sullivan (GB&I) vs. Jordan Spieth (USA)
1:35 p.m.: Jack Senior (GB&I) vs. Nathan Smith (USA)
1:45 p.m.: Michael Stewart (GB&I) vs. Patrick Rodgers (USA)
1:55 p.m.: Stiggy Hodgson (GB&I) vs. Peter Uihlein (USA)
2:05 p.m.: Steven Brown (GB&I) vs. Blayne Barber (USA)
2:15 p.m.: Rhys Pugh (GB&I) vs. Kelly Kraft (USA)
2:25 p.m.: Alan Dunbar (GB&I) vs. Chris Williams (USA)
2:35 p.m.: James Byrne (GB&I) vs. Harris English (USA)
2:45 p.m.: Paul Cutler (GB&I) vs. Patrick Cantlay (USA)