USA Leads Walker Cup Match After Day One, 8-4

The United States of America won six of the eight singles matches on Saturday afternoon to take an 8-4 lead over Great Britain and Ireland after the first day of the 44th Walker Cup Match at the 6,995-yard, par-72 National Golf Links of America.

University of Alabama teammates Bobby Wyatt and Cory Whitsett each scored 1½ points with a singles victory and a critical half in their morning foursomes match for the USA. Justin Thomas, their Alabama teammate, also scored 1½ points, with a foursomes victory in the morning and a half with GB&I’s Nathan Kimsey in the afternoon.

In singles, Wyatt defeated Neil Raymond, the co-medalist in the 2013 U.S. Amateur last month, 2 up, and Whitsett edged Jordan Smith, 1 up.

Wyatt and Whitsett, who were members of Alabama’s 2013 NCAA Championship team, scratched out their half-point in the foursomes and turned a possible 3-1 deficit into a more manageable 2½-1½ margin. They did not lead in the match and clinched the half-point with a two-putt birdie to win the par-5 18th.

“Finishing the morning that way, never leading the match but never being more than one down to get that half on 18 was crucial for us,” Whitsett said. “It really put me in a good frame of mind for the afternoon and got me excited to play.”

“It was huge,” said USA captain Jim Holtgrieve. “Things were obviously not going the right way. We needed something, and for those guys to make that … Their eyes changed a little bit – come on, we can do this.”

The string of six consecutive USA singles wins was begun by Max Homa, who defeated Max Orrin, 5 and 3.

“It felt good,” said Homa, who won the 2013 NCAA Men’s Division I individual championship playing for the University of California-Berkeley. “I wanted to get out there and get running. It’s important to see some red. I wanted to set the tone if I could. I think when you get a few points early it helps the guys behind you.”

Homa holed a 45-foot putt for eagle on the 292-yard, par-4 second hole to square the match and give himself a confidence boost.

“I chipped in at the U.S. Open and that was the best moment of my life but that one kind of topped it,” Homa said of the putt that broke 10 feet.

Following the eagle, Homa won four of the next seven holes for a four-hole advantage with nine holes to play.

“America was in control most of the way,” Great Britain and Ireland captain Nigel Edwards said of the afternoon singles. “We didn't hole putts, shaving the edges a lot. Having said that, 8 4 is not an insurmountable lead. We're good at foursomes, we're good players. We're good at singles, so game on tomorrow.”

Michael Weaver, the runner-up at the 2012 U.S. Amateur, defeated 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, 3 and 1, for a key USA win.

“I knew he was one of the hottest players out there, ranked No. 1 in the world and winning the U.S. Amateur” Weaver said. “I was just trying to play my best and I am glad it worked out that way.”

In Saturday morning’s foursomes (alternate-shot) matches, GB&I got victories from the teams of Raymond and Fitzpatrick and Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh.

Raymond and Fitzpatrick fought off a charge from Nathan Smith and Jordan Niebrugge, who had won holes 15 and 16 to erase a two-hole deficit, to win 1 up.

Porteous and Pugh were the stroke-play equivalent of 6-under-par through 17 holes in their 3-and-1 victory over Todd White and Weaver.

The USA’s Patrick Rodgers and Thomas defeated Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan, 2 and 1, in the morning’s final foursomes match. They took the lead for good when Rodgers hit a 47-yard wedge to 18 inches for a conceded par on No. 15, and sealed the point when Rodgers converted a 6-foot birdie on No. 17, which was set up by Thomas’ brilliant approach from a fairway bunker.

The 2013 Walker Cup Match continues on Sunday morning with a second round of foursomes matches and concludes with 10 singles matches in the afternoon. A win scores a point and a match that is tied (halved) scores a half point for each team. The USA needs 13½ points to win and GB&I needs 13 points to retain the Cup.

Results from Saturday’s foursomes and singles matches at the 44th Walker Cup Match at the National Golf Links of America:

Morning Foursomes
Nathan Kimsey and Max Orrin, GB&I, halved with Cory Whitsett and Bobby Wyatt, USA
Matthew Fitzpatrick and Neil Raymond, GB&I, def. Jordan Niebrugge and Nathan Smith, USA, 1 up
Garrick Porteous and Rhys Pugh, GB&I, def. Michael Weaver and Todd White, USA, 3 and 1
Patrick Rodgers and Justin Thomas, USA, def. Gavin Moynihan and Kevin Phelan, GB&I, 2 and 1

Afternoon Singles
Bobby Wyatt, USA, def. Neil Raymond, GB&I, 2 up
Max Homa, USA, def. Max Orrin, GB&I, 5 and 3
Michael Kim, USA, def. Callum Shinkwin, GB&I, 2 and 1
Cory Whitsett, USA, def. Jordan Smith, GB&I, 1 up
Michael Weaver, USA, def. Matthew Fitzpatrick, GB&I, 3 and 1
Jordan Niebrugge, USA, def. Garrick Porteous, GB&I, 1 up
Nathan Kimsey, GB&I, halved with Justin Thomas, USA
Gavin Moynihan, GB&I, def. Patrick Rodgers, USA, 2 and 1