LOS ANGELES – When Andrew Ingram spoke with his Great Britain and Ireland players about their troubles on the first day of the 46th Walker Cup, the captain could have pointed to one key area: the back nine. It changed the complexion of Saturday’s matches from a dogfight to a pillow fight as the U.S. took an 8-4 lead at Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course.
After halving the morning foursomes, a format in which the Americans historically have struggled, the hosts looked to the eight singles matches as their salvation.
Traditionally, the U.S. has taken control with solid singles play. Through nine holes Saturday, the U.S. was leading in only three of the eight matches.
But momentum turned in a back-nine onslaught as the U.S. won 26 holes to GB&I’s 10. Notably, on holes 16-18, the Americans won seven holes to GB&I’s one.
“I think that a lot of the games were close,” Ingram said. “We made some mistakes probably where we shouldn’t have, and we'll learn from those. We need 13 points [to win the cup], and we have got four. So, we only need nine, and there's plenty of points available [Sunday], so that's why I think we can win.”
The U.S. has lost only three times when leading after the first day. In 1971, the Americans led by one point at St. Andrews’ Old Course and lost, 13-11; in 1999 at Nairn, Scotland, the Americans led by two but lost, 15-9; and in 2003 at Ganton, England, the U.S. led by two but lost, 12½-11½.
None of those matches was in the United States, where the Americans have lost only twice in a biennial series that dates to 1922.
With a 35-9-1 record in the Walker Cup, the U.S. seems to be on track to win its 36th, needing only 5½ points to regain the cup after a seven-point loss two years ago at Royal Lytham.
“We're preparing as if we were even or down,” U.S. captain Spider Miller said of his approach to today’s final day. “We're not thinking ahead of ourselves. We have matches to play in the morning. We have to be at our best, and we have to fight for every point. . . . yet I'm pleased with our lead, obviously.” (scores and pairings: http://bit.ly/2xXdR03).
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli