THE growling underdogs of Great Britain and Ireland almost rushed the Americans off their feet in the singles yesterday afternoon after being robbed of a promising start in the attempt to repair their shocking record in the Walker Cup. A 2-2 tie in the morning foursomes seemed certain until calamity struck the final pair to finish.
Mark Foster and David Howell were three up with four to play and their team-mates were looking forward with every justification to tying the session. Which would have been a good enough start, considering that the help the home team were expecting from the wind failed to arrive.
But the fading hopes of their American opponents, Alan Bratton and Chris Riley, were suddenly revived when Howell found a bunker from the tee of the long par-four 15th and Foster could do no better than find another bunker 70 yards ahead. The resultant double bogey undermined their confidence, a state of mind probably not helped by the sudden increase in the size of their gallery.
The other three matches had finished three holes from home and the bulk of the 7,000 crowd flocked to add their support. Most of them were just in time to see Howell come up short with his approach to the 16th green. The Americans were pin-high for two and, after Howell missed a nine-footer, had reduced the arrears to one hole.
Howell sank a brave seven-feet putt to preserve that lead to the 18th but although they were marginally closer to the flag with their second shot, Howell and Foster three putted to allow the Americans to halve the match.
The Great Britain and Ireland captain, Clive Brown, had been hoping that a first-session tie would have compensated for the sound beating his leading partnership had suffered. The first match out at 8.45 am brought together the great transatlantic rivals Tiger Woods and Gordon Sherry.
As Sherry insists, there is much more to this match than any thought of a personal battle but comparisons are impossible to avoid. At least, they were not driving together. Sherry, partnered by fellow Scot Stephen Gallacher, took the odds while Woods, playing with 43-year-old John Harris, drove the evens. …