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U.S. team clings to Walker Cup lead heading into Sunday singles matches

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JUNO BEACH, Fla. – Two years ago, the U.S. team overcame a 7-5 deficit to win the Walker Cup on foreign soil. Sunday, Great Britain-Ireland gave itself an opportunity to stage a similar rally at storied Seminole Golf Club.

GB&I won two foursomes matches and halved another with an incredible comeback Sunday morning to pull within 8 ½-7 ½ of the heavily-favored Americans entering Sunday’s 10 singles matches.

Angus Flanagan and Ben Schmidt were four down after eight holes, but won the last two holes – with a par and a bogey – to earn a crucial half point with a halve against Cole Hammer and Davis Thompson. Hammer and Thompson were hurt by two bad lies near bunkers on 17 and 18, which led to a bogey and double bogey.

“It was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride today,” said U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby Jr. “We lost the last two holes (in the final match) with two tragic lies. It’s going to be nip and tuck, that’s for sure.”

The U.S. still has the lead, and the belief it will dominate singles play. In the last seven Walker Cups, the Americans have enjoyed a 28-point advantage over GB&I in singles.

Yet this GB&I squad has been resilient all week. No doubt Sunday morning’s finish gave them a shot of momentum as they try to win on U.S. soil for the first time in the last five matches.

“We are getting better each session handling the golf course,” GB&I captain Stuart Wilson said. “We want them to embrace the pressure and use it as a positive thing.”

Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci made his long-awaited Walker Cup debut Sunday after being taken to the hospital Saturday with a stomach virus that has plagued both teams this week. Strafaci’s start didn’t go well – he and veteran Stewart Hagestad were soundly beaten by Jack Dyer and Matty Lamb, 6 and 5.

Ricky Castillo is the only American to go 3-0. He partnered with William Mouw for a 1-up win over Andrew Fitzpatrick and Barclay Brown. Trailing 1 up on the par-4 16th tee, Castillo drilled a drive within 40 yards of the green and made the 10-foot birdie putt to draw even. Mauw’s par putt at the 17th gave them the lead.

“I knew I could get it up close (to the green) and give Will a chance to hit it close,” said Castillo, a sophomore at Florida. “I knew I had to make it, and I made it.”

GB&I’s Mark Power matched the 3-0 start of Castillo. John Murphy hit a clutch approach at the 18th hole, enabling him and Power to beat Pierceson Coody and John Pak, 1 up. The Irish duo were 2-0 in foursomes.

“I couldn’t think of a better person to play with than John,” Power said. “If we’re having fun and enjoying ourselves, good golf comes from that. That shot he hit into the last hole, the 5-iron, it’s hard to describe how good that was.”

The late halve was the only time in the first 16 matches there wasn’t a winner.

The U.S. team, which leads the series 37-9-1, needs 13 points to retain the cup. GB&I needs 13 ½ to win the Cup.

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/05/09/u-s-team-leads-walker-cup-before-sunday-singles/

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