NEWCASTLE, N. Ireland (Sept. 8, 2007)-- Billy Horschel of Grant, Fla., and Rickie Fowler of Murrieta, Calif., each won a pair of matches Saturday to help the USA earn an 6-6 tie with Great Britain and Ireland after the first day of play at the Walker Cup Match being played at Royal Country Down Golf Club.
Each team won four of the eight singles matches after being tied 2-2 in morning foursomes. Four more foursomes (alternate shot) matches and eight more singles matches will be contested on Sunday over the 7,181-yard, par 71 championship layout.
Horschel, 20, held off teenage Irish phenomenon Rory McIlroy, 1 -up, in his afternoon singles match, while Fowler, 18, had a one-sided decision against Walker Cup veteran Lloyd Saltman of Scotland, 5 & 4. Horschel and Fowler also combined for a winning point in morning alternate shot format against Saltman and Rhys Davies of Wales, 4 & 3.
Other singles winners for the USA were Colt Knost, 22, of Dallas, and Jamie Lovemark, 19, of Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. Lovemark won three consecutive holes for a 3-up lead after the eighth on his way to a win over Llewellyn Matthews, 5 & 4. Knost built a 3-up lead after six holes against Danny Willett but was extended to the 18th hole before winning, 2-up. Knost had winning birdies on the last two holes.
“It was a good match,” said U.S. Amateur champion Knost. “I think we were both under par.”
Knost was the equivalent of 1-under-par with the usual concessions given in match play. Fowler and Lovemark were the equivalent of even par. Horschel didn’t play as well, but he didn’t need to, as McIllroy uncharacteristically started with three bogeys and a double bogey in the first six holes. He ended it with another bogey, missing a putt that would have halved the match from four feet.
“I would have loved it if we would have played better,” said Horschel, one of nine college-aged players on the 10-man USA squad. “We didn’t play very good, but you can tell that Rory is a great player. I thought we were going to halve the match coming down 18.”
“A lot of the matches came down to the last couple holes. GB&I kind of got us on there,” said USA Captain Buddy Marucci, referring to the opponents coming from behind to take the last three singles matches on the final hole.
“I think tonight my team has a greater appreciation for these matches. They’re a lot smarter now than they were before today. These matches always seem to come down to the last few holes. Sunday I’m sure we’ll see more of the same.”
Englishman David Horsey was the only double winner for GB&I. He beat Webb Simpson of Raleigh, N.C., in singles and teamed with Englishman John Parry for a foursomes win in the morning.
Other GB&I winners in singles were 39-year-old Nigel Edwards of Wales, Jamie Moul of England and Davies, who rebounded after a sub-par morning round with a 5 & 4 win in which he was one over par through 13 holes.
The sides were square at two points apiece after the four morning foursomes (alternate shot). Simpson rescued the Americans from being behind after the morning round when he rolled in a long putt from off the front of the last green and some 37 yards away from the par 5 hole for a winning eagle. That halved the match after Simpson and Jonathan Moore had been 3-down after 12 holes.
The GB&I side had a come-from-behind rally in the morning as well. McIlroy and Jonny Caldwell won two of the last three holes to earn a half point from Knost and Dustin Johnson. Caldwell made a 20-footer for birdie at the 16th and then holed a 10-footer for par on the last hole. Knost then missed his putt on the last hole from five feet that would have won the match.
In the other two foursomes, the winning side never trailed.
The last Walker Cup was played in 2005, with the USA winning by a point at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill. Prior to that, the GB&I had a run of three consecutive victories. The USA leads 32-7-1 in the biennial series history that was begun in 1922.
--Story written by Craig Smith, USGA