A final twist in Tiger's tale

Walker Cup: Great Britain stage a singles revival as Wolstenholme wins epic struggle
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The Independent Online
TIGER WOODS surrendered a two-point overnight lead to Great Britain and Ireland at the final hole of a gripping first day of this Walker Cup when he put his second shot wide of Royal Porthcawl's inviting 18th green and out of bounds. Thus was his opponent, Gary Wolstenholme, rewarded with an excellent one-hole victory after an epic battle and thus are the Americans beginning this morning's foursome an unaccustomed 7-5 down.

After a disappointing morning foursomes yesterday which left them one point adrift, the home team came out for the afternoon singles full of their promised determination to repair a sorry record in this 73-year- old event. Underdogs they may be but they were growling loud enough to convince the 7,000 crowd that they can win for only the fourth time.

For long periods in the afternoon Great Britain and Ireland were either winning or halving each of the eight matches. At their head was the giant Scot Gordon Sherry who had had a wayward morning when he and his fellow Scot Stephen Gallacher lost their foursomes match to Tiger Woods and John Harris by a margin of 4 and 3 that was a solid psychological blow.

But Sherry was to lead a rush that almost swept the Americans off their feet. Although his native American opponent Notah Begay played well, Sherry stormed to a 3-2 victory that was followed by romping 4 and 3 victories for both Mark Foster and Gallacher. But no one could take their eyes off the final match of the day in which Woods and Wolstenholme managed to create dramas even greater than those enacted ahead of them.

Woods went out of bounds a total of three times in the round. On the second his approach shot over the railings and rattled around the pebbles of Rest Bay. On the fifth, his eight iron to the green hit a spectator on the head and rebounded into the adjoining field. By this time Wolstenholme had built up a three-hole lead.

Although the 35-year-old Bristolian is the shortest-hitting player in the home team he was not intimidated by the distances Woods was achieving, but the young American's spirit was such that he forced his way back to win three holes in a row. Wolstenholme immediately won the ninth to lead at the turn. He lost the 12th but holed a brave 12 footer on the 14th to get back in front. Once more Woods pulled him back to even and when Wolstenholme saw a four-feet attempt lip out at the 17th it looked as if the American was going to steal the match. However, Woods lipped out from three feet and they stood all square on the 18th.

By then the Americans had staged a comeback. Alan Bratton rescued a half from the 42-year-old Scot Barclay Howard after trailing for most of the match. John Harris took advantage of sickening miss from 18 inches by Gordon Rankin to win at the last. Great Britain and Ireland's great afternoon had suddenly dissolved into a one-point lead that Woods was about to put under serious threat.

Wolstenholme's drive left him almost 200 yards from the 18th pin and he decided to go down the grip of a three wood to give himself a chance of getting close. He hit it through the back leaving the green to the mercy of Woods whose approach work had rarely faltered all day. But the American's iron shot flew towards the sea and the incoming tide, well left of the green. It landed it the shallow ditch that marks out of bounds.

Woods, who has been troubled by a stomach bug but who offered no sign that it was still bothering him, played another that this time carved an accurate path to within eight feet of the flag. Wolstenholme chipped up to within three feet. Woods missed his putt and offered his hand. Wolstenholme said afterwards that he had welcomed the chance to play against the American star, because "I love being centre-stage and having the hardest task. I'm honoured to play for my country and I'm eager to play the best opponent I can."

He would have, therefore, been delighted with the news that he will again face Tiger Woods, in the last match of the day. If Great Britain and Ireland summon up the same spirit today, it could be all over by the time he and Woods hove into sight of the clubhouse tonight.

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