Golf: Americans back in the old routine

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After a disastrous opening to the 36th Walker Cup match, which should today ensure a 31st win for the Americans in the biennial competition, Great Britain and Ireland, the holders after their dramatic victory at Royal Porthcawl two years ago, fought back in the afternoon singles at Quaker Ridge but still trail by five points at 81/2-31/2 .

The home side took a sizeable advantage by claiming a whitewash in the opening four foursomes, just as they had at Sunningdale in 1987 and at Portmarnock in 1991. In the former case, the captain, Geoff Marks, remarked "this afternoon is another day", but on both occasions heavy defeats followed. The heaviest, however, came four years ago at Interlachen, when America won 19-5 and produced a 4-0 score in the only set of foursomes to be played due to rain.

Yesterday Craig Watson, the British Amateur champion, and his fellow Scot Steven Young responded to captain Clive Brown's call for them to put a couple of points on the board early at the top of the singles order. Young, who has been at college in Texas, beat 41-year-old real estate executive Duke Delcher 5 and 4, while Watson, despite losing the 16th and 17th, beat Steve Scott at the last.

Nothing went right for Barclay Howard, the 44-year-old winner of the silver medal in the Open, as he lost twice, but young Justin Rose, of whom so much was expected, bravely recovered from his nightmare start in the morning to beat Joel Kribel by one hole.

Rose, at 17 the youngest competitor ever in the event, three-putted to lose the first hole, but squared the match at the sixth and never looked back. He went one up at the 10th and played the back nine in one under par, seeing his victory secured when Kribel missed a 10-foot putt at the last to halve the match.

Earlier, Rose and his Scottish partner Michael Brooks were the first to be vanquished in the morning when they lost 5 and 4 to the experienced Jerry Courville and Buddy Marucci. They were nine over par for 14 holes and hit only one fairway.

Nerves clearly got to the youngster and his tee shot at the first could not have been worse, a slice out of bounds. Brooks then pulled his drive behind the trees on the left, a branch of which Rose caught with his second shot. The ball rebounded across to the far side of the adjacent 18th fairway and although the pair reach the green in only two more shots, they had to concede the hole.

The Americans were three up at the turn and then Rose, too aggressive on the slick greens, pushed his five-footer four feet past at the 11th, only to see Brooks miss the one back. At the next, Rose had a chance from four feet but this time it lipped out, Brooks missed again and they were five down.

Only in the bottom foursome was there any hope as Richard Coughlan and David Park took their opponents to the last green, where Coughlan missed a five-foot birdie putt to halve the match. But the Irishman redeemed himself when he later holed from a similar distance at the 18th to earn a half with Chris Wollman. "I battled hard all day and it was great to make a birdie at the last," said Coughlan. But Gary Wolstenholme three- putted the last to give John Harris a win by one hole, his eighth victory in nine Walker Cup encounters.

Quaker Ridge is near Winged Foot, the site of this week's US PGA Championship. When the club was founded almost 80 years ago, the members, who have included composer and 10-handicap golfer George Gershwin, asked A W Tillinghast to design a layout every bit as good as his effort across the road.

During the Revolutionary War in 1776, General George Washington slept under a great oak by what is now the 10th hole at Quaker Ridge before an encounter with the British army, led by Sir William Howe. The British outnumbered the revolutionaries and won a bloody victory, but Howe failed to pursue Washington as he escaped across the Hudson River. Ultimately it proved a crucial mistake and British fortunes here have not improved since.