Sherry felled by Woods' blows

Walker Cup: Great Britain stage a singles revival after falling foul in the foursomes
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The Independent Online
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. Neither would have been proud of their work from the tee but it was the damage that Woods caused with his approach shots that was the main reason the Americans won 4 and 3.

At the flag-raising ceremony on Friday evening, the waves of Swansea Bay pounded the edge of the Royal Porthcawl course and a fierce westerly blew the band's renditions of the national anthems into the next parish. The Americans shivered in their blazers and it all augured well.

But yesterday Porthcawl refused to rage. The course posed prettily in the sunshine and Woods and Harris proceeded to make hay. Although they lost the first after three putting, the Americans won the second after a wild drive by Gallacher and took the fourth after Sherry sent a long uphill putt way past the pin.

It was the seventh and eighth that put the visitors beyond recall. Gallacher chipped badly from a greenside bank to give them the seventh and the home pairing threw away the eighth after Woods had put his partner into the gorse. Harris could only stub the ball 10 yards into a sorry lie but hit the shot of the round with a eight iron 150 yards to within 18 inches for a birdie. From a much easier position Sherry was through the green and they could do no better than par.

Sheer class from Woods with a bunker shot to a foot on the 10th maintained the lead. The Scots did get one back on the eleventh but they double bogeyed the 13th after another wayward drive by Sherry and the match was out of their reach.

The other Scottish pairing of the 42-year-old Barclay Howard and Graham Rankin never recovered from losing the first four holes but the Irish pairing provided the big boost by dispatching Kris Cox and Trip Kuehne by the biggest margin of the morning, five and four.

When Sherry overcame his native American opponent Notah Begay, Great Britain and Ireland were either winning or halving each of the other seven singles. But after the morning, no-one was taking anything for granted.