September 11, 2011
Following his team's Walker Cup victory at Royal Aberdeen GC, Great Britain and Ireland captain Nigel Edwards was asked how his squad of underdogs pulled off the incredible 14-12 upset over a stacked American squad. "Our preparation, our desire to be successful," Edwards said. "It's not played on paper."
The matches were certainly played on the course, as GB&I proved on Sunday afternoon that despite being big underdogs on paper, the 10-man squad had more the moxie and composure to capture GB&I's first Walker Cup victory since 2003.
After taking a 7-5 lead after Saturday -- GB&I's first day one lead since 1995 -- it appeared the final day of matches was setting up to be a down-to-the-wire affair.
But following the morning foursomes on Sunday, it seemed like a GB&I victory was a foregone conclusion. Instead of cutting into the two point GB&I lead, the U.S. team lost three of the four foursome matches, going down 10.5-5.5 with only the afternoon singles remaining.
Needing an incredible 1999 Ryder Cup comeback, the U.S. team stormed out of the gates, with Russell Henley and Jordan Spieth winning the first two matches. But the momentum that seemed to be shifting in the United State's favor suddenly stopped, as GB&I regained the lead in a number of critical matches.
The entire week for the U.S. was summed up in one match late in the day that led you to believe a historic comeback wasn't in the cards, as Nathan Smith clawed his way back to 1-up going to the 18th hole against GB&I's Jack Senior. Needing a point in his match against Senior, Smith watched the Englishman hole an improbable 35-foot birdie putt from just off the green to secure a half point for GB&I.
From there the rest of the day seemed to go GB&I's way. Even a late hiccup that saw the United State's Peter Uihlein win four consecutive holes to defeat Stiggy Hodgson, 2 and 1, wasn't enough to change what many thought was a foregone conclusion when the afternoon started.
Despite having a distinct disadvantage on the link-style course Royal Aberdeen GC and playing under blustery conditions, the biggest reason the U.S. lost wasn't due to a lack of local knowledge. Instead, it had everything to do with the side taking only 1.5 out of a possible 8 points from the foursome matches.
If the U.S. had somehow found a way to take a couple more points from the foursome matches, we might be talking about the team taking the Walker Cup back to the States.