Great Britain battle back in PGA Cup

IN football parlance, the first day of the PGA Cup at Foxhills could aptly be described as one of two halves.

Three points to one adrift after the morning fourballs, Great Britain enjoyed a reversal of fortunes after lunch to prevail in the foursomes by 3.5-0.5.

Not quite awesome foursomes then but as near as dammit. All of which meant the turnaround ensured Albert MacKenzie’s 10-strong team of eight debutants and two old hands ended a chilly autumnal day at the Surrey resort leading the match by 4.5 to 3.5 points.

MacKenzie, vice-captain when Great Britain and Ireland claimed the Llandudno Trophy on American soil for the first time two years ago, opted for experience to begin the quest to register back-to-back wins for the first time since 1984.

Thus Scotland’s Greig Hutcheon and Damien McGrane of Ireland were tasked with carrying the host’s standard round the tree-lined and challenging Longcross Course.

In the event, the pair suffered Great Britain and Ireland’s heaviest defeat of the day, going down three and two to Rod Perry and Jamie Broce.

Rob Coles and Chris McDonnell also lost; likewise Andrew Raitt and Phillip Archer.

Salvation came with another Scottish and Irish combo, Chris Currie and David Higgins. 

More importantly, as well as sprinkling respectability on the score-line, the pair’s three and one victory over Omar Uresti and Paul Claxton raised spirits for the afternoon’s foursomes.

None more so than those of Matt Cort and Garry Houston. Having sat out the morning session and sent out first, the pair began the process of turning the predominantly red-coloured leaderboard blue.

Victory by two holes over Dave McNabb and Josh Speight ensued and the duo had no hesitation in outlining how brilliant an experience it is to compete in the PGA Cup. 

“It was amazing,” enthused Cort. “I’ve spoken to a few guys that have played in the team in the past – they’ve had good careers but they say this is the highlight. I’ve not had that much experience of team golf, especially foursomes.

“Fourballs can be quite relaxing but foursomes are totally different. They can be quite nerve-racking and challenging so now I can see why it means so much.”

Houston, who represents Wales, was similarly enthusiastic. “I agree 100 per cent,” he concurred. “We’ve played at levels that are maybe higher but I haven’t felt pressure like that straight from the start. It was a buzz. You’ve got to embrace the situation.”

The pair began to take a firm grip on their match when Cort rolled home a long-range putt from the apron at the front of the ninth green. 

“It was kind of one of those putts where you hit it out of the middle and you know it’s going to be good all the way. That kind of got us going. 

“We got to three-up after 13 but good players always come back at you – you’ve got to expect them to. That’s what they did but we managed to keep ahead and play well coming in.”

Coles and Raitt increased the blue hue on the scoreboards that punctuate the course – as did Currie and Archer. 

In doing so, the former was the only member of the Great Britain and Ireland team to win both his matches and while in a team event it is perhaps invidious to single out an individual.

However, the Scot’s hole-winning birdie putt on the eighth in the foursomes followed by an approach to the ninth that deposited the ball five foot from the pin to set up his partner for another birdie were exceptional examples of golfing skill.

 

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