HEXHAM, England – Having a 10.5 to 5.5 lead going into the final day of the PGA Cup is a great feeling. But as I told the team, 10.5 points wins you exactly nothing. We need to get to 13 points to retain the Llandudno Trophy, and 13.5 for an outright win – and that remains our focus. That said, yes – needing 2.5 points out of 10 available on Sunday to retain the cup means, relatively, I'm a pretty happy captain right now.
Mike Small, who's been a great leader this week in the Team Room – and is a good friend of Steve Stricker – brought up last year's Ryder Cup as a reminder that no lead is big enough until you have it clinched. We will not rely on others to get us the points we need; each player has to take it upon himself to gain his point (or half point) until we hit that magic number.
I told our boys that as far as session play goes, we are undefeated. I'd love to see another 6-4 victory on the U.S. side on Sunday, and we can go home with that satisfaction and the all-important Llandudno Trophy.
I also pointed out that today was a great example of things: 1.) How really talented our opponents are and 2.) How fast things can turn around in these match-play formats. In the afternoon session, in the first match (the match I always think of as critical in setting a tone for a session), our hottest pairing of Kelly Mitchum and JC Anderson was 8 down at the turn – and they were playing well!
The GB&I team of Greig Hutcheon and Scott Henderson was on a record-setting pace, hitting shots the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time. Those two shot a best ball 28 on the front nine and never made a birdie putt longer than 12 feet! That's what we're up against. And that's how great our team is performing.
But for awhile there, there was an awful lot of blue on the scoreboard and I was a bit concerned that we had lost some critical momentum. Going into Sunday singles with a small lead is very different than going in tied, and I really wanted us to feel like we had an advantage. After losing the first match of the afternoon quickly, and then being either tied or behind in the remaining three, I told someone I'd take a 2-2 split in the afternoon right then. My team proved bigger than that, taking 2.5 of the remaining three points in the most gutty and gritty way. It was an afternoon of golf I won't soon forget. Team USA really put on a show.
But again, we have one more day of golf and it's a big one. Ten singles matches, one on one. We need to get to 13 points to retain the cup, 13.5 to win outright. No matter what, this has been one of the most incredible and rewarding weeks of my life. But winning the PGA Cup would be a dream come true. Can it happen? Can we get those elusive final points? I know I can't wait to find out.