US rally in foursomes sets up Sunday chase for the PGA Cup

PGA Cup
Phil Inglis/PGA of America
A strong showing in the afternoon foursomes gives the U.S. squad a 1-point deficit heading into the Sunday singles matches.
By
Bob Denney
PGA of America

Series: PGA

Published: Saturday, September 16, 2017 | 4:44 p.m.

OTTERSHAW, Surrey, England – The United States flipped what could have been a dismal Saturday by capturing three of four afternoon foursomes matches and pulled within a point of Great Britain & Ireland, 8½ - 7½, in the 28th PGA Cup.

The premier international competition for PGA Club Professionals now comes down to 10 Sunday singles matches at Foxhills Club & Resort’s Longcross Course. The United States needs six points to reclaim the Llandudno International Trophy, while defending champion Great Britain & Ireland needs 4½.

To arrive at this point, the Americans had to shake off the effects of earning just a half-point on Friday afternoon and one point in Saturday morning’s four-balls. PGA of America President and U.S. Captain Paul Levy huddled with his fellow Officers – who served like Vice Captains in a Ryder Cup. It was golf’s answer to “halftime adjustments.”

MORE: Full coverage from the PGA Cup | Scores and schedule | Day 2 photos

“It’s like a rollercoaster,” said Levy of Indian Wells, California. “You know what a rollercoaster is like? On the way up you have anticipation, trepidation, you lose your stomach for a while. You go down, it’s wheeeee! That’s what it was like.

“We thought we had great pairings. We created some new chemistry and thought we needed to mix it up. With that format (foursomes or alternate shot), you take Omar (Uresti) and Paul (Claxton), for example. They have had a lot of championship golf experience and were straight hitters. We split them up and both of their teams won. We kicked it into gear and we’re happy for it.”

Great Britain & Ireland Captain Albert MacKenzie met Levy at the 18th green following the final afternoon match, a hard-fought 2-up victory for England’s Robert Coles and Andrew Raitt over Rich Berberian Jr. of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and Adam Rainaud of Chester, Connecticut.

“We were delighted to get that one point,” said MacKenzie. “Congratulations Paul, your team was great this afternoon. They came quick out of the blocks. It looked all day that it would be tough to get any points in that afternoon fixture. We look forward to a great contest tomorrow, Captain.”

GB&I made Saturday morning’s four-balls look like they have been together for years, methodically winning three of the four matches. Berberian, the 2016 PGA Professional Champion, and Rainaud, a two-time PGA Match Play Champion, were the lone USA bright spots, as they downed England’s Matthew Cort and Wales’ Garry Houston, 5 and 3.

Berberian highlighted the round by driving the 324-yard No. 10 green and rolling home a 10-foot eagle putt.

The afternoon was a reversal of fortune for the U.S., as Jamie Broce of Indianapolis and Paul Claxton of Claxton, Georgia, captured a 1-up decision over Cort and Houston. Broce rolled home back-to-back 15-foot birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes to secure the victory. His putt at 17 came after Cort pitched in for birdie a moment earlier from the left side of the green.

One hole later, Broce, the men’s and women’s golf coach at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), watched as Claxton, a PGA Life Member and former tour professional, chipped downhill from back of the 18th green. With GB&I’s Cort on the green in two and looking at an eagle putt, Broce was facing an imposing uphill birdie putt.

“It was a long day. Somehow we hung in there, “said Broce. “This man here, (pointing to Claxton) played awesome. In the end, I was able to make some putts.” Broce said he copied something from Claxton – his putting grip. “Midway through the round, I used the claw grip. It was the first time – practice or competition – that I tried it,” he said. “Yeah, I did claw my way home.”

Claxton, 49, is making his PGA Cup debut and had sat on the sidelines since Friday morning, missing two previous sessions. “I was like a caged animal, ready to get out,” he said, while also praising his opponents. “The Europeans are, as we say back home, as strong as new rope.”

The Americans other afternoon winning combinations included Rod Perry of Port Orange, Florida, and Josh Speight of Locust Hill, Virginia. They beat England’s Phillip Archer and Scotland’s Christopher Currie, 3 and 2.

Uresti, the reigning PGA Professional Champion from Austin, Texas, was paired with two-time PGA Professional Champion Matt Dobyns of Glen Head, New York. The University of Texas alumni duo beat Ireland’s David Higgins and Damien McGrane, 4 and 2.

In a match that ebbed and flowed for both teams, Uresti executed a pitch shot on the 222-yard, par-3 11th to win the hole with a par. According to Levy, “that was one of the great short shots you’ll ever see.”

It was memorable for Uresti, too. He faced an almost impossible task after partner Matt Dobyns pulled a 6-iron approach that kicked straight left down the hill into a bare dirt area.

“I saw a twig touching the ball, and I was lucky that I could move it and not move the ball,” said Uresti. “I put my 25-yard grip on it and it came out perfectly and it trickled to a foot from the cup. That was the best shot I’ve hit in these Cup matches.”

The United States is 17-6-4 overall since the PGA Cup began in 1973. It is 6-5-1 on the road, and last won outright overseas in 2009 in Loch Lomond, Scotland. The U.S. forged a 13-13 draw in 2013 in Hexham, England, at Slaley Hall, and surrendered the Cup for the first time on U.S. soil, 13 ½ to 12 ½, as GB&I triumphed at CordeValle in San Martin, California.

“You are talking about the 10 best players for the past two years of the nearly 29,000 PGA Professionals and nothing surprises me,” said Levy.

Sunday’s Singles Pairings
(all times GMT)
9:30 a.m. Mark Brown (USA) vs. Damien McGrane (GB&I)
9:40 a.m. Josh Speight (USA) vs. Robert Coles (GB&I)
9:50 a.m. Rod Perry (USA) vs. Christopher Currie (GB&I)
10:00 a.m. Jamie Broce (USA) vs. Matthew Cort (GB&I)
10:10 a.m. Dave McNabb (USA) vs. Andrew Raitt (GB&I)
10:20 a.m. Rich Berberian Jr. (USA) vs. Chris McDonnell (GB&I)
10:30 a.m. Paul Claxton (USA) vs. Greig Hutcheon (GB&I)
10:40 a.m. Omar Uresti (USA) vs. Garry Houston (GB&I)
10:50 a.m. Matt Dobyns (USA) vs. Phillip Archer (GB&I)
11:00 a.m. Adam Rainaud (USA) vs. David Higgins (GB&I)

Saturday Morning Four-Balls

Full recap | Highlights
Christopher Currie & David Higgins (GB&I) def. Rod Perry & Jamie Broce (USA), 4 and 3
Rich Berberian Jr. & Adam Rainaud (USA) def. Matthew Cort & Garry Houston (GBI), 5 and 3
Chris McDonnell & Damien McGrane (GB&I) def. Matt Dobyns & Mark Brown (USA), 2 and 1
Robert Coles & Greig Hutcheon (GB&I) def. Josh Speight & Dave McNabb (USA), 2 and 1

Great Britain & Ireland 3,  United States 1

Afternoon Foursomes & Summaries
Paul Claxton, Claxton, Ga. & Jamie Broce, Indianapolis (USA) def. Matthew Cort, Leicester, Leicestershire, England & Garry Houston, Wrexham, Wales (GB&I), 1 up

England’s Matthew Cort and Wales’ Garry Houston sped two a 2-hole lead, thanks to a first-hole birdie and a conceded second hole when Jamie Broce touched a branch with his backswing. The Americans rallied to square the match with birdies on the fifth and seventh holes, before GBI birdied the eighth and the U.S. birdied the ninth. Broce would later make back-to-back 15-foot birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes to secure a vital victory.

Robert Coles, Romford, Essex, England & Andrew Raitt, London, England (GB&I) def. Adam Rainaud, Chester, Conn. & Rich Berberian Jr., Hooksett, N.H. (USA), 2 up

Rich Berberian Jr. and Adam Rainaud, who had faced each other in the finals of the PGA Match Play Championship in 2015 and ’16, kept their chemistry percolating this week by powering to a 2-hole advantage through five holes thanks to an eagle on the par-5 fifth. Two holes later, Robert Coles and Andrew Raitt caught fire with three winning holes, including two pars on the eighth and ninth holes to move to a 1-up advantage. Berberian and Rainaud brought the match all square to the 17th hole, then lost it with a bogey after a wayward Berberian tee shot. Coles and Raitt won the 18th hole and match with a two-putt birdie.

Rod Perry, Port Orange, Fla. & Josh Speight, Locust Hill, Va. (USA) def. Phillip Archer, Warrington, Cheshire, England & Christopher Currie, Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, Scotland (GB&I), 3 and 2

Rod Perry and Josh Speight, paired together for the first time, took off to a 3-up lead through five holes before Phillip Archer and Christopher Currie answered with a birdie at No. 6. Perry and Speight then teamed to birdie No. 7. Archer and Currie trimmed the deficit to one hole with a birdies at 10 and 11. Perry and Speight soared to the finish by making birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 and closed the match with a winning par at No. 16.

Matt Dobyns, Glen Head, N.Y. & Omar Uresti, Austin, Texas (USA) def. David Higgins, Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland & Damien McGrane, Kells, County Meath, Ireland (GB&I), 4 and 2

University of Texas alumni Matt Dobyns and Omar Uresti, paired for the second straight anchor afternoon foursomes match, ran off three straight birdies to open the match, then watched as the Irish duo of David Higgins and Damien McGrane birdied the fifth hole. Dobyns and Uresti answer with a birdie at No. 6. Each team traded birdies, with the U.S. going 3-up with an amazing 25-yard par recovery pitch at No. 11 by Uresti from downhill on a bare dirt lie from below his feet. The ball landed to within a foot of the cup. GB&I lost with a bogey there and despite trimming the margin to two holes, was closed out on No. 16 by a winning Dobyns-Uresti par.

Afternoon Foursomes Total - United States 3, Great Britain & Ireland 1

Day 2 Total: Great Britain & Ireland 8 ½ United States 7 ½