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Rookies are ready

PGA Cup first-timers Marty Jertson and Rob McClellan earned two valuable points in two decidedly different ways on Friday. Their secret, they said, was the way they gelled during their practice rounds together.

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Rob McClellan and Marty Jertson celebrated after their narrow, but crucial, victory in the morning four-ball matches. (Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America)

By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – They might be rookies, but Marty Jertson and Rob McClellan played like grizzled veterans on the first day of the 25th PGA Cup at CordeValle on Friday, collecting two full points to help the United States to a commanding 6-2 lead over Great Britain and Ireland.

Showing signs of nerves early on in the four-ball session, Jertson and McClellan were 2 down to GB&I’s Craig Goodfellow and Robert Giles through five holes.

With a birdie on the ninth hole by McClellan, a 31-year-old who is the PGA Head Professional at Butler Country Club in Butler, Pa., cut the U.S. deficit to 1 down.

GB&I got its lead back to 2 up at the 10th hole, thanks to a birdie by Goodfellow.

The U.S. duo never gave up. The 31-year-old Jertson, a Senior Design Engineer for PING Golf in Phoenix, Ariz., who is actually credited with the design of the PING Anser iron and co-designer of the G20 irons, snagged a par and a birdie to win holes 11 and 12, respectively, to square the match again.

GB&I took a 1-up lead on No. 13 after another birdie by Goodfellow, but Jertson won the 16th hole with a par to square the match for a second time and then McClellan made a clutch birdie on the par-5 18th for the win.

“It felt good,” Jertson said. “This morning we were down the whole time and we just kept dogging it out. I think we stayed patient, we won a couple holes, and then we'd win one, lose one. And then finally Rob made a nice birdie on the last, ripped a hybrid on the green and made birdie and we won. And that gave us some momentum going into the afternoon and boom we got off to a hot start and kept the pedal to the metal.”

U.S. Captain and PGA of America Honorary President Jim Remy was thrilled with the effort.

“Rob McClellan and Marty Jertson were incredible, really, coming back from at one point 2 down to actually win a point, full point,” he said. “So that puts us up 2 ½ - 1 1/2. It's a huge difference than if it was flipped flopped or even 2 2.  It's great to be up 2 1/2 1 ½.”

Riding that momentum Jertson spoke of, the pair got off to a fantastic start in the afternoon foursomes session, winning each of the first three holes with two birdies and a par for a quick 3-up advantage.

“We got off to great start and Marty made a big putt on the first hole,” McClellan said. “Then they made a couple mistakes and three holes in we're 3 up. So we just didn't do anything stupid and just kept playing, made some birdies late and they struggled a little bit coming in, but we played well together.”

When all was said and done, the Jertson and McClellan tandem romped Goodfellow and Giles in the afternoon to the tune of 6 and 5.

“We played a lot of practice rounds together this week and got a feel for the format and I think we just kind of gelled,” Jertson said. “I knew that Rob likes to kind of draw them in and sling them this way and get them close. And I like to hit it straight and fade them in there.  It just worked. We chose our holes we teed off on real well, too. So I did the odds, Rob did the evens. That worked out nice for us.”

“It's nice not having to play all 36, you know, that helps,” said McClellan. “I’m a little tired, but it was fun. Getting late, I could tell we took a lot of swings at the end, but luckily we weren't even and we had a pretty good lead.”

Jertson and McClellan will be able to rest Saturday morning. They’re not in the line-up for the four-ball session.

While both players agree that the 6-2 lead after Day 1 is great, they realize this PGA Cup is far from over.

“We finished strong in the morning and could see a lot of red on the board in the afternoon and it felt good,” Jertson said. “But there's still a lot of golf left – a lot of golf to be played.”