By T.J. Auclair and John Kim, PGA.com
SAN MARTIN, Calif. – After a cool, gray start to the first day of the 25th PGA Cup, the sun broke through the clouds producing cloudless blue skies, rising temperatures and overall perfect weather.
In morning four-ball action at the 25th PGA Cup, the U.S. took an early 2 ½ - 1 ½ lead.
Capturing the first full point for the Americans in the morning session were Mark Sheftic and reigning PGA Professional National Champion David Hutsell. The duo logged nine birdies in their match over GB&I’s David Shacklady and Simon Edwards.
“Probably nothing outside of 20 feet, either,” said Hutsell, who is making his PGA Cup debut. “Everything was reasonable.”
This is Sheftic’s second Cup start. He holed the winning putt when the Americans won the 2009 matches at the Carrick in Scotland.
In spite of past experience, Sheftic admitted that nerves were still very much present when he stepped to the first tee on Friday morning.
“I'm always nervous on the first tee, that's just me,” he said. “Yeah, you kind of, you learn to enjoy that. I always get nervous on the first tee. But sometimes they say your name, ‘representing the United States,’ and the back hairs kind of stand up a little bit, thinking, ‘oh, God, here we go.’ But the two guys we played, they actually played very well. It was a good match.”
All in all, Hutsell was delighted with Sheftic as a partner and, most importantly, their result.
“We played practice rounds together, so it helped to get to know one another's games and I think we feel pretty comfortable with one another and the type of shots we can hit and there's just ... it just helped our approach to relax,” Hutsell said.
The tandem of Rob McClellan and Marty Jertson defeated GB&I’s Craig Goodfellow and Robert Giles, 1 up.
McClellan and Jertson were 1 down with three holes to play, but rallied for two birdies in the final three holes – highlighted by McClellan’s at the 18th – to win the match.
ALL APOLOGIES: Just before heading out for his afternoon foursomes match with Hutsell, Sheftic relayed a funny story about his first experience in that format at the PGA Cup in 2009.
On the first tee, Sheftic said he turned to partner Mike Small and said, “Before we get started, I just have two words for you so that I don’t have to say them the rest of the day: ‘I’m sorry,’” Sheftic laughed.
Foursomes is the most difficult format in a team competition, as players alternate shots – hence the reason for Sheftic’s pre-round apology.
“There’s so much more pressure when you’re trying not to leave you partner in a bad spot,” Sheftic said.
A TOUGH LOSS: U.S. PGA Cup rookies Danny Balin and Scott Erdmann were paired up as a team to face GB&I’s John Wells and Gary Brown in the four-balls on Friday.
If there was any nervous tension, it certainly didn’t show for Balin early on. After the teams halved the first hole, Balin rolled in birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 for an early 2-up advantage.
After 10 holes, GB&I had the match squared thanks to a birdie by Wells. Back-to-back birdies by Balin on Nos. 12 and 13 put the Americans back in the driver’s seat at 2 up with five to play.
With the four holes to go and the U.S. still 2 up, GB&I suddenly stormed back. Brown won hole Nos. 15 and 16 with a birdie and a par. A par by Wells at No. 17 was enough to win the hole and give GB&I its first lead of the match at 1 up with one to play.
Both teams made par on the par-5 18th and GB&I walked away with the unlikely full point.
Erdmann took the blame.
“I had a lot of chances,” he said. “They hung in there and just at the end, you know, it was my driver. It left me the last about six or seven holes. And it just kind of put me in a tough spot, put us of in a tough spot. Danny had to play by himself the last few holes.”
SAME COURSE, DIFFERENT SCORECARD: CordeValle, the venue for this 25th PGA Cup, is also the host site for the PGA Tour’s Frys.com Open. However, golf fans shouldn’t expect to see the same scenes on television as each day’s play comes to an end. The set-up for the PGA Cup is as the course is played for members and guests, but the nines are reversed for the Frys.com. Thus, the finishing hole for the Frys (made famous by hole-outs from Rocco Mediate) is actually the ninth hole of the course.
PATRIOTIC FINAL HOLE: Three of the first four matches came down to the final hole with the United States team benefitting from last-hole heroics. In the second foursomes match of the day, Mike Small and Faber Jamerson never led through the first 17 holes, but Small was able to birdie the final hole to earn a pivotal halve. The final match of the first session saw Robert McClellan and Marty Jerston of the U.S. trail for 17 holes before McClellan birdied the final hole to earn the United States a full-point win.
QUICK HOLE: Perhaps the oddest hole of the day occurred in the Skinner/Lardon (USA) vs. Edwards/Shacklady (GB&I) afternoon foursomes match. Shacklady blocked a tee shot right and as his partner went up to the ball, they decided the ball was not playable. But rather than go back to the tee, they conceded the hole on the spot as the U.S. squad was in perfect position after their drive.
This squared the match. The GB&I team did rally with a great birdie on the final hole to halve the match, the only points for the GB&I team on the afternoon.