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« Back Post Date: Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Team USA overcomes the weather to take 5-1 lead after Tuesday fourball matches
Both teams showed character to brave the wind and rain, but it was the Americans who established a significant advantage going into the Wednesday singles matches.

At the end of a hard-fought battle in some brutal weather conditions at the Maidstone Club, it was a rain-soaked Team USA who emerged with a 5-1 lead at the end of the day one fourball matches at the Simpson Cup. For Team GB, their six-year wait to take the spoils in the fourballs continues, but it is to both teams' great credit that they maintained such a high standard of golf in gusting winds and relentless rain. The Brits will take heart from the fact that the scoreline belied the closeness of the games, and with a slightly-friendlier weather forecast, things are set up beautifully for the Wednesday singles.

The conditions were particularly severe in the morning - ostensibly suiting the visiting UK contingent. True to form, the powerhouse duo of vice-captain Ian Bishop and Alex Hiles surged into an early lead on the front nine in the first group. They were up against a potent pairing from the USA in captain Chad Pfeifer and Chris Bowers - a twosome who had been victorious in each of their last two fourball matches - and the deficit had narrowed to one by the turn. However, Bishop and Hiles found their groove once again on the back nine, easing to a comprehensive 4&3 victory in the end to earn the first point of the day.

Given the level of quality within the opening quartet, many felt that their result would have a bearing on the remaining matches. However, there had been greater amounts of red on the board than blue for much of the day, and the next pairing to register a point were Team USA's Todd Tongue and Mike Stafford. Both men have fine records in the Simpson Cup, and in the end they closed out a 4&3 victory over GB captain Mike Browne and Dave Ward.

As the weather abated, some of the best golf of the day was played in the second group, where Andrews Bachelder and Smith held a slender advantage for much of their match against Tony Lowndes and John Devlin. The Brits managed to pull themselves back to one down after a ruling was required on the 14th, and looked to be clawing their way back. However, Bachelder made a crucial par to win the 15th hole, and after rolling in another fine putt at the 17th, he and double-amputee Smith edged it 2&1.

There was an abundance of exceptional shots on Tuesday, but the play of the day undoubtedly went to the left-handed Sam Stoddart from Britain. Having hooked his tee shot badly to the right of the signature 14th hole, he somehow managed to get his ball up-and-down for par from the beach - holing a 30-foot putt in the process. It sparked a fine comeback for him and playing partner Neil Flynn from 3 down. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get anything from the match, as the experienced duo of Chris Hall and 2017 US captain Shawn Whitmore eventually secured a valuable 1-up win for their team on the last hole.

With the red tide building, attentions turned to the final two groups. In the penultimate fourball, debutants Pete Hayes and Simon Bankes had looked to be in complete control for the visitors, reaching the halfway mark with a comfortable 2-up advantage. They lost their way after the turn though, as their USA opponents Marty Caraway and Jacque Keeslar - also debutants - managed to eke out a 1-up lead by the 13th. Despite a birdie for Bankes at the 14th to square things up, the Americans shifted a gear and went on to record a 2&1 victory.

It was thus left to the final match on the course to provide some inspiration for Team GB, and the steady Andy Stevens and Dave Onions looked on course to do so, as they reached the 13th hole with a 1-up cushion. But, in keeping with the theme of the day, the USA team of Kevin McCloskey and Long Island-born Alex Happer turned things around, and a contest which never saw either side establish more than a two-hole lead ended in a 2&1 triumph for the home side - Happer sealing the deal in extraordinary fashion by chipping in at the 17th.

With a 5-1 lead under his belt, US captain Chad Pfeifer had nothing but praise for his charges. "I couldn't be more proud of the way my guys battled today, and that's a scoreline we can be really happy with," he commented afterwards. "Those conditions this morning were some of the toughest we've ever played in, on a golf course that's already very challenging. We just hung in there all day. A lot of the games were on a knife edge, but we did enough each time, and it's made all the difference in the end. We just need to make sure we get the job done tomorrow."

Understandably, his British counterpart struck a different tone, but remains convinced that his team are still in with a shout. "We're obviously bitterly disappointed," Browne reflected. "We played our hearts out today, and to be on the wrong end of so many narrow reverses is a real shame. That chip in at the end rather summed up the day, but we have to give full credit to the Americans, who were exceptional.

"We know this one isn't over though. We'll be giving it everything tomorrow, and if we can get off to a fast start, who knows what might happen."

As is traditional, captains Pfeifer and Browne revealed their line-ups for Wednesday's singles matches in the aftermath, which get under way at 9am (ET). There's no shortage of appetising match-ups on the list, although Bishop versus Pfeifer should be an excellent tussle, while Browne will have his work cut out to get one over the in-form Hall.

You can view the draw for tomorrow singles, and keep track of the live scoring, by clicking here. You can also follow the action in pictures through the Team GB and Team USA twitter accounts, along with the Simpson Cup Instagram account. With things as well poised as they are, you'll want to keep a close eye on the action!