England – inspired by a good luck message from Masters champion Danny Willett – have taken the lead for the first time in the weekend’s international against France at Formby Golf Club.
Willett, who played in this match in 2008, sent his message to the team last night and England captain Kevin Tucker commented: “They were very pleased to receive it and it was very good of the Masters champion to send it.”
The team responded with high-quality golf which gave them a 3-1 win in this morning’s foursomes and an overall lead in the match of 9-7.
It was England’s first win in a foursomes session since the Home Internationals of 2013 – and they couldn’t have timed it better, edging into the lead with just the final session of eight singles to be played.
They need 3½ points to win, but Tucker isn’t expecting it to be easy. “We are expecting a very tight match this afternoon,” he said.
This morning, England’s top pair of Alfie Plant and Bradley Moore (Image © Leaderboard Photography) led the way with par golf and a 3/2 win. They were clearly on form – for example, Plant rifled a drive into the very centre of the narrow neck on the 7th fairway – and obviously enjoying themselves.
They were quickly ahead and got to four up after eight holes. The French won the 13th to reduce the gap to three but could make no further inroads, despite holing a huge putt for par on the 15th which prolonged the match. It looked as though they might survive another hole when Moore’s tee shot on the short 16th rolled back off the green and into a bunker – but the England pair coolly produced a classy up-and-down to win their game.
Behind them, Ashton Turner and James Walker trailed over the opening holes but they worked their way back from two down to take the lead on the 9th – and then there was no stopping them.
They went two ahead with a par three on the 10th, halved the 11th in birdie three, and got to three up with another birdie on 13. A solid par on the 15th – where their opponents ran through the green and took three to get down – closed out their game 4/3.
At the bottom of the order Scott Gregory and Josh Hilleard provided plenty of excitement as they claimed their second foursomes win, this time by 3/1. They were one down after two, but responded with an eagle three to win the third and a birdie three to win the fourth. The French pair got back on level terms with their own winning birdie on the short 5th, where Ugo Coussaud almost holed his tee shot.
The English pair then moved ahead, but were temporarily pulled back to all square on the 9th when the French managed an astonishing par from deep in the trees on the left. The English pair had their own share of magic, for example of the 15th where Hilleard hit the pin from 30-yards and Gregory holed the four-footer for a winning par – and then followed up with a 10-footer on the 16th which saved par and won the game.
Jamie Bower and Paul Kinnear battled away at their opponents in a tight match, but could never get ahead, despite playing good golf. They bowed out on a birdie – but so did their opponents, to close out the game 2/1.
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