U.S. one off lead thanks to Walker's hole-out

The United States’ team of Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker are just one off the early pace at the World Cup of Golf thanks to a back-nine birdie run sparked by a bunker hole-out.

Even par through 12 holes Thursday on a windy day at Kingston Heath, Walker kicked off a three-hole birdie streak when he pitched in from the greenside bunker at the par-4 13th.

“His bunker shot was one where he didn’t have a great lie, but he got it on line and kind of let it feed down there, and it worked out perfectly,” said Fowler, the 12th-ranked player in the world who picked his former Presidents Cup partner and the reigning PGA champion to accompany him to Australia. “It got us jump-started a bit to go make two more after that, and it was the fun part of the round for sure.”

Rather than lose ground, the U.S. birdied Nos. 13-15 to briefly take the outright lead at 3 under par before a bogey at the par-4 16th resulted in a 2-under 70.

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Walker’s bunker shot and the team’s scrambling throughout the round made up for an earlier gaffe on the first green. The Americans started their day with a three-putt bogey after Walker sent the pair’s birdie putt racing by the hole.

“The first one was tough because it was uphill, downhill, into the wind, and the greens have been speeding up every day,” Walker said. “So you feel a little gust, you give it a little pop, or you get one from behind, and you kind of quit on it a bit. It was tough. The wind was out there and it affected every shot you hit.”

Despite the conditions, Walker and Fowler were one of only six teams to break par in Round 1. Through 18 holes, they’re in position to win the U.S. its 25th World Cup of Golf. No other country has claimed more than five.

“We got everything out of the round that we could, and that’s the key to alternate shot,” Fowler concluded after the round. “You’re going to miss shots out there; it’s hard to go play perfectly for 18 holes. We made some good putts to key the round going and worked well together.”