Wind, familiarity could give GB&I a Walker Cup edge in Hoylake
No. 16 at Royal Liverpool (USGA/Matthew Harris)
History drips from the ivy-covered brick walls of the Royal Liverpool clubhouse in Hoylake, England. The club was founded in 1869, and an informal amateur tournament conducted there in 1885 was later recognized as the first Amateur Championship.
Great Britain played the U.S. in an informal match tagged a “forerunner to the Walker Cup” at Royal Liverpool in 1921. Tiger Woods (2006) and Rory McIlroy (2014) are among the modern-day players to win an Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.
“It’s incredible, I obviously will be very jealous of the guys when they tee it up. I will be wishing I could hit every shot,” Matthew Jordan, a GB&I Walker Cupper in 2017 who now plays professionally, told the R&A in a clubhouse tour. Jordan learned the game here.
An American Walker Cup team hasn’t won on the road since 2007, when it happened at Royal County Down in Ireland. As U.S. captain Nathaniel Crosby pointed out in a press conference on Thursday, less than half of his team had played links golf before this week (U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree didn’t even have a passport when he claimed the Havemeyer Trophy three weeks ago). Talent and level heads can make up for inexperience.
“These guys are so talented and they’re so instinctive even though it’s a foreign type of golf,” Crosby said. “I guess six of the guys haven’t played over here, six of 10, but they pick it up very quickly.”
In other words, Crosby hasn’t been “one to meddle,” even though he has the credentials to do so. The last Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool was played in 1983, when the U.S. defeated the GB&I team, 13.5-10.5. Crosby was a member of that team.
GB&I captain Craig Watson, for one, thinks Royal Liverpool is ideal for match play.
“There's not any bad holes on it,” he said in the press conference on Thursday. “They're all very fair, you can see everything in front of you, and it's come on leaps and bounds since we were here in July, obviously. We enjoyed the good weather last year, but the course suffered. The greens staff have done a magnificent job in getting the course up to this kind of condition.”
Watson admits that a fair amount of wind would help the GB&I cause, but only moderately.
“The Americans will be able to handle the wind, as well,” he said. “It’s not as if it’s – we are more used to playing links courses with the wind.”
Golf course and weather aside, the home advantage can’t be overlooked. GB&I player Connor Gough, perched atop the media dais on Thursday (which also happened to be his 17th birthday), liked that aspect of the matches.
“All the crowd is going to be behind us,” he said. “…I think we've got a goal to try to win again so we keep that winning streak going for when it's over in GB&I anyway.”
ABOUT THE The Walker Cup
The Walker Cup Match is a biennial 10-man
team competition between the USA and a team
composed of players from Great Britain and
and selected by The R&A. It is played over two
with 18 singles matches and eight foursomes
The first United States Walker Cup Team, which
1922 defeated the GB&I side, 8-4, at the
Links of America, is considered among the best
ever and included Francis Ouimet, Bob Jones,
“Chick” Evans and Jess Sweetser. Many of the
greatest players have taken part in Walker Cup
competition, including U.S. Open champions Jack
Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth for the
and Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin
for Great Britain and Ireland.
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