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Walker Cup: GB&I hope their home comforts in St Andrews will benefit them against the US

There is no more famous setting for the historic event than St Andrews’ Old Course. The competition celebrates 100 years since it was originally held in the United Kingdom.

The match was also contested at the home of golf in 1923, and the US won by a tight margin of 612-512. This time, the rankings point to a more enticing outcome for visitors.

From the game’s unpaid ranks, Gordon Sargent is the world’s best player. The Alabama heavy hitter is the NCAA individual champion and has received a special invitation to this year’s Masters.

Sargent was also the lowest amateur finisher at the US Open, finishing barely outside the top 40. He plays alongside Nick Dunlap, the recently crowned US Amateur champion, who is fifth in the amateur rankings, one spot behind teammate David Ford.

But these behemoths are playing the Old Course for the first time, whilst the home team is no stranger to this most venerable and revered of links.

“The more you play the Old Course, the more you learn,” said GB&I captain Stuart Wilson, according to BBC Sport. “You notice a different undulation, or the wind is blowing from a slightly different direction, or you notice a new pin position.”

“So, without a doubt, the more times you can play it, the better.”

Belfast’s McClean is seeking to finish off a “perfect year,” and Wilson believes putting will be the determining factor. On Saturday, four foursomes will be played, followed by eight singles and four additional alternate shot games on Sunday, before all ten players from each team compete in the second singles session.

Greens expertise is always vital, but especially so on St Andrews’ enormous putting surfaces.

“Because of the size of the greens,” Wilson noted, “it’s a different prospect trying to get the ball close to the hole.”

“You frequently play away from the flag.” Everyone knows that the player who holes the most putts takes home the championship.”

The United States has won the trophy 38 times, with nine loses and one tie. The home team won 14-12 at Seminole in Florida two years ago, and they are heavy favorites again this match.

“That’s been the piece over the last 101 years or whatever,” Wilson said. “However, in recent years, home advantage has become increasingly important.

“And if you look at the stats across all sports, home advantage is a huge advantage to have.” So we’ll definitely attempt to capitalize on it, and I’m sure St Andrews, Fife, and Scotland will show up.

“Hopefully, that energy and enthusiasm will rub off on the team.”

The Americans are fired up and appear to be motivated by their surroundings. Austin Greaser might have turned pro sooner if he hadn’t had a hand injury, but the potential of playing this match was a major factor in his decision to wait.

“It feels like I have the rest of my life to play professional golf,” the 22-year-old explained.

“I only had one chance to be a part of a Walker Cup team.” Not only that, but to do it at St Andrews on the event’s almost-birthday.”

“I’m from a small itcy town in Ohio, and I’m not sure my dreams ever got to play a Walker Cup at such a historic place,” Greaser added.

“To be able to feel the nerves and pressure, and just the amazing opportunity to represent the United States of America, I don’t care how many or what holes I play, I just want to play.”

Conor Gough’s younger brother, John Gough, 24, who played in GB&I’s defeat at Royal Liverpool in 2019, is the home team’s highest-ranked player, ranking 13 in the world.

Nine members of the US team are ranked higher, with the seasoned Stewart Hagestad being 19th in the world.

To say the least, GB&I are up against it.


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