GB&I Walker Cup team not buying into its label as heavy underdogs

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GB&I Walker Cup team not buying into its label as heavy underdogs

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GB&I Walker Cup team not buying into its label as heavy underdogs

LOS ANGELES – The United States is going to win this weekend’s Walker Cup … as far as British and Irish bookmakers are concerned.

Oddsmakers on the other side of the Atlantic are unanimous on the 10-man U.S. team winning the 46th biennial matches. That’s not surprising: home teams have won 10 of the last 12 Walker Cups.

Ladbrokes has the U.S. as 1-to-3 favorites. Paddy Power lists the USA at 2 to 9, with Bet Fair offering astonishing 1-to-22 odds. That compares to Great Britain and Ireland at 13 to 5 with Ladbrokes and 4 to 1 with the other two bookmakers.

The 2007 U.S. team was the last side to win away from home. It defeated a Rory McIlory-led Great Britain and Ireland side at Royal County Down, 12 ½-11 ½.

The 2007 U.S. team is arguably the strongest U.S. team ever assembled. U.S. Open champions Webb Simpson and Dustin Johnson, the current World No. 1, made the trip to Northern Ireland along with Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Kyle Stanley, Jamie Lovemark and Chris Kirk.

GB&I could have hoisted the Cup that year. McIlroy three-putted the final green to lose to Horschel in the first singles session. The four-time major champion then paired with compatriot Jonathan Caldwell in the Sunday foursomes and lost to Horschel and Fowler despite being 4 up early in the match.

Walker Cups are decided on such margins.

The margin this week may be just as close. You can get generous 14-to-1 odds with Ladbrokes on a tied match. But be warned: the 1965 contest in Baltimore remains the only draw.

While the bookmakers are sure of a U.S. win, GB&I players, unsurprisingly, are not buying it. The visitors are not only a highly talented team, but a very tight unit.

“The best thing about our team is that we’ve grown up together,” said Florida State’s Harry Ellis, the reigning British Amateur champion. “I’ve been with Alfie (Plant) for five or six years. Jack (Singh Brar), Scott (Gregory) and I live 10 miles apart so we’ve grown up together. Actually, this whole group has all come through junior golf together.

“They’ve got a strong team but there’s something about this group of guys that feels special. Everything feels right. There’s a natural camaraderie. Even with me being away at school for the last few years, I come back and it’s just like family.”

Ellis will team up with Plant in foursomes since they’ve been playing that format for England for many years. They won all three matches together in the European Team Championships this year to help England finish second.

Expect Gregory and Brar to team together, too, as they did in Thursday’s practice round. Indeed, GB&I team captain Andrew Ingram has an embarrassment of riches.

“It’s going to be hard for the captain to drop anyone out because we’ve all had good seasons,” Plant said.

Expect his match to be a tight one. Those 14-to-1 odds on the draw look very attractive.

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