LOS ANGELES – Turning the Walker Cup into a three-day event would be a mistake.
Victorious U.S. captain Spider Miller renewed his call for the match to be extended by an extra day to bring it into line with the Curtis, Solheim and Ryder Cups. Miller wants one four-ball and one foursome session added to the competition.
“It’s no secret I’m an advocate of adding another day of competition to the Walker Cup,” Miller said. “If they gave me one wish, I would begin the competition on Friday. I would add 18 holes of a best-ball component. I would play foursomes, singles, foursomes, best ball and the final day all 10 singles.”
I can see why Miller wants the competition extended, and understand why others agree.
“I really enjoyed my time as a player, but at the same time I thought it was over pretty quickly,” said Nigel Edwards, who made four appearances as a player, and served three times as captain.
Edwards is right: the match is over very quickly. That’s what makes it unique. The Walker Cup is a sprint, not a marathon. And what’s wrong with that? We’re constantly complaining about the length of time it takes to play golf, yet we want to add another day to the Walker Cup?
“Would three days make it a better event? I don’t know,” Edwards said. “Two days is what makes it unique. Do we have to follow professional golf? Absolutely not. Would the players have a different experience if it was three days over two? I don’t think so. I’ve enjoyed my experiences whether we won or lost.
“I’m undecided. I can see the arguments both ways, but I’d want to see the evidence that says turning it into a three-day match makes it better.”
Adding an extra day makes sense from an American perspective because it allows U.S. players more opportunity to play their own ball. America traditionally excels in singles over foursomes, despite a 5-3 advantage over Great Britain & Ireland this year.
This Walker Cup was over before the final singles sessions began. The United States held an 11-5 lead and only needed two-and-a-half points from 10 matches to win. At least the morning foursome session offered some interest. GB&I at least had a chance to get back into the match by winning that session.
Adding another day creates the potential problem that afflicted this year’s Solheim Cup. The U.S. Solheim Cup team had effectively won the match after two days. The final day was merely a lap of honor. The last thing we need is to render future final Walker Cup days irrelevant.
Some say two days of competition is too little considering the build-up to the match. Unlike normal tournaments, players have more practice time than playing time. They often find it difficult to switch into competitive mode as a result. That was Miller’s challenge this year. He admitted his players couldn’t make the transition two years ago at Lytham.
The U.S. Team arrived in Los Angeles nine days before the match began. GB&I got to LA eight days early. Normally players would have a three-day lead up. No wonder Miller was concerned about his players flipping the competitive switch.
Here’s my simple answer to that dilemma: don’t turn up so early.
The United States now holds a 36-9-1 won, lost, tied series advantage, but the last 15 matches are only 8-7 in the USA’s favor. That suggests the current format is working.
“You wouldn’t want to go to three days and spoil the match in any way,” Edwards said.