U.S. getting more comfortable at Walker Cup

ARDMORE, Pa. — It’s easy to think that Great Britain & Ireland is the more laid-back team heading into the opening day of the Walker Cup. It’s certainly a European stereotype surrounding these kinds of golf competitions; and after watching both teams practice Thursday at Merion, it was easy to give in to the hype.

The GB&I members were smiling, laughing – “having a laugh,” as more than a couple of them put it. The Americans, meanwhile, weren’t quite as loose. There wasn’t much talking in the 10-some, nevermind laughing. They just seemed to go about their business.

I just think they were tired. They just needed a break, which they got Friday when the sky opened up in the Philadelphia area and kept both teams off the course for most of the day.

One person close to the American team, which has been practicing hard since last Friday at Caves Valley Golf Club outside Baltimore, said anyone in the American locker room Friday “would have said, ‘Let it pour.’ ”

Some of the Americans, like Bud Cauley and Peter Uihlein, played about 5 to 9 holes during a break in the weather Friday morning; others, like Brian Harman and Rickie Fowler, stretched out on the couches in the locker room, threw on a movie and took a nap.

When the rain started up again around midday, players retreated to the locker room for about another 45 minutes, where Drew Weaver led everyone in stretching exercises with a stretching pole that seemed to loosen everyone up.

Morgan Hoffmann was the first to head back out as the rain calmed to a drizzle, and went to work on his putting with coach Gary Gilchrist.

Soon enough, the putting green nearest the Merion clubhouse featured Adam Mitchell, Drew Weaver, Uihlein and Cauley, the latter two locked in an entertaining putting contest that was gathering audible reactions from Cauley’s father, Bill, and his coach at Alabama, Jay Seawell.

Next out was Harman, who stood under the clubhouse foyer making jokes with his teammates on the putting green about only being able to play in the sunshine and his putter being rusty.

Finally out of the locker room was Fowler in a bucket hat, who pursuaded Harman to grab a bucket hat and join him and his teammates on the practice green. In the next 30 minutes, the Americans seemed as relaxed and amused as they have been all week.

Even captain Buddy Marucci came over to joke around with the guys, exclaiming “I like the buckets!” and telling the bucket-hatted Harman, “You look a little like Darth Vader.”

Good news now is that the Americans aren’t acting like him.

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