Euro notes: Walker Cup watch, appearance fees

Stiggy Hodgson

Walker Cup watch: It’s a big weekend for great Britain & Ireland in the build-up to this year’s Walker Cup. The crème de la crème of British and Irish golf will display their talents in front of GB&I captain Nigel Edwards at Lytham St. Anne’s Golf Club in a bid to make his 10-man team that travels to Royal Aberdeen on September 10-11.

Lytham St. Anne’s is the venue for the eponymous Lytham Trophy, the first amateur major of the British summer season. With the exception of James Byrne and Rhys Enoch, who are still at college, every potential member of the GB&I squad will be in action.

Here are the players to watch from each of the four nations that make up the GB&I team who I think have a chance of making the team.

England: Tom Lewis, Laurie Canter, Eddie Pepperell, Jack Senior, Andrew Sullivan, Stiggy Hodgson and Darren Wright.

Scotland: Michael Stewart, David Law and Ross Kellett.

Ireland: Paul Cutler, Dermot McElroy, Alan Dunbar and Kevin Phelan.

Wales: Oliver Farr, Rhys Pugh and James Frazer.

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Appearances can be deceptive: Normally you would take your hat off to Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Dustin Johnson for traveling through multiple time zones to play in the Ballantine’s Championship in South Korea. Ditto for Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia in the Volvo China Open last week, and Westwood in the Indonesian Masters.

Don’t be too quick to congratulate these guys. They travel because of financial inducements, appearance money. And before we get on our high horses, most of us would do exactly the same thing.

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McGrane’s motivation: If you were to walk along the driving range in Korea this week and look for the guy who didn’t seem to belong, you just might choose first-round leader Damien McGrane.

The 40-year-old Irishman looks like the sort of guy whom you’d love to get drawn against in the club knockout.

McGrane is living proof that hard work and perseverance can pay off. It’s not too long ago that he was giving lessons to 18-handicappers as professional at Wexford Golf Club. He made five trips to the European Q-School, chasing his dream. That dream became reality in 2008 when he won the Volvo China Open by nine shots.

Dreams can come true, but only through hard graft.

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Doublespeak: I was a little confused by conflicting messages from R&A chief executive Peter Dawson at Royal St George’s last week.

Dawson was in Sandwich, England, to highlight changes made to the course in preparation for this year’s Open Championship. Dawson began a presentation to the world’s media by stating that driving distances have continued to plateau since 2002.

“Driving distance is not increasing, and we take that very much into account in course setup and course alterations,” Dawson said.

A large graph backed up Dawson’s claims. I got confused when Dawson then announced that the UK’s most southerly Open Championship course had been lengthened by 105 yards since Ben Curtis won the 2003 Open Championship.

Three holes, including the 15th, have been significantly lengthened, and the 495-yard fourth is now a par-4. That change is responsible for reducing par from 71 to 70.

Apropos the 15th, Dawson said: “It’s just to do with keeping up, if you like, with the distance these guys are hitting it today.”

So let’s get this straight: driving distances have plateaued, but a quintessential British links has to be lengthened because of the distance today’s tournament pros are hitting the ball?

Curtis was the only player to break par eight years ago. So why toughen up a course that already was tough, especially if the players aren’t hitting the ball any farther?

You figure it out.

Just tell it like it is: I found myself screaming at the television last night at the coverage of the Zurich Classic from New Orleans after Vaughan Taylor backed off a 10-foot putt twice. It took him three attempts and about five minutes to hit the ball. Meanwhile, Gary McCord yukked it up on air, telling the viewers he couldn’t figure out what was going on.

And lest you think I’m just picking on Americans, I watched Miguel Angel Jimenez this morning in action in Korea take about the same time to pull a club on the 16th tee.

As for McCord not knowing what was going on with Taylor, the answer is simple: Some of these guys are just bloody slow! The sooner announcers start telling it like it is, the better. Maybe then the snails will speed up.

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