Walker Cup blog: U.S. got best of GB&I in preview

Kelly Kraft, of Denton, Texas, poses with his championship trophy after the final round at the U.S. Amateur golf tournament Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis. Kraft defeated Patrick Cantlay, of Los Alamitos, Calif., 2-up to win the tournament.

Call it a good omen or disregard it as a sample of insufficient size. Your choice. Either way, it’s about all we have. The two Walker Cup teams rarely crossed paths in the run-up to this year’s competition. A handful of matches at the recent U.S. Amateur provided us a small preview of this weekend’s competition. The U.S. team was 2-1 against its GB&I counterparts at Erin Hills. Singles play, in which the United States traditionally excels, makes up 18 of the Walker Cup’s 26 matches.

• In one of the U.S. Amateur’s top matches, Patrick Cantlay beat Tom Lewis, 3 and 1, in the Round of 16. Cantlay was 1 down through 7 holes, but won the next hole and Nos. 11-13.

• Kelly Kraft, the U.S. Amateur champion, advanced to the final by beating England’s Jack Senior, 3 and 2, in the semifinals. Kraft lost the first hole against Senior, but never trailed again. “I thought he was good,” Kraft said. “Hits the ball hard, putts well. I thought he was a solid player. Usually you get a bigger guy like that and he doesn't have that good of touch or whatever, but he was pretty good around the greens, and he's going to - he's a solid player.”

• Senior advanced to his match against Kraft by beating Jordan Spieth, 1 up, in the quarterfinals. Spieth was 2 up with five holes remaining. He lost Nos. 14-16, squared the match on 17, but lost with a bogey on the par-5 18th. Senior enjoyed his time in the States, saying that Erin Hills, despite being in the middle of Wisconsin farmland, reminded him of courses in his homeland.

- Sean Martin

• • •

There’s plenty of talent on this U.S. Walker Cup team. The U.S. has the top four players in the R&A’s World Amateur Golf Ranking, and five of the top six.

It’s scary to think that this team could be even more talented. Four first-team All-Americans – Bud Cauley, Morgan Hoffmann, Kevin Tway and Patrick Reed opted to start their pro careers this summer instead of waiting for the Walker Cup. Cauley and Hoffmann represented the United States at the 2009 Walker Cup.

Cauley has had the most successful summer of the group, locking up 2012 Nationwide Tour status with his good play. It’s been a mixed bag for the other three.

Here’s a look at how Cauley, Hoffmann, Tway and Reed have fared in their first few months of pro golf:

• After finishing 63rd in his pro debut at the U.S. Open, Cauley finished in the top 25 in four consecutive starts on the PGA and Nationwide tours. He was fourth at the Viking Classic and Nationwide Tour’s Utah Championship and 13th at the RBC Canadian Open. Cauley has earned $331,150 in six PGA Tour starts. That should be enough to place him in the top 200 of the PGA Tour money list at season’s end, which would earn him Nationwide Tour status.

• Hoffmann has played in four PGA Tour events, making two cuts. He finished 43rd at the Travelers and 22nd at the RBC Canadian Open. He also finished sixth at the Met Open in New York.

• Tway missed the cut in all three of his PGA Tour starts and finished 62nd in his lone Nationwide Tour event, the Midwest Classic. He also finished 13th at the Oklahoma Open.

• Reed is 1-for-2 in cuts made on both the PGA and Nationwide tours. He was 66th at the Wyndham Championship after missing the cut at the St. Jude. He finished 25th after Monday qualifying for the Nationwide Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship and missed the cut at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational.

- Sean Martin

•••

Since first setting foot in Scotland, the USA team has had one constant: They have had Tom Harper driving them around.

Harper, the bus driver for the Aberdeen Football Club, picked the USA team up in Edinburgh on Friday and drove them to St. Andrews, where they played the Old Course and Kingsbarnes.

He then took them the two hours north to Royal Aberdeen Golf Club and continues to drive them anywhere they need to go during the remainder of their stay.

“Nice bunch of guys,” Harper said after delivering the team to Royal Aberdeen on Friday morning. “They all call you sir. I've told them to call me Tom. That's my name.”

Harper, not a golfer himself, is impressed about how serious the team is. Yeah, they play their music, but they are still concentrating on their golf.

Win or lose, Harper will take the team back to Edinburgh on Monday morning before returning to his home in Aberdeen.

“Honestly I can see, they're very confident,” Harper said. “I could see them winning it again.”

- Alex Miceli

•••

This statistic has been cited many times over: the U.S. Walker Cup team has the top four players, and five of the top six, in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking. But how accurate is that ranking?

Nigel Edwards, the Great Britain & Ireland captain, called those rankings into question during his Friday news conference at the Walker Cup. His comments should turn heads considering that he’s basically in the employ of the R&A, the organization that runs the ranking, this week.

“I'm constantly giving them a battering,” Edwards said with a laugh. “No, it's very difficult, isn't it, because you know, amateur golf, different players are playing different tournaments all around the world. ... So, in terms of getting them absolutely spot on, I think it's very difficult. I suspect that there are meetings with the R&A and the USGA ... and they will look at it. I mean, it's only a couple of years old. I'm sure that in time, it will even itself out and become a very fair system for everybody.”

Edwards is hardly the only observer to take issue with the R&A ranking. They need to be improved, because they are more than fodder for debate. The ranking is used to exempt players into different stages of Q-School on the PGA and European tours. This was the first year that the top 50 in the ranking were exempt into USGA championships, including the U.S. Amateur.

Edwards said his players’ schedules puts them at a disadvantage in the ranking. “The majority of our players finished playing in September and then start playing up with the Spanish and the Portuguese the following February or March,” Edwards said. Americans are playing college golf during that time.

“If you give anyone in any World Rankings, whether it's badminton, tennis or anything, six months head start, then you know, you're going to be a little bit further back,” Edwards said.

- Sean Martin

Walker Cup 2011: Preview Edition

By Golfweek Magazine in Golfweek Special Editions

12 pages, published 8 SEP 2011

Check out the first of four digital-only 2011 Walker Cup editions, presented exclusively by Titleist. Our first issue acts as a preview to this weekend's action in Scotland.
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