Walker Cup: 2021 date change gives USA massive advantage

AP Photo/Jon Super

Walker Cup: 2021 date change gives USA massive advantage

Amateur

Walker Cup: 2021 date change gives USA massive advantage

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HOYLAKE, England – The R&A needs to address a potential Walker Cup problem two years from now that could see Great Britain & Ireland receive a third successive thrashing from the United States.

Seminole Golf Club stages the 2021 match. No GB&I team has won on U.S. soil since 2001. The R&A might need to wait until 2025 at Cypress Point for another GB&I side to win across the pond. The odds are strong for a U.S. victory two years from now for three main reasons.

The first is obvious: home-course advantage. It’s a credit to Nathaniel Crosby’s 2019 side that it was able to win at Hoylake, the first U.S. team to win away from home since 2007, and only the second since 1991.

Just as some U.S. teams have struggled to adapt to links golf and, perhaps more relevant, links weather conditions, GB&I teams struggle on fast, sloping greens. The 19-7 pasting GB&I suffered at snooty Los Angeles Country Club two years ago was proof of that, one of a few lopsided losses GB&I has suffered away from home in recent years.

Seminole’s greens could have GB&I players heading to the team room with hands twitching like alcoholics experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

The main handicap for the visiting side is the date change. The 2021 match will be played in May. Double advantage USA.

Many GB&I players are only coming out of hibernation in May. The British domestic season will just have kicked off. The Lytham Trophy in late April/early May will just have been played.

GB&I captains and those who select the team spend summers scouting players at major amateur events in the British Isles like the Lytham, Brabazon Trophy, St Andrews Links Trophy, British Amateur Championship, the four national amateur championships – English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh – the European Team Championship, etc. These will all be held after the 2021 Walker Cup.

Modern GB&I players benefit from increased home golf union funding that sees a select few compete around the world over the winter months. Will the R&A splash the cash to send the captain and his team of selectors to the far flung reaches of the globe to monitor them? That was 2019 GB&I captain Craig Watson’s question. He’s the man most likely to lead GB&I two years from now.

“I kind of visualize a few problems,” Watson said. “Can we go to Australia and Dubai and South Africa to potentially scout some of the players because that’s where they’ll be playing? Our season here doesn’t start until maybe April, with the Lytham, so it’s cutting down on the number of events over here.”

U.S. players including John Pak, centre left, sit on stage after winning the Walker Cup golf trophy between the United States and the Great Britain and Ireland team at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

The earlier date won’t affect GB&I players competing in college golf. They’ll have had an entire college season beforehand. However, that might only apply to a couple of players. Only two members of the 2019 GB&I team – Wake Forest’s Alex Fitzpatrick and Sandy Scott of Texas Tech – came from the college system.

The May date gives the USA a massive advantage. This year’s team would have been far stronger if the match had been staged in May. Crosby lost potential Walker Cuppers – Collin Morikawa, Justin Suh and Matthew Wolff are the obvious examples – because they didn’t want to wait until after the Walker Cup to turn professional. U.S. players won’t have that problem in 2021.

The United States hasn’t three-peated in the Walker Cup since the 2009 team humbled GB&I at Merion. GB&I could get a third successive humbling two years from now. And all because of a date change.

 

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