Rónán MacNamara at the Old Course
Minimal breeze, glorious sunshine, and a firm golf course . The weather in St Andrews couldn’t be better… for the Americans.
The pre-Walker Cup narrative has been that Great Britain and Ireland would need some traditional Scottish wind and perhaps rain, but mainly some wind to act as a leveller. Many even went further and called for some Royal Liverpool Open Championship Sunday weather to rattle the Beverley Hills boys and give GB&I a chance.
The much fancied Americans are widely expected to make it four successive Walker Cup triumphs at the Home of Golf which while looking fabulous also appears extremely vulnerable without the elements to provide a defence.
Before the opening tee shot has been hit, the weekend script has been written with the Stars and Stripes set to romp to a comfortable victory and continue their dominance in the biennial contest. Certainly the World Amateur Golf Rankings would suggest so.
The average ranking of the GB&I side is 88.6 with just one player inside the top-20 in the world (John Gough, 14). For the US, it’s 8.2 with all ten members perched inside the top-20 including world number one Gordon Sargent.
Of the 48 editions played to date, the United States has won 38 compared to Great Britain and Ireland’s nine. Entering this week, the US has won seven of the last nine matches by a combined 137½-92½ score.
Fearful of the Old Course being vulnerable to a birdie fest, one would have to think if it plays out that way then the Americans will have a serious advantage given that they play front foot golf almost all year both in college and in championship season while much of the GB&I championship season involves stressful grinds on links courses where pars are your friend.
St Andrews Links Trophy winner Alex Maguire and third placed Calum Scott could enjoy profitable weeks having gone very low here in June.
Speaking to all four of our Irish players before they touched down at the Old Course on Monday, they were all hoping for some of the inclement weather which has engulfed the UK and Ireland this summer. Of course, when you want it, it never comes.
The golf course will firm up as the week goes on with just enough wind there to dry it out, but not to the degree where you will get funny bounces or have to lay back to avoid running the golf ball into rough.
However, spirits and confidence is high in the GB&I dressing room who are all bullish about their chances of arresting a run of three successive losses in the event since their last win in 2015.
The pleasant conditions won’t be used as an excuse.
Alex Maguire: “It’s definitely gotten a little firmer, I think. Today we noticed around the greens it was a little more trickier to get to certain flags if you were chipping up a slope.”
Stuart Wilson (GB&I captain): “I don’t think so (need bad weather to win). I’m all for good weather. I think the team would appreciate that, as well.
“I think it’s nice that the guys will get to go head-to-head without having to battle the elements. It loses something when it’s howling wind and rain and things. At least these guys will be able to kind of show what they can do in good conditions. Maybe a club and a half wind would have been nice and a wee bit of bounce on the Old Course, but we’ll take it the way it is.”
While the weather will play into the hands of the Americans as they prepare for an away Walker Cup match they have been surprised by how kind Mother Nature has been.
Mike McCoy (USA captain): “It certainly does, everyone will enjoy it a little bit more. I mean, it is links golf, so I kind of like playing with a little wind myself, so I hope there’s a little wind out there.
“But I think it’s certainly, for everybody involved, the fans and the players, I think a little sunnier day would be pretty nice.”
Gordon Sargent: “Probably a little surprised that the weather has been this good. Everyone tells us how bad the weather is, and obviously you prepare for the worst, but fortunate to have some good weather.”
Mark Power and John Gough are hoping some wind comes in over the weekend to make the course fiery and bring some quirky bounces in to play to perhaps spook the Americans.
John Gough: Yeah, when we got here at first, I was quite shocked after playing the Links Trophy with how fiery it was playing. Obviously haven’t been here for most of July and August, and it must have been quite wet because it looked great being green. It looks fabulous. But just from what we’re used to, we’re used to it being a bit bouncier and stuff.
“But since Monday, it’s definitely started jumping a bit more. I think the rough, if you go into the rough, it might not be as long but you can get jumpers, fliers.
“Yeah, it’s definitely changed. I would expect it to keep going and just getting firmer and firmer, and hopefully with a bit of wind, as well, helps that.
“But either way, I feel like now we’re quite vetted on soft or firm conditions after it.”
Mark Power: “Yeah, I’d agree. Definitely from the start of the week to the 10 holes I played this morning, the course has definitely dried out a lot. I suppose a bit of wind and sun the last couple days has helped with that, and given the forecast, I think the next couple days it’s going to keep drying out.
“They’re the conditions everyone wants to see, so hopefully the weather plays ball and we can get some fiery conditions come Sunday afternoon.”