Saturday, September 07, 2013


By JAMES CORRIGAN, Southampton, New York One captain said “we are here to build relationships”, the other announced “we are here to win”.
And so the 44th Walker Cup begins on this stunning National Golf Links of America on Saturday with Great Britain and Ireland focused on their third away victory in the match’s 91-year history.Of course, build-ups can be misleading, but on the evidence of the two press conferences yesterday, the visitors are one up, if not two. While Nigel Edwards, pictured by Cal Carson Golf Agency, the Welshman who inspired the win two years ago, was purpose personified, Jim Holtgrieve, the losing captain at Royal Aberdeen, crooned about the “real nature” of this encounter.

He scolded Telegraph Sport for daring to suggest that there might be more incentive for the US to prevail considering the fact that they had lost six matches in a row in the prime collective of the Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Curtis Cup and Walker Cup.
“It’s not about winning,” barked Holtgrieve, before going on to explain that his players had worn ties in the final practice round to honour the golfers who appeared in the first Walker Cup held here in 1922.
Fortunately for any sports lovers out there, a few of his players sat alongside looking suitably sheepish. Nathan Smith is 34, has a full-time job as an investment adviser, and knows what it is like to win as well as lose. “The experience was night and day,” he said. “It’s no fun losing.”
They also have the British Amateur champion in Garrick Porteous and the player who led the stroke-play section of the US Amateur in Neil Raymond.
Yet still the US hold favouritism, hardly surprising having lost only twice in 22 home matches. Their confidence is based on more than any mere superiority complex, however.
Patrick Rodgers, the world No 5, was also at Royal Aberdeen but feels the class of 2013 does not conform to the old Starred and Striped “collection of individuals” stereotype.
“This team is different to 2011, with how much camaraderie there is between us, ” he said. “And I think that will really help us. The 10 guys we have this time really fit together.”
They will have to, as the GB and Ireland line-up, on paper at least, is far stronger than two years ago and the links-style layout plainly suits.
“It helps us a lot,” Fitzpatrick. “I think it gives us a little bit of an advantage.”
There is another important factor which make the 9-4 odds on a GB and Ireland victory so tempting – Edwards himself.
He was a part of the 2001 team, which included Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald, who won in Sea Island, Georgia.
He has been here, done it and recognises what it takes. “It will all come down to the short game and that’s what we’ve been concentrating on,” he said.
Alas, on Sunday he was forced to make an emergency trip home to see his father in hospital. When the consultant offered a positive prognosis, and when his father instructed him to fly back to his team, Edwards returned on Thursday. 
“That was massive for us,” Porteous said. “He’s a great motivator who brings intensity and passion.”
In contrast, the US have Holtgrieve – as well as a former President, who popped in for a pep talk.
“America have had George W Bush geeing them up – who have you had?” Edwards was asked. 
“Me,” he replied. In golfing terms that is a pitiful mismatch in GB and I's favour.



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