Don’t you wish there were more golf tournaments like the Walker Cup? Two days of intense competition instead of the usual moribund fare of 72-hole stroke play?
One of the Walker Cup’s charms is its brevity. It’s a sprint, not a marathon. And it’s all the better for it.
There have been calls in the past for the match to be extended to three days like the Ryder and Solheim Cups. That way a four-ball element could be added to the format. The Curtis Cup went that way in 2008. Many feel that played into the hands of the United States, since U.S. players are generally stronger when playing their own ball, while foursomes should suit Great Britain & Ireland players more. The jury is out on that point. The U.S. has won four of the six matches since four-ball matches were introduced.
Would the introduction of a two four-ball sessions in the Walker Cup suit the United States more than GB & I? Probably. Like the Curtis Cup, players in red, white, and blue usually excel when they can play their own ball, which is why they are so strong in singles play. Indeed, it was America’s dominance of the final singles session two years ago, an 8-2 drubbing of the GB & I team, that helped the U.S. retain the trophy. The U.S. won yesterday’s singles 5-3 to take a 7-5 lead into today. With 10 singles to conclude the match, it means GB & I captain Stuart Wilson’s boys might be up against it.
The introduction of four-ball matches and an extra day could mean future GB & I teams have a harder task of winning the cup.
I’m glad the R&A and USGA have retained the two-day format. Yes, it can mean the match is effectively over if one team has a great first day, but one of the great aspects of the match, what makes it stand out, is its quick format. That’s not something you can say about professional golf tournaments, which can sometimes be snooze fests.
How many times have you sat down to watch coverage of a PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour or European Tour event on Thursday and thought why am I watching this? I do it all the time. I'm usually good for about 20 minutes before I realise I've got better things to do. I’ve got to the point where, unless it’s a major championship, or a Solheim or Ryder Cup, I don’t really tune in until Sunday. Sure, I’ll keep tabs on the scoring, but watching the first round of run of the mill tournaments is sometimes like watching paint dry, no matter that TV announcers keep telling us "it’s another enthralling day’s golf.”
Here’s a wee secret: there have been times in the past when I’ve covered golf tournaments for magazines, newspapers, websites, when I wished I could just have turned up on Sunday instead of having to be there for the entire week. Believe me, Thursdays and Fridays at many 72-hole golf tournaments can often be long, tedious days.
I’ve covered every Walker Cup bar two since 1995, and I’ve never wished I didn’t have to be there for Saturday’s play. The sprint nature of the event is what makes it exciting. If only we had more tournaments like it then maybe golf wouldn’t be perceived as slow and boring.
Short and sweet and truly unique is one of the reasons the Walker Cup is one of my favourite tournaments. Let's keep it that way.
#JustSaying: “The Walker Cup is the pinnacle of every amateur’s career. Anyone who has the chance should play in it.” Five-time Walker Cupper Gary Wolstenholme
Photo by Scott Halleran courtesy of the USGA