New Format Twist: Sunday Singles Matches Increase By Two

 

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The USA team reacted favorably when they learned everyone will play Sunday afternoon. (John Mummert/USGA)

 

By Ken Klavon, USGA

Ardmore, Pa. – There’s a new wrinkle to the Walker Cup Match, one that has delivered an upward crease on both teams’ faces.

Beginning with this year’s Match, every player will play afternoon singles on Sunday. That’s because the format was changed from eight to 10 singles on the final day, which subsequently affects the magic quotient for victory. The team that accumulates at least 13½ points wins the competition (The USA only needs 13 points to retain the Walker Cup since it is defending).

It’s been 46 years since an amendment was made to the format.  In 1963 the format changed from 36-hole matches to 18-hole matches, with four foursomes played each day, followed by eight afternoon singles matches.

Prior to the ’63 Match, foursomes matches were played on Saturday over 36 holes and the eight singles matches on Sunday were also 36 holes.

The recent joint decision reached by the USGA and R&A occurred as a postmortem to the 2007 Match that the USA team won 12½- 11½.

“Year after year, there was this unfortunate experience the captains had for trying to figure out who to sit,” said Mike Davis, the USGA’s senior director of Rules and Competitions. “It was really the captains who said, ‘Why can’t we play everyone the last day?’ ”

Former USA Captain Bob Lewis has been a staunch supporter of having each team member play a Sunday singles match.  The same can be said for past USA captains Vinny Giles and A. Downing Gray, to name just a couple. Current captains George “Buddy” Marucci (USA) and Colin Dangleish (GBI) were unequivocal in their support.

“My feeling has always been that you want to try to give everybody an equal opportunity to be on the golf course,” said Marucci.

To take it a step further, members of both teams gave the move a resounding seal of approval. Rickie Fowler, a holdover from the 2007 USA squad, and Brian Harman, a 2005 USA team member, were in favor of the change. Having two players being reduced to a cheerleading role – similar to that of a 12th man on an NBA bench – didn’t do much to help the cause.

“Oh, I don’t like sitting at all,” said Harman, who sat out one session in the 2005 Match. “But no one does. Everyone wants to play.”

Colt Knost, the 2007 U.S. Amateur and U.S. Amateur Public Links champion who now competes on the PGA Tour, got a taste of the sideline at the last Match at Royal County Down in Newcastle in County Down, Ireland, posting a 1-0-1 record.

“I think it’s great,” he recently said of the change. “Now everyone gets to play and contribute. Everyone who is picked for either team has worked hard to be there.”

Said GB&I’s Gavin Dear: “I think it’s a great move.”

Dalgleish was one of Scotland’s best amateurs during his competitive days and was chosen for the 1981 GB&I Walker Cup side that lost to the USA at Cypress Point. He had few reservations about the innovation.

“I think there are arguments both ways,” said Dalgleish.“But certainly overall I think it's good. … It's a difficult job for the captain to decide in every one of the four series which two players are not going to be playing.”

There’s little debate that the extra matches could present more excitement coming down the stretch. There is a bigger window for comebacks. That thought will be put to the test Sunday with the GB&I squad down 8-4. Now that more matches have been added to Sunday’s program, one question looms: Is there chance to make the Walker Cup a three-day competition as the Curtis Cup recently implemented starting with the 2008 Match at St. Andrews?

That decision will have to come another day, according to Davis, adding that the biggest opponents  for doing so has been past players who reason that old records will fall and new marks would become superficial.

If the competition did expand to three days, at least one player would support it – overwhelmingly.

“I wish they would make it an 82-day event,” said the USA’s Nathan Smith. “I’ve had so much fun and there’s nothing like this experience.”

Ken Klavon is the USGA's Editor of Digital Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at kklavon@usga.org.

 

 

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