Chemistry the key at Walker Cup

By Associated PressSeptember 12, 2009, 3:11 am

USGAARDMORE, Pa. – Buddy Marucci acknowledges captaining the U.S. Walker Cup team isn’t rocket science – it’s chemistry.

Marucci is set to lead a U.S. team comprised of a teenager, eight 20-somethings and a 31-year-old against Britain and Ireland at Merion Golf Club in the two-day biennial competition starting Saturday.

The lifelong amateur and Merion member who captained the Americans to victory in 2007 is convinced that team bonding is equal in importance to each member’s talent.

“Chemistry on this team is great,” Marucci said on the eve of the matches after the teams’ practices were limited to the last five or six holes because of heavy rains and high winds pounding Merion East.

“This team, they’ve all won. It’s a very balanced group. So they walked in the room, they all felt kind of the same.”

The competition consists of four alternate-shot and eight singles matches on Saturday, followed by four alternate-shot and 10 singles matches Sunday.

The U.S. leads the series 33-7-1 and has won two straight.

Only two U.S. players have Walker Cup experience: Brian Harman of the University of Georgia, who played in 2005; and Rickie Fowler of Oklahoma State, who played for Marucci two years ago.

Both players put off turning pro until after the Walker Cup just for the chance to compete.

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Harman was 2-0-1 when the Americans won in 2005 at Chicago Golf Club. Fowler was 3-1 in his matches at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland in 2007.

Britain and Ireland captain Colin Dalgleish has a team of first-time Walker Cup competitors, anchored by Scots Wallace Booth and Gavin Dear, both members of the winning squad at the European Amateur Team Championship.

Dalgleish said he was basing his pairings on players bringing out the best in each other.

“It’s a case of finding compatible people,” the Scot said. “I suppose we are trying to find compatible games, compatible personalities.”

Trying to find the right pairings for four alternate-shot matches on Saturday and Sunday was one of the tasks facing both coaches. Marucci said that chore was made easier by having such an agreeable bunch.

“I could put anybody with this team with anybody and I would not have one blink of an eye from everybody,” Marucci said. “They’ve been great. We’ve been able to kind of take advantage of that. What will happen tomorrow, I don’t know. But I know they’re all going to enjoy each other and get along.”

The blending process was made a tad easier for Marucci when the USGA selection committee added two more OSU players – college roommates Morgan Hoffmann and Peter Uihlein – to the American side.

Hoffmann said familiarity could play a role in the U.S. team’s success.

“We’re all really good friends, so it makes it a lot more comfortable, especially having my roommate, Peter,” said Hoffmann, from Saddle Brook, N.J. “It just feels like another college event, but bigger – a lot bigger.”

Rounding out the U.S. team are: Bud Cauley of Jacksonville, Fla.; Brendan Gielow of Muskegon, Mich.; Brian Harman of Savannah, Ga.; Adam Mitchell of Chattanooga, Tenn.; Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa.; Cameron Tringale of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; and Drew Weaver of High Point, N.C.

Dalgleish said he was going to go back to earlier practice rounds to find the matchups that worked best for the GB&I team made up of seven Englishmen, two Scots and an Irishman.

“Since we went to Pine Valley (earlier in the week), the five foursomes pairings that we’ve gone with have been very comfortable,” said Dalgleish, who played on the 1981 GB&I team. “It’s just a case of picking four of these five.”

The rest of the GB&I team is: Tommy Fleetwood, Luke Goddard, Matt Haines, Eamonn “Stiggy” Hodgson, Sam Hutsby, Chris Paisley and Dale Whitnell, all of England; and Niall Kearney of Ireland.

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Expired visa, helicopter, odd clubs all part of Vegas' journey

By Ryan LavnerJuly 19, 2018, 3:48 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Jhonattan Vegas thought someone was playing a practical joke on him.

Or maybe he was stuck in the middle of a horror movie.

Scheduled to leave for The Open a week ago, he didn’t arrive at Carnoustie until a little more than an hour before his first-round tee time Thursday.

“Even if somebody tried to do that on purpose,” he said, “you couldn’t really do it.”

The problem was an expired visa.

Vegas said that he must have gotten confused by the transposed date on the visa – “Guessing I’ve been living in America too long” – and assumed that he was cleared to travel.

No problem, he was told. He’d have a new visa in 24 hours.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Except the consulate in New York didn’t respond to his application the next day, keeping him in limbo through the weekend. Then, on Monday, he was told that he’d applied for the wrong visa. UPS got shut down in New York and his visa never left, so Vegas waited in vain for seven hours in front of the consulate in Houston. He finally secured his visa on Wednesday morning, boarded a flight from Houston to Toronto, and then flew to Glasgow, the final leg of a 14-hour journey.

His agent arranged a helicopter ride from Glasgow to Carnoustie to ensure that he could make his 10:31 a.m. (local) tee time.

One more issue? His clubs never made it. They were left back in Toronto.

His caddie, Ruben Yorio, scrambled to put together a new bag, with a mismatched set of woods, irons, wedges and putter.

“Luckily the (equipment) vans are still here,” Vegas said. “Otherwise I probably would have played with members’ clubs today.”

He hit about 20 balls on the range – “Luckily they were going forward” – but Carnoustie is one of the most challenging links in the world, and Vegas was working off of two hours’ sleep and without his own custom-built clubs. He shot 76 but, hey, at least he tried.

“It was fun,” he said, “even though the journey was frustrating.”

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'Brain fart' leads to Spieth's late collapse

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The closing stretch at Carnoustie has famously ruined many a solid round, so Jordan Spieth’s misadventures on Thursday should not have been a complete surprise, but the truth is the defending champion’s miscues were very much self-inflicted.

Spieth was cruising along at 3 under par, just two shots off the early lead, when he made a combination of errors at the par-4 15th hole. He hit the wrong club off the tee (4-iron) and the wrong club for his approach (6-iron) on his way to a double bogey-6.

“The problem was on the second shot, I should have hit enough club to reach the front of the green, and even if it goes 20 yards over the green, it's an easy up-and-down,” Spieth said. “I just had a brain fart, and I missed it into the location where the only pot bunker where I could actually get in trouble, and it plugged deep into it. It was a really, really poor decision on the second shot, and that cost me.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Spieth continued to compound his problems with a sloppy bogey at the 16th hole, and a drive that sailed left at 18 found the Barry Burn en route to a closing bogey and a 1-over 72.

The miscues were more mental, a lack of execution, than they were an example of how difficult the closing stretch at Carnoustie can be, and that’s not good enough for Spieth.

“That's what I would consider as a significant advantage for me is recognizing where the misses are,” said Spieth, who was tied for 68th when he completed his round. “It felt like a missed opportunity.”

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Perez: R&A does it right, 'not like the USGA'

By Rex HoggardJuly 19, 2018, 2:28 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez didn’t even attempt to hide his frustration with the USGA at last month’s U.S. Open, and after an opening-round 69 at The Open, he took the opportunity to double down on his displeasure.

“They (the R&A) do it right, not like the USGA,” Perez said of the setup at Carnoustie. “They've got the opposite [philosophy] here. I told them, you guys have it right, let the course get baked, but you've got the greens receptive. They're not going to run and be out of control. They could have easily had the greens just like the fairway, but they didn't. The course is just set up perfect.”

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Concerns at Shinnecock Hills reached a crescendo on Saturday when the scoring average ballooned to 75.3 and only three players broke the par of 70. Of particular concern for many players, including Perez, were some of the hole locations, given how fast and firm the greens were.

“The U.S. Open could have been like this more if they wanted to. They could have made the greens a bit more receptive,” Perez said. “These greens are really flat compared to Shinnecock. So that was kind of the problem there is they let it get out of control and they made the greens too hard.”