Bug flattens Walker Cup squads as rain softens Seminole

Not only was Seminole flooded by torrential rain, the tummy bug that affected two players from each side early in the week (including Kinsale’s John Murphy) spread to five on each side
Bug flattens Walker Cup squads as rain softens Seminole

Kinsale's John Murphy, of the Great Britain and Ireland team, smiles as he walks to the third tee during a practice day for the Walker Cup at Seminole Golf Club. Picture: Gerald Herbert

It’s not quite the 10 plagues of Egypt but Great Britain and Ireland will have to overcome a host of problems to claim just their third Walker Cup win on US soil.

The tummy bug that affected two players from each side early in the week (including Kinsale’s John Murphy) spread to 14 players and captains Nathanial Crosby and Stuart Wilson, forcing the USGA and the R&A not only to issue a statement explaining “gastrointestinal issues” but also to change the rules of the event.

A decision was been made by the Walker Cup committee to allow teams to employ their alternates throughout this weekend’s matches at Seminole.

”We have very specific terms for the match," said John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s Senior Managing Director, Championships. "They're confidential from the standpoint of they're usually done well ahead of time.

"Well, we're a little flexible this time; we have to be. We have a 10-man team, and we've stuck with that. And we have two alternates, so we will use them as needed based on health and not anything else."

The R&A’s Martin Slumbers added: "The key thing to remember is it is the original 10 that will be the core."

As a result, Saturday morning’s four foursomes pairings won’t be released until 7am, less than two hours before the start of the first match, and captains will be able to sub in and out players between sessions if a player is ill.

In all, 14 players, seven on each side, have experienced signs of illness, though most have recovered.

According to Bodenhamer, “less than a handful" of players have also received IVs for fluids at a local hospital but there was no news that any players would be unavailable for the opening four foursomes matches.

As if the bug wasn’t enough to dent the confidence of Stuart Wilson’s Great Britain and Ireland side against a hugely fancied US outfit, hopes that the firm and fast Seminole could give them an edge were dashed when more than an inch of rain flooded the course on Thursday night.

While the course was rock hard early in the week with the greens stimping at 14, returning English Walker Cup star Alex Fitzpatrick, younger brother of Ryder Cup player Matthew Fitzpatrick, said the course had changed utterly.

“The torrential rain that happened yesterday was crazy,” he said. "We couldn't get out of our team room. We were stranded in there for about two hours, and we were looking out the window and seeing that the whole course was underwater, and being out there today we were spinning chips back.

“You could just tell that the course was just a little damp and I'd say it will make it a bit more for target golf, but at the same time that can be a bit dangerous with all the runoffs. It'll be interesting to see how much it's affected play with what you prepared for at the start of the week and what today has been.” As for the stomach bug which affected Murphy and Angus Flanagan and two Americans earlier in the week before spreading to other players, Fitzpatrick is convinced it won’t be an issue.

“It's a stomach bug, and I guess it's gone around both teams,” he said. “It's a little bit of adversity to deal with, but I think it only lasts for 12 to 24 hours or something, so hopefully we have the full team back by tomorrow.

“I'm being very cautious with what I eat and where I go, and I'm sanitising as much as I can. But it's kind of luck of the draw really. I'm hoping that it doesn't happen to me and that I can be healthy for tomorrow's match.”

The US side looks set to dominate on paper with all 10 players ranked inside the top 23 in the world at the time of selection but Fitzpatrick is not fazed.

“Ranking is just a number. It doesn't matter, you could be ranked 500, you could be ranked 1,” he said. "It really doesn't matter in match play. For me personally, I think if you're No. 1 you've got way more pressure on you than someone who's 500.”

His thoughts where echoed by Texan Cole Hammer, who is one of three US players with previous Walker Cup experience alongside Stewart Hagestad and Jon Pak, who was low amateur in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

“At the end of the day this is alternate-shot or foursomes and singles and anything can happen, so it doesn't really matter what it looks like on paper,” Hammer said. “We've just got to go out there and do everything we can to bring it back.”

As for the uncertainty having over both camps because of the tummy bug that’s doing the rounds, he was philosophical.

“You know, it's all been happening so fast that one guy goes down, the next guy goes down,” he said. “But we're all trying to rally around each other. “I wouldn't say it's made us any more nervous about the match just because both teams have so many great players and obviously no one wants to get sick. But we'll be just fine. I promise we'll be ready to go tomorrow no matter what the deal is.”

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