Paul McGinley: Fast start key for GB&I hopes at firm and fast Walker Cup

Paul McGinley: Fast start key for GB&I hopes at firm and fast Walker Cup

Paul McGinley: I’ve been emphasising to the guys that these are 18 hole sprints and it’s important to get off to a good start

They say a good start is half the work and that’s exactly what Paul McGinley emphasised when he gave Great Britain and Ireland the benefit of his team golf expertise as they prepare to do battle in the 48th Walker Cup match at Seminole in Florida today.

The Dubliner has a home just an hour north of the fast-running Juno Beach course and having played it many times and seen it up close this week, he has no doubt that putting will decide who claims the famous old trophy.

McGinley knows all about the match having played alongside Pádraig Harrington and Garth McGimpsey at Portmarnock in 1991.

But having won the other 13 team matchplay events he’s been involved in over the years, he knows what it’s going to take for Stuart Wilson’s side to claim what would be just the third away win for GB&I in the last 100 years.

“I spoke to them about the advantage of being underdogs and shared my experiences at the Ryder Cup and gave them some statistics from matchplay and some ideas that we worked on in Ryder Cups,” McGinley said.

“I called it the template of success and it’s about the importance of momentum in particular in these 18 hole sprint matches, what to do with it, how to take advantage of it. Coming out of the blocks quick is really key.

“I’ve been emphasising to the guys that these are 18 hole sprints and it’s important to get off to a good start. I shared some statistics and some ideas of what we did in Ryder Cup and how to play around momentum and give momentum a chance.

“We know from Ryder Cups that 82% of matches that are up after six holes don’t lose. You can still win matches from being down but certainly it makes it a lot easier if you get a good start.” McGinley plays frequently at Seminole and he’s never seen it as firm and fast as this week.

“It’s as brown as I’ve ever seen it,” he said. “It really is playing fast. The greens were running at 14 on Wednesday which is quicker than tour speed so putting is going to be a massive key this week. They really are as quick a set of greens as I’ve ever seen.

“Tour speed in America is 12 they rarely get above that but these greens are14 at the moment, and the reason they are 14 is because the wind is drying them out and they are firm.” Fast greens have never been a help to GB&I in the Walker Cup but McGinley reckons even the highly-fancied Americans will have problems in what are close to links conditions and he’s warned the British and Irish team about the danger of over-reading putts on ultra-slick greens.

“They wouldn’t be used to these conditions either and from what I hear from the captain, the green staff and the USGA are not going to slow down the course.

“So it’s going to be fun to watch because pars will win a lot of holes. It’s almost like links in its purest form."

Having watched the players in action, he has no doubts about the quality of a GB&I side that boasts the talents of Kinsale’s John Murphy and Kilkenny’s Mark Power, son of multiple Irish Close champions Eddie Power and Eileen Rose McDaid.

“I know Mark and his parents well and he doesn’t play like Eddie that’s for sure,” he joked. “But if he could have the cuteness of his mum and dad along with the talent he already has, he will be some player.” While four players including Murphy and Angus Flanagan on the GB&I suffered tummy trouble early in the week, prompting the USGA to issue a calming media release insisting it was not Covid-related, the matches are expected to go off without a hitch.

McGinley loves the Walker Cup and while he’s sad the GB&I players have little support as it’s played with limited crowds due to Covid-19, he knows they will enjoy an unforgettable experience.

“The romance of the Walker Cup is very much alive,” he said. “This is something that will stand to them for the rest of their careers. It’s the pinnacle of the amateur game. It’s a real shame their parents can’t come over and see their sons playing.”

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