LOS ANGELES – The 46th Walker Cup Match concluded Sunday on L.A. Country Club’s North Course, leaving one thought: Why not more?
Since 1922, when the initial Walker Cup was contested at National Golf Links of America on Long Island, the participants have included some of the best amateur golfers in the world: Bobby Jones, Chick Evans, Francis Ouimet and Bernard Darwin.
In more recent decades, the Walker Cup has served as a proving ground for some of the game’s best future professionals: Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson among them.
As recently as 2007, the matches at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, where the Americans won, 12½-11½, featured some of the next decade’s best young talent on the PGA Tour. The teams included Americans Rickie Fowler, Billy Horschel, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson and Great Britain and Ireland’s Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett.
The mostly Irish and British crowd that week certainly would have wanted a third day, like other international amateur and professional matches.
So why is the event only two days?
John “Spider” Miller, the two-time U.S. captain, has been asking that question for a while.
“It's been suggested,” Miller said of expanding the matches to a third day. “I'm not sure the R&A [is in favor]. I think they dwell on tradition, and that’s likely the stumbling block. It just makes sense. I mean, there's no incremental cost. You guys are all here; we have the golf course. Everybody's here. There's zero incremental costs associated with it. And it makes it a better event. And these guys want to play.”
The U.S. Golf Association has confirmed that its leaders have discussed with the R&A the idea of lengthening the matches but said the USGA has not taken a position on the idea.
Andrew Ingram, who served this year as acting GB&I captain and is part of the R&A’s Walker Cup selection committee, said he is willing to consider a format change.
“I can see pros for, and I can see things against,” Ingram said. “Although it is something I think we need to develop the game of golf and continually, and if we're going to develop it we need to look at these things and make a decision. Whether that is the right decision or not, I haven't really given it a lot of thought.”
One concern for the R&A in extending to a third day would be the overwhelming power of the U.S. side.
Miller suggested that the third day should include four-ball play. Under that format, the depth of the U.S. side would be on display and likely provide a decided advantage in a series in which the U.S. already holds an overwhelming 36-9-1 advantage after its latest victory (scores: http://bit.ly/2xXdR03).
The inaugural Walker Cup, in 1922, featured 12 matches: four 36-hole foursomes matches and eight 36-hole singles matches over two days.
That format eventually evolved into the current eight foursomes and 18 singles matches.
Isn’t it time to continue to evolve?
With most of the modern-day Walker Cuppers being college-age, having them sit out a session makes no sense. Nor does playing only two days.
An additional day would allow the amateurs to display their games for an audience eager to see exceptional golf, which has been the hallmark of nearly a century of Walker Cup competition.
It’s clearly time for a change.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli