Lewis seeks first blow as British battle the odds
Among the many messages of support read out by Nigel Edwards in his call to arms to the British and Irish Walker Cup team here last night, was one from the world No 2, Lee Westwood, urging his young countrymen not to be "overawed by the opposition".
That really did not need saying to Tom Lewis, who is so thrilled to be leading the way in this morning's opening foursomes and this afternoon's singles.
The 20-year-old showed at the Open his love for the spotlight in shooting a first-round 65, the lowest by an amateur in 151 years of the Championship. Since then Lewis's fame has only grown, meaning when the 43rd edition of the "pure" version of the Ryder Cup tees off he will be the focal point of home hopes.
"Tom is frightened of no one," said Edwards, the Welshman who won two matches and lost two matches as a player. Lewis merely nodded, before explaining his delight at his standard-bearing role. "Hopefully, I can go out on top and get a few points on board with Mikey and it will build some confidence throughout the team," said Lewis.
Mikey is Michael Stuart, the runner-up in the Amateur Championship. The 21-year-old from Troon actually beat Lewis on his way to the final at Hillside and is of a similarly positive disposition. The pair will take on Peter Uihlein and Harris English at 9am in the all-important first encounter. As Lewis pointed out, this could be a momentum setter; as could be the first singles at 1.45pm which pitches Lewis against Uihlein, the 2010 US Amateur Champion who won all four of his games at Merion two years ago.
Uihlein is the son of Wally, the Titleist supremo who holds such an influence in the game after the advent of the turbo-charged golf ball. Uihlein and Lewis have a bit of previous, although it was not a head-to-head rumble. At Sandwich in July, the latter pushed the former closest in the battle for the Silver Medal, awarded to the leading amateur in the Open field.
But this is about more than Uihlein and Lewis. In Patrick Cantlay, Jim Holtgrieve, the US captain, boasts a 19-year-old who has shot a 60 on the PGA Tour – at the Travelers Championship in June – and who is undisputably the finest amateur in the world. With six members of the world's top 10 it is little wonder some are talking up the US team as one of the strongest in the match's 89-year history.
But then gale force winds are predicted to sweep across this classic links and that may level the playing field somewhat (if it isn't blown to kingdom come, that is). The Americans may not agree, but, suspensions apart, the conditions will give this enthralling two-day dust-up its flavour. Holtgrieve is evidently determined not to make the same mistake as Corey Pavin, last year's Ryder Cup captain, who chose the waterproofs and then watched in horror as they leaked in the Celtic Manor tempest. "I've worn them in the shower to test them," admitted Holtgrieve, who actually played with Pavin in the Walker Cup 30 years ago. "They worked perfectly. I'm a very good friend of Corey's and I wasn't going to do the same."
A few of the European Ryder Cup winners may snigger at that revelation, but last night it was only their words of inspiration being heard. Luke Donald, the world No 1, sent his support as did Darren Clarke, the Open champion. But perhaps Rory McIlroy's message was the most welcome. The Ulsterman played in the 2007 match as a teenager alongside Edwards and remembers the experience fondly – despite the one-point loss.
"I'm jealous," McIlroy told them. "Here I am stuck in Holland and you guys are about to have one of the best weekends of your life." For the record, McIlroy shot a 65 at the £1.8m Dutch Open. Strange thing, envy.
Walker Cup Schedule
This morning: Foursomes (GB&Irl first): 9am T Lewis & M Stewart v P Uihlein v H English; 9.10 J Senior & A Sullivan v R Henley & K Kraft. 9.20 P Cutler & A Dunbar v N Smith & B Barber. 9.30 S Brown & S Hodgson v P Cantlay & C Williams. Afternoon: Eight singles: 1.45 Lewis v Uihlein. 1.55 Senior v Spieth. 2.05 Sullivan v English. 2.15 R Pugh v P Rodgers. 2.25 Brown v Henley. 2.35 J Byrne v Smith. 2.45 Cutler v Kraft. 2.55 Stewart v Cantlay. Tomorrow: Morning: Four foursomes. Afternoon: 10 singles.
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