Capt. Marucci presents his A Team

By Brian Keogh

US Walker Cup skipper George "Buddy" Marucci believes he has the real A-Team on his side this week.

And while his 10-man US squad does not feature Drew Weaver, the first American winner of the British Amateur for 24 years, he is convinced that his Yankee Doodle Dandies have the talent to silence Rory McIlroy's legion of fans at Royal County Down.

Never mind the fact that just one man on the team has played in the Walker Cup before or that Royal County Down is arguably the quirkiest links course in the world.

Marucci, 55, wants his star-studded side to play their own game and not worry about trying to learn the alien "bump and run" links style in just five days.

A veteran of two Walker Cup matches as a player, Marucci just wants his boys to do their own thing.

He said: "It is going to be a new experience for these boys. But I think the most important thing we can do is try not to change too much.

"They are very talented and they have been able to do certain things and they have confidence. I am going to try and keep them doing what they know how to do.

"We are used to playing in the wind but the ground isn't as firm back home, so we don't hit those kind of bump and run shots.

"If conditions warrant something different, they are going to have to try to adapt a little. But hopefully it won't be too different."

The US squad arrived at Royal County Down on Sunday night after fun-filled practice rounds at Royal Dublin, Portmarnock and County Louth.

Watching them in action, it was obvious that they had little links experience and the lob wedge was regularly pulled from the bag as they faced simple, chip-and-run shots from short of the greens.

US "Player of the Year" Chris Kirk was just 20 yards short of Portmarnock's 13th green when he was advised to try a bump and run to a back pin by his Irish caddie.

But he confessed that he simply couldn't play that shot and went on to leave his lob wedge 40 feet short of the hole.

Marucci was not surprised that the nine-iron was left in the bag and he doesn't expect to see his youthful squad to start trying the "British" approach at this stage.

He said: "The game has changed. The wedges are different. They all have three wedges in their bag these days and the groove patterns are different.

"So they feel like they can get something on the ball. But I think we will see a lot of putting from off the green but I don't think you are going to see too many chip and run shots with seven and eight iron. It is just not done.

"It is going to be difficult to take them out up there and I am not going to try and get them to hit those shots in four or five days. And certainly not under pressure."

The US game is based on power and accuracy but just how the Americans react to unfair bounces on the firm and fast-running Newcastle links remains to be seen.

Watching California kid Rickie Fowler, 18, almost drive the 402-yard first at Portmarnock and then blast his drive pin-high at the 370-yard 10th shows that there is now lack of power in the American side.

And that could mean more problems for Marucci, who will have to convince his big-hitting stars to play smart and leave the driver in the bag at punishing Royal County Down.

Marucci conceded: "It has some really big holes and some really cool short holes and it is very demanding. There are blind shots and dog legs and you've got to be careful not to run through the fairway. It is going to be a challenge.

"First and foremost, you have to keep the ball somewhere in play. Our guys play a lot of power golf and they are not really into watching the ball bounce 50 or 60 yards. And as far as they hit it, that is what is going to happen.

"So I think they have got to dial it back a bit from where they normally hit it. So the first thing we have got to figure out is just how far we can hit it off the tee without running into a lot of trouble.

"I think we will be laying back a lot, if I can get them to do it. Our game is so much driver oriented, they all want to drive the ball and want to hit it far because it is not as penal in the US. They are going to learn pretty quickly that they can't do that over here."

As for the decision to leave British Amateur champion Weaver from Virginia Tech at home, Marucci preferred not to say too much.

He said "I can't explain why and I don't think that's fair. We have a two-year selection system that is very thorough and some of those choices were hard.

"We had four or five guys who were really close to making the team and I feel badly for Drew but I don't want to take anything away from the other guys because they are all great players.

"I don't pick the team. We have an international selection committee and I give them my recommendations. Having said that, part of my recommendations include the players that will gel together.

"The eight guys we have had a great chemistry. We are fortunate this year to have a lot of chemistry.

"It is important when you travel. I don't understand what the deal is with the US Ryder Cup team but the US is a small country when it comes to college golf."

As for the opposition this weekend, Marucci says he doesn't know an awful lot about them.

He said: "Gary Wolstenholme didn't make the team but I know Rhys Davies and Nigel Edwards and I met Rory McIlroy once and know something about him.

"I am sure they are going to do a very good job and we have our work cut out. But my guys are good too. Let's see what happens."