Wolstenholme expects GB&I win

By Brian Keogh

Walker Cup legend Gary Wolstenholme is tipping Great Britain and Ireland to win big at Royal County Down.

A surprise omission from the side, Wolstenholme reckons home advantage makes GB&I the overwhelming favourites against an American outfit stuffed with collegiate players.

And he has not doubt that Ulster talisman Rory McIlroy will step up and produce the goods under pressure as Colin Dalgleish's boys attempt to win back the trophy.

He said: "I don’t think Rory is going to have a problem. He has been signing autographs in supermarkets for two or three years.

"He won't be terribly fazed by it and The Open was a great experience for him in lots of ways.
"There are things he would have like to have done differently, I'm sure. But one of the great things is that he now knows that he has come of age. He knows that he is capable of being there with the best.

"I would say that everyone is going to be nervous on the first tee, it is how you channel it. Whether you relish it and look forward to it, or not.

"My view is that there are players who haven’t come through it terribly well. But hopefully you don’t have too many of these in your team.

"We have six really world class players and that is not to denigrate the other four. You are looking for the heroes in your team and as opposed to other years when you only had one or two top players, I think we have three or four this time.

"The Lloyd Saltmans, Rory McIlroys, the Jamie Mouls. They will lead the other guys and the other players will be looking for their leadership."

The English ace, 47, has no doubt that GB&I are the red-hot favourites to win for the fifth time in the last seven editions.

And that's mainly because Colin Dalgleish's side will be playing on a course that suits them perfectly.

Wolstenholme said: "Even before the team was selected I would have said that we were odds on favourites. And that's because of the golf course.
"It's just the fact that the golf course is so completely quirky with blind shots and run offs and stuff like that.

"There is no reason at all why an American can play a little chip and run, or a low punch shot. But it is instinctive for us and that is where we have an advantage.

"We don’t have to stop and think about those shots. We don't stop and say, I have to get my hands forward or put the ball back in my stance. And that's a massive advantage under pressure.

"The fact hat we have played the course a few times this year is also a huge advantage. And the Americans have to learn this stuff in a few days, which is hugely difficult."

Wolstenholme, 47, was hoping to play his seventh successive Walker Cup this year but poor form ruled him out of the side.

And while he's working for BBC TV this week, he hopes to make the side again in two years and then go on to be captain in the future.

He's seen the Americans at close quarters, having teed it up at the US Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco three weeks ago.

And while he's impressed with US Public Links and Amateur champion Colt Knost and NCAA champion Jamie Lovemark, he thinks the American's best hope is that the weather will be good.

He doesn't believe the Americans will enjoy being the underdogs and points to the recent Ryder Cup matches as a perfect example of that.

He said: "What gets ups their nose? The fact that they don’t like to be considered underdogs. They never have done and the Ryder Cup last year was a perfect example.

"They didn’t know how to cope with it. They like to feel they are the best team and the favourites.

They win all the tournaments in the US and they don’t go further afield. They have no idea how good the rest of the world is.

"The only time they know is when some Australian or South American does well in their collegiate circuit."

Wolstenholme consistently took down some big American names in his 19 Walker Cup matches - famously beating Tiger Woods at Portcawl in 1995.

He said: "I was unfazed about who I was playing against or had no idea how good he was. And even if he was good it made no difference."