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Five players to keep an eye on during the Walker Cup

Jonathan Wall
Devil Ball Golf

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Okay, the Walker Cup doesn't have the fanfare or build up that comes with a Ryder Cup, but the event pitting the best amateur players from the United States against the top players from Great Britain and Ireland is still a competition golf fans should keep on eye on this weekend.

With a host of big names on each team, here's a look a five players that could play a critical role in deciding if the Walker Cup trophy returns to the United States, or changes hands to the GB&I team on Sunday afternoon.

Patrick Cantlay (United States): The sophomore at UCLA could be the best player on a loaded United States team. Aside from finishing as low amateur at the U.S. Open earlier this year (T-21), he posted three top-25 finishes in his remaining starts on the PGA Tour, including a T-9 finish at the Canadian Open. Cantlay also made it to the finals of the U.S. Amateur, before losing to eventual winner Kelly Kraft. He was also named the Nicklaus Award as the Division I Player of the Year. He'll definitely be counted on to win some points this weekend with that resume.

Tom Lewis (Great Britain and Ireland): The winner of the 2011 St Andrews Links Trophy will be called on to be GB&I's version of Patrick Cantlay. Lewis burst onto the scene earlier this summer when he qualified for the Open Championship and promptly fired an opening-round 65 -- the lowest round by an amateur in Open history -- to take the clubhouse lead. Even better, he managed to pull the round off with his namesake Tom Watson in his group. With a lot of success on links-style courses, he could be a huge piece of the puzzle at Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (located in Scotland).

Peter Uihlein (United States): The Walker Cup is old-hat for the former U.S. Amateur champion. Now a senior at Oklahoma State, Uihlein has experience playing on links courses, having finished T-48 earlier this year at the Open Championship. His experience in the event -- he and 33-year-old Nathan Smith are the only players on the team with Walker Cup experience -- coupled with his success playing abroad makes him the best player on the United States team, next to Cantlay.

Jack Senior (Great Britain and Ireland): Outside of United Kingdom, nobody had a clue who Jack Senior was when he showed up at the 2011 U.S. Amateur. But after disposing of Jordan Spieth in the quarterfinals -- he and Spieth will get a chance to square off in the afternoon singles matches on Saturday -- people started to take notice of the 2011 Lytham Trophy winner. Senior is riding a wave of momentum going into the Walker Cup, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see him pull his weight over the weekend.

Nathan Smith (United States): At 33, Smith is the elder on the Walker Cup team ... by 11 years. But no matter, his game continues to get better with age, as evident by his three U.S. Mid-Amateur titles, including back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010. Smith also has Walker Cup experience, having played in the 2009 event at Merion. He might not be a flashy name like Cantlay or Uihlein, but expect Smith to bring some much-needed experience to the table if the United States team finds itself in a close battle on Sunday.

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