Great Britain and Ireland captain Stuart Wilson believes his players can defy the odds to win the Walker Cup for just the third time on US soil.
The home side are prohibitive favourites to win the biennial contest for the third time in succession at Seminole Golf Club in Florida, with just one of their 10 players ranked outside the world’s top 20.
In contrast, world number 12 Alex Fitzpatrick is the only GB&I player in the top 20 after Scotland’s Sandy Scott (eighth) was forced to withdraw through injury, with the visitors having an average ranking of 68.7 compared to 12 for the United States.
It took a team featuring the likes of Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Nick Dougherty and Marc Warren to secure the last away win at Ocean Forest in 2001, but Wilson wants his players to embrace the challenge of following in their footsteps.
“We know there’s only been two teams that have been successful over here, which shows it’s not impossible,” said Wilson, who was part of the winning side at Ganton in 2003 and won the Amateur Championship at St Andrews the following year.
“But we’ve had a look at the numbers, and yeah, there’s been 310 Walker Cup players; 84 of those have played on winning sides but only 20 have played on a winning side in America. We’re trying to make that 30. The guys are up for it, without a doubt.
“We’d never say we’re outsiders because certainly with the format of the match and 18 holes of match play, everybody knows anything can happen at any time.
“As far as being up against it, you’re always up against it when you come. America is always going to be strong. When we had the Walker Cup at Ganton the home crowd was a big advantage to us, getting behind us and spurring us on.
“We’re going to have very few GB&I spectators here cheering us on, so we can use that to our advantage as well, to spur the guys on. Not so much prove a point, but use it as a motivation to do as well as they can.”
Former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley and world number 17 Matt Fitzpatrick have both given advice to the team this week, although Fitzpatrick’s younger brother Alex was not giving anything away.
“I’d like to think I have more experience in the Walker Cup than my brother does, seeing as he only played one,” joked Fitzpatrick, who played in the 2019 contest at Hoylake.
“But we had some interesting information from Paul yesterday (Wednesday), which I can’t share the information so the Americans don’t hear, but it was very valid information and something that the whole team had an interest in.
“And we can use that, I guess, to our advantage, and that’s going to be our plan set in stone come Saturday and Sunday, and hopefully we can act on it and bring home a trophy.”
Play gets under way on Saturday with four foursomes matches followed by eight singles, with four more foursomes and 10 singles on Sunday.
Players from both teams have been taken ill during the build-up to the event, but Covid-19 has been ruled out as the cause.
A joint statement from the R&A and USGA said: “The health and safety of the players and all involved in the match is our utmost priority and we are closely monitoring the situation.
“At this time, there is no expectation of a disruption to the timing of the matches of the biennial competition. We will provide additional updates if necessary.”