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Walker Cup
1999 Event Coverage
Yates to captain US 2001 Walker Cup team
Yates named '99 Walker Cup captain
Great Britain and Ireland's Walker Cup team announced
Donald leads GBI Walker Cup hopes

Donald leads GBI Walker Cup hopes

Luke Donald is the No. 1 college golfer in the United States. And, billed as the next Tiger Woods, he's the focus of the biennial Walker Cup.

Could that mean another landslide victory for the United States, which crushed the combined Britain-Ireland team two years ago?

No way.

Donald is a 21-year-old Englishman who attends Northwestern. His polished game and the classic Scottish links layout at the Nairn Golf Club -- hard by the Moray Firth just northeast of Inverness -- make Britain-Ireland the favorite when the two-day match-play event opens Saturday.

And that's a rarity. The United States leads the series, which dates to 1922, 31-4 with one draw.

"Seven of their team are college golfers and I've played against all of them, so it has to play on their minds a little, doesn't it," said Donald, who broke Tiger Woods' college record for lowest stroke average. "I certainly think it will be a psychological benefit to me."

Donald plans to finish school before turning pro and is aiming for Phil Mickelson's record of three NCAA championships.

"He's a Hale Irwin, Langer kind of player," said Peter McEvoy, the nonplaying captain of Britain-Ireland. "Luke is already a polished player in so many ways, you can easily see him reaching the top."

Led by Donald, Britain-Ireland won the Eisenhower Trophy (the world amateur team championship) in November in Chile. The other three members of that side -- Gary Wolstenholme, Paddy Gribben and Lorne Kelly -- form the core of the 10-man Walker team.

"We go into the match at Nairn as world champions," McEvoy said. ``That's got to mean something and it's certainly something which I will be reminding my players all about."

Although the overall record is lopsided, Britain-Ireland has won two of the last five. The most recent victory was in 1995 at Royal Porthcawl (Wales), where it beat the Americans 14-10 with a critical victory by Wolstenholme over Woods.

The Americans won easily two years ago at Quaker Ridge, 18-6, with some calling again for the Walker Cup to include European players -- like the Ryder Cup.

This time, Britain-Ireland needs no help. The format includes four alternate-shot (foursomes) matches each morning with eight singles in the afternoon. Each match is worth one point with 12½ needed to win.

"I think that if you look at the greater scheme over the last 10 years, you can see there has been a swing of the pendulum," McEvoy said.

The Americans have only two players with Walker Cup experience -- Tim Jackson, 40, and Steve Scott, 22, and only Jackson has played in the matches outside the United States -- four years ago in Wales.

But the Americans boast several college stars: David Gossett (Texas), the 1999 U.S. Amateur champion who won the final by a whopping 9 and 8; Bryce Molder (Georgia Tech), the '98 college player of the year; Matt Kuchar (Georgia Tech), the '97 U.S. Amateur champion and low amateur in the '98 Masters and '98 U.S. Open.

For experience they have Jackson, a former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion; Tom McKnight, 45, '98 U.S. Amateur runner-up; John "Spider" Miller, 49, '96 and '98 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion.

"This is a great golf course, and it's going to be a great match," U.S. nonplaying captain Danny Yates said. "It's all going to depend on the weather. It's a different game over here, totally different than in the States."

The Americans' were almost blown away -- and then washed off the course -- as typical Scottish summer weather greeted them for the first practice round this week.

"Somehow we got around," said Yates, who played twice in the Walker Cup. "I'd like good weather. That would certainly help us on a course where they have home advantage."