The 10th edition of the Presidents Cup will take place at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. The United States holds a 7-1-1 advantage. Fred Couples is back for his third lap as captain of the U.S. side, with Nick Price taking the helm for the International Team for the first time.
On paper, the United States appears loaded and ready for an eighth victory. The Yanks boast a roster loaded with returning stars, along with some youthful flavor. The International Team will have its hands full.
We will take a look at individuals on each roster, as well as explore potential pairings and make sense of just how big of a favorite this U.S. Team should be.
United States Team (in order of points)
Tiger Woods ... He enters his eighth Presidents Cup with a 20-14-1 record and will be counted on as a leader for the U.S. squad again this time around. Worth noting, his record at Muirfield Village in the Memorial has been excellent over the years, so the course should suit his eye just fine. He has previously enjoyed playing with Steve Stricker, but the twosome flopped in the 2012 Ryder Cup so that could fizzle out. Jordan Spieth would make an interesting partner at some point, and don’t count out a Jason Dufner, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan or Bill Haas pairing. Woods played in a group with Dufner and Kuchar during Tuesday’s practice round.
Brandt Snedeker ... It's hard to believe but this marks his first Presidents Cup venture. It would likely be hard to find a bad partner for the smooth putter, but Zach Johnson jumps off the table as a potential natural fit. Sneds paired with Furyk at the Ryder Cup last year, so without Furyk on the team we are left to guess. He went out in a foursome with Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson and Bill Haas on Tuesday, which could be telling. That’s a foursome of guys in a similar age bracket and at similar stages in life.
Phil Mickelson ... It’s no secret that Couples will trot out a Mickelson-Keegan Bradley pairing on at least one occasion, but don’t be surprised to see Lefty expand his mentorship to other youngsters. Jordan Spieth got an invite to the practice round cash game at the TOUR Championship, and that would fit Mickelson’s interests. Snedeker would also offer a potential power pairing. If he comes close to replicating his 3-0 record in partnered events at the Ryder Cup, it could be all the Americans needs to extend the gap to a victory.
Matt Kuchar ... I can’t envision a bad pairing existing for him. He’s played a good bit with Dustin Johnson in both Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup competition, but DJ didn’t make the team. He paired with Bill Haas in 2012 as well as Steve Stricker, but joining Tiger Woods in a Tuesday practice round alongside Jason Dufner could be a tip as to Couples’ thoughts. Seriously, there isn’t a bad play when it comes to Kuchar.
Jason Dufner ... He could easily find himself in some high-profile pairings. It would make sense to stick Keegan Bradley with him if and when Bradley takes a break from Mickelson. Duf is not a bad fit for Woods, and would slide in just fine with a Snedeker or a Kuchar pairing. Perhaps most likely is that he reunites with his 2012 Ryder Cup partner Zach Johnson. The duo went 2-1 last year at Medinah.
Keegan Bradley ... As mentioned above, we know he’ll see time with his buddy Mickelson, and a Dufner pairing seems like comic relief waiting to happen. If it gets past that, how about letting him run out with Jordan Spieth and fire at the flags all afternoon in a glimpse of the new U.S. guard? As long as he’s winning points with Mickelson and the outcome of the Cup is in doubt, I don’t know that Couples does too much experimenting with this one.
Steve Stricker ... The semi-retired veteran made the team on merit, but has questions to answer after a poor showing at the Ryder Cup last year. He seems to be the anointed veteran set to groom Jordan Spieth for his first minutes of action, but I don’t know that Couples will or should limit Spieth to just Stricker. Stricks won a point with Kuchar in 2011, so Couples could easily go back to that well again, and at least one lap around Muirfield Village with Tiger should be in the cards as well, if not just for ole time’s sake. No matter who he’s with, Stricker has a point to prove after last year’s Ryder Cup.
Bill Haas ... Earned his way onto the team on merit for the first time after beating out Keegan Bradley for a Captain’s Pick in 2011. Haas went 1-3-1 that year, picking up a halve with Nick Watney and a win with Hunter Mahan. Mahan makes sense as a potential partner and his Wake Forest brethren, Webb Simpson, also would seem a natural pairing. Those three along with Snedeker shared a Tuesday tee time in a practice lap, further solidifying that line of thought. Though a veteran on TOUR at this point, Haas is still relatively new to International competition so he could also earn a pairing with a veteran like Woods or Stricker.
Hunter Mahan ... Loves match play and all signs point to him spending some time with Haas, Simpson and Snedeker in competition. Of all the players on the team, Mahan is the type of player that could get hot and ride a wave of momentum to three or four points in a hurry.
Zach Johnson ... Missed Tuesday’s practice round due to arriving late after a bout with the flu, but is expected to be recovered for Thursday. He teamed with Dufner three times in the 2012 Ryder Cup, amassing a 2-1-0 record, making that a likely replication. As with most players on this team, the options for ZJ are nearly limitless.
Webb Simpson ... He and Bubba Watson have been attached at the hip in team competitions, but Watson didn’t make the squad. (Simpson needed a captain's pick.) Without putting much thought into it, the natural tendency would be to match him with a fellow Wake Forest Demon Deacon, Bill Haas. Judging by the two playing in the same foursome along with Mahan and Snedeker on Tuesday, that seems exceedingly possible if not likely.
Jordan Spieth ... The only player on the U.S. squad without any Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup experience, and Spieth may be the hottest. He was rewarded for his form with a captain's selection. He replicated his foursome in a practice round at East Lake on Tuesday at Muirfield Village, joining Bradley, Mickelson and Stricker for a game. It’s almost inevitable at this point that he starts out under the wing of Stricker, but any of the other members of that foursome could easily find themselves with the 20-year-old.
Captain Fred Couples ... In his third stint as captain of the ship, he’s a proven winner. His mission this week is right down his alley. He has a stable of favorites, so he just needs to stay out of their way and not overthink scenarios. And let’s face it, when has Couples ever been accused of over thinking anything?
U.S. Team Summary
This team is loaded with a healthy combination of youth and experience. Included are six major winners, including the reigning Open Champion and PGA Champion, and seven members off the 2011 winning Presidents Cup team. Every member of the team is a PGA TOUR winner. They will play on their home turf and they will retain the Cup. The only question is the margin.