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Sully's Snapshot

Presidents Cup Preview

by Ryan O'Sullivan
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

The jets have landed and the practice rounds are underway as the United States prepares to defend the Presidents Cup in South Korea against the International squad. We will take this opportunity to discuss some Presidents Cup history as it relates to this event, dive into the teams and analyze the players. We’ll even go on record with a prediction. Let’s have some fun!

 

Perhaps we should start with the basics. While the qualifications for being on Team USA are fairly obvious, those of the International Team can be a bit confusing for those who don’t follow these events all that closely. This is not the U.S. versus the world. It is the U.S. versus the world minus Europe. That means Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, Mexico and Canada are all fair game. Antarctica too, I suppose. Consider the geography lesson over.

 

Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea serves as the host venue. It is a 7,380 yard par-72 layout. While this course is a bit of an unknown, it is expected to play like the typical Nicklaus layout. That means long, but forgiving, off the tee with reasonably large greens that reward proximity to the hole.

 

The sessions of play will be divided as follows:

 

Thursday: Five Foursomes Matches (Alternate Shot)

Friday: Five Four-ball Matches (Best Ball)

Saturday Morning: Four Foursomes Matches

Saturday Afternoon: Four Four-ball Matches

Sunday: 12 Singles Matches

 

All you need to know about the history of the Presidents Cup on a macro level is that the U.S. hasn’t lost since 1998. They did, somewhat famously, tie in 2003. In the five wins since that tie, it really hasn’t even been close.

 

With that as the backdrop, we’ll begin our deep dive with a look at the heavyweights.

 

Team USA is led by captain Jay Haas. He’ll have his buddies, Freddie Couples, Davis Love III, Steve Stricker and recently injured Jim Furyk in tow to pitch in as needed. No matter the outcome, don’t expect a coup in the post-Cup presser. Jay is highly respected among his peers and will have his finger on the pulse of this team through his assistants and veterans like Phil Mickelson.

 

Players

 

Jordan Spieth

Experience: 2-2-0 in 2013

Comments: Was a captain’s pick in 2013, with many believing the reason was to prepare him for what was to come in future Ryder and Presidents Cups. Good call by Freddie. Spieth’s season needs no introduction or analysis. While Mickelson may own the clubhouse, Spieth is the lead dog on course.

Expectations: While Spieth would partner well with anyone, it seems likely that his Ryder Cup partner, Patrick Reed, would make a likely bedfellow. Expect Spieth to play in each of the five sessions. His fearless putting from all ranges makes him especially deadly in match play. He’ll win more points than he loses.

 

Bubba Watson

Experience: 3-2-0 in 2011

Comments: Bomber should enjoy the Nicklaus layout and will be relied upon to be a major contributor for the Yanks. It should be noted that he is a very weak 3-8-0 in the Ryder Cup, with each of his points coming in the Four-ball sessions.

Expectations: Should play both of the Four-ball sets, but don’t be surprised if he sits out one of the Foursomes. There are a number of ways Haas could go in terms of pairings, but the most important thing is that it’s someone that Bubba finds comforting in some way. Team USA needs for him to at least break even.

 

Jimmy Walker

Experience: Rookie

Comments: Limped to the finish on the PGA TOUR in 2014-15. While he doesn’t have experience in this event, he was a gritty 1-1-3 in the 2014 Ryder Cup while taking on some of Europe’s toughest teams.

Expectations: Matched up well with Rickie Fowler last year in Gleneagles, and Jay Haas would be crazy not to trot them out early in Korea to see if there is still some magic. If he brings the passion to the Presidents Cup that he did to the Ryder Cup, he’ll have a winning record this week.

 

Zach Johnson

Experience: 7-6-0 in 2007, 2009, 2013

Comments: The kind of guy you want on any team, ZJ enters off a hot season and has evolved into the role of a veteran leader. Also 6-6-2 in the Ryder Cup.

Expectations: A must in the Foursomes, he could also be a nice choice to pair with Chris Kirk in his first time out. His past record indicates that he’s at least a break-even proposition.

 

Rickie Fowler

Experience: Rookie

Comments: Figured out how to win in 2015, and perhaps that will be of value this week in Korea. The bad news is that he is 0-3-5 in the Ryder Cup.

Expectations: It was covered in the Walker capsule, but it stands to reason that a Fowler-Walker duo is highly likely. While his record can’t get much worse than what he’s done in the Ryder Cup, it’s safe to say that he could be a star of the show for the USA in Korea.

 

Dustin Johnson

Experience: 1-3-1 in 2011

Comments: Hasn’t played in a team event since 2012, so the hope is that he’s refreshed and ready to roll.

Expectations: Better than 2011, as he’s too good to own a losing record in team events. There are several ways to go with DJ in terms of pairings. One idea would be to match him up with Bubba or J.B. Holmes and say “bombs away.” Could also be a nice partner for Mickelson if they don’t need Lefty holding a rookie’s hand.

 

Patrick Reed

Experience: Rookie

Comments: The U.S. version of Ian Poulter went 3-0-1 in his Ryder Cup debut. The last few months of his 2014-15 season weren’t exactly memorable, but we’ve all seen much worse.

Expectations: He’s match play prowess dates well back into his amateur days and he really does live for these events. Reed and Spieth should be the A-Team for just about any outing, and they will rack up some points.

 

Matt Kuchar

Experience: 4-5-0 in 2011 and 2013

Comments: While Kuchar’s game is boring compared to just about every guy else on Team USA, he’s a steady hand on most wheels. Similarly, he’s 4-5-2 in the Ryder Cup. Biggest knock on his 2014-15 campaign is that he didn’t find a win.

Expectations: Has the game that should set up OK for foursomes, but also has value in being the guy that keeps it in play in a four-ball while a bomber goes for the gusto. Probably not going to hurt the team, but won’t be the MVP either.

 

Chris Kirk

Experience: Rookie

Comments: Only player on Team USA that doesn’t have either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup experience. Barely hung on to the last automatic spot after an injury in the heart of the season.

Expectations: He should be on a short leash given the resumes of his teammates and his inexperience. It’s important for him to get off to a fast start. Might make sense for Mickelson to usher him out, but don’t rule out ZJ or Kuchar.

 

Bill Haas

Experience: 3-5-2 in 2011 and 2013

Comments: Performed better than his record in previous Cups, especially in 2013, and made plenty of sense as one of his dad’s picks thanks to that and ranking 11th on the points list.

Expectations: Dad will sit him at least once and possibly twice, especially if he starts slow. He should have a chip on his shoulder. Pretty versatile as a partner, but best guess is that he plays with someone other than the traditional bomber.

 

Phil Mickelson

Experience: 20-16-11 in EVERY Presidents Cup ever played.

Comments: A bit of an eyebrow raiser as a captain’s pick given his performance this season, but it was clear in the aftermath that he was the man the locker room wanted.

Expectations: If his true value really is in the team room, he sees the bench as much as anyone. This lineup doesn’t require a lot of handholding, so we’ll see how his potential partnerships play out. Given Dustin Johnson’s record of underachieving, he might be a nice project for Lefty.

 

J.B. Holmes

Experience: Rookie

Comments: After finishing 12th on the points list and ending the year with back-to-back top 10s, he was the obvious and safe pick when Jim Furyk bowed out. It only helps matters that Holmes was 2-0-1 in the last Ryder Cup won by the U.S.

Expectations: Very little, which could be a great thing for Holmes. His current form is strong and his history in the Ryder Cup proves he can handle this stage. How about J.B. and Bubba on the loose in Korea?

 

Team USA wins if: Spieth plays like Spieth and everyone else holds serve. This team is loaded with experience, most of which was good, as well as talent.

Nick Price takes another crack at leading the International Team, with K.J. Choi strategically serving as the Vice Captain. Also pitching in are Tony Johnstone and Mark McNulty. This squad is either due for an upset victory or facing mission impossible.

 

Here are the players that have chosen to accept it.

 

Jason Day

Experience: 4-4-2 in 2011 and 2013

Comments: The unquestioned star of the International Team will have his work cut out for him if the underdogs have any chance.

Expectations: I think we are all hoping to see him face off against Jordan Spieth in team events and/or singles, and that may not be a bad strategy for Nick Price to employ. Day topping Spieth could give his teammates added confidence and rattle the U.S. He has to have a winning record for his mates to have any chance.

 

Louis Oosthuizen

Experience: 1-3-1 in 2013

Comments: It’s all about the health for Louis. This has been a great season for the South African, and he needs for that to continue this week.

Expectations: Pay very little attention to his record, as he’s in much better form than in 2013. Fellow South Africans Branden Grace and Charl Schwartzel will likely ride shotgun.

 

Adam Scott

Experience: 12-15-3 in every event since 2003

Comments: This has been a terrible 2015 for Scott, and the putter is the reason as to why. That won’t change just because the event is what it is. In fact, the pressure could make it worse.

Expectations: Captain Price has to look past his name and look at his recent game. That means play him sparingly unless he proves otherwise.

 

Hideki Matsuyama

Experience: 1-3-1 in 2013

Comments: Arguably the second-best player on the squad, the Japanese budding star is critical to his team’s success.

Expectations: Hard to guess his potential partners, but he needs to play every session. Sending him out with Day would be a true “A Team” for the Internationals.

 

Branden Grace

Experience: 0-4-0

Comments: The old adage that all experience is not good experience is personified in Grace. He can’t do any worse.

Expectations: It stands to reason that the other South Africans are likely partners. He has to try and keep from being a boat anchor this time around.

 

Marc Leishman

Experience: 2-2-0 in 2013

Comments: Aussie is a PGA TOUR regular, meaning he knows all of the names and faces he will encounter on the other side. He’s also shown some mettle in several majors over the last few years.

Expectations: Must play to his absolute top potential this week. May trot out alongside fellow Aussie, Steven Bowditch. If so, they could be a due of underdogs that accomplishes big things.

 

Anirban Lahiri

Experience: Rookie

Comments: Just earned his 2015-16 PGA TOUR card via the Web.com Tour Finals. While that’s good, he did so rather quietly. If he can’t dominate that, how’s he going to perform when lined up across from Rickie Fowler?

Expectations: This moment might be a bit too big for him. Potential partner could be Thongchai Jaidee.

 

Charl Schwartzel

Experience: 5-4-1 2011 and 2013

Comments: Struggled at times this season, but his class is important to the squad no matter how you slice it and dice it.

Expectations: The temptation will be to stick him with Oosthuizen and see what they can accomplish. Schwartzel is back to playing some better golf after some rocky spurts in 2015, so it might just work.

 

Thongchai Jaidee

Experience: Rookie

Comments: Plays the vast majority of his golf opposite the true stars of the game, so he could get outclassed this week. He is a gritty competitor that will give it all he’s got.

Expectations: Could be a pretty polar player this week. It’s most likely that he’s a liability, but a scenario could arise where he proves to be an unlikely star.

 

Danny Lee

Experience: Rookie

Comments: Really came alive during the summer of 2015 and looked quite impressive. It cannot be overemphasized how much his team needs him to continue that this week.

Expectations: It wouldn’t be crazy to stick him with Jason Day, but the real bang for the buck would be if Lee could get hot with someone like Sangmoon Bae.

 

Steven Bowditch

Experience: Rookie

Comments: A captain’s pick is easy to support, the Aussie that has battled the demons of depression and is one of the better stories of the last few years.

Expectations: Aussie’s like to stick together, meaning Scott or Leishman make a lot of sense as partners. If an upset happens this week, he could be in the middle of it.

 

Sangmoon Bae

Experience: Rookie

Comments: While Nick Price had a choice, he really didn’t. The Koreans now have a person to rally behind. He’s worthy, winning on the PGA TOUR in 2014-15 and making it all the way to East Lake for the TOUR Championship.

Expectations: Visions of Mike Weir slaying Tiger Woods in Sunday Singles on his home turf are dancing in my head. Perhaps a Bae vs. Spieth Singles match awaits?

 

 

The International Team wins if: Several things have to happen. For starters, Day has to lead them by his actions on the course. The other thing they need is an unlikely hero. Someone to go something like 4-1-0 that nobody sees coming.

 

Prediction time!

 

My quick math shows 30 points up for grabs. Five on Thursday, five on Friday, eight on Saturday and 12 in Sunday Singles.

 

Expect the International Team to put forth a spirited effort and be even with Team USA at 9-9 through the first three days. Part of that is because Nick Price can hide a few of his weaker players on the bench during those sessions.

 

Sunday Singles will be a different story. The US is just too deep for the Internationals and they take the final session 7-5 for a 16-14 victory for Team USA.

 

Tune in, sit back, relax and enjoy!