Or “5 ways to clutch at straws”.
In the face of a powerful American Presidents Cup team that has collectively won 21 major championships, five Accenture Match Play titles and with no player ranked worse than 28th in the world, it would seem the International Team has no chance of recording its second Presidents Cup victory this week.
But we’re an optimistic bunch here at Aussie Golfer and so while you’re pondering why there is no apostrophe in “Presidents Cup” we proffer five reasons the International Team may cause an upset at Muirfield Village this week.
The experienced minority
The 2013 International Team features seven débutantes, the most of any Presidents Cup team in its 19 year history. But the guys with previous Presidents Cup experience in Adam Scott, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel and Angel Cabrera can beat any of the American players on any given day.
Four-time major champions Ernie Els arrives at his eighth Presidents Cup and will be the mentor for many of the first timers. Good friend and US Masters champ Adam Scott is no longer just a team player but a leader on the International team. He has shown he can perform under pressure and will relish the weight on his shoulders. And who wouldn’t love to see him and Angel Cabrera paired with each other this week?
I’m predicting much better things from Jason Day at this year’s Presidents Cup than in 2011. He looked flustered for most of his time at Royal Melbourne and struggled to cope with the pressure of carrying the weight of expectations and his playing partners. Expect a dogged, fighting, winning record from Day at Muirfield Village.
The foursomes problem
If you could pinpoint one aspect of the Presidents Cup where the Internationals have always struggled, it’s the foursomes format. In the last three Presidents Cup the Internationals have a 7.5 to 25.5 losing record in the alternate shot format that is usually played on the opening Thursday. Often it has meant the team were the back foot from day one. Furthermore, the Internationals have won just five of the 18 foursomes sessions in the history of the event.
For the first time since the 1996 Presidents Cup, the opening session of play will feature four-ball matches, a format the Internationals have a winning record in. A winning start on Thursday would give the underdogs a huge confidence boost and a chance of a huge upset.
The Japanese connection
Shigeki Maruyama didn’t lose a match at the 1998 Presidents Cup and he is one of Nick Price’s assistants this week. He’ll be mentoring Hideki Matsuyama who is fast becoming one of the world’s best golfers.
Ranked 30th in the world, 21-year-old Matsuyama is the youngest member of the International Team and hasn’t finished worse than 21st on the PGA Tour this year including two top-10’s and a top-20 in three major appearances in 2013.
Of the 41 players who have represented the International Team just 12 have winnings records. This is hardly surprising given the overall results, but three of those players are from Japan – which bodes well for Matsuyama this week.
A recent repor at FoxSports has suggested that a dispute between rival watch companies Swisse and Rolex were behind Greg Norman’s departure as International Team captain. While it comes across as merely a conspiracy story and sour grapes, I can’t help but feel the change in leadership is a good one for the Internationals.
While not forgetting that Greg Norman’s single-handedly revived Adam Scott’s career by selecting him for the 2009 Presidents Cup and his mere presence at any event brings with it an air of intrigue and prestige, a new approach and a new face was needed.
Three time major winner Nick Price was part of the only previous International victory in 1998 at Royal Melbourne and will get the best out of his players. He was seen challenging Marc Leishman in the locker room prior to the Deutsche Bank Championship to justify making him a captain’s pick. Leishman responded finishing in a tie for 16th place and was selected on the team by Price.
Price has also expressed his distaste for the Ryder Cup in the past and is quoted as saying:
“I always like watching the nitty-gritty match coming down … where guys are struggling to make double bogeys. If you like root canals and hemorrhoids, you’d love it there.”
While I’m not sure on the context of this quote, it’s clear he’d like to enhance the status of the Presidents Cup – victory at Muirfield Village will ensure this.
A US victory is in the bag
That’s what the experts are saying and anyone looking at the match-up’s come to the same conclusion. But match play golf is not only the best golf format, but it can be the most unexpected. Remember when Peter O’Malley, and then Nick O’Hern upset Tiger Woods at the Accenture World Match Play?
Oh, and Jack Nicklaus said this earlier today:
— The Presidents Cup (@PresidentsCup) October 1, 2013
Now there’s a man who knows his golf.
Perhaps these aren’t clutching at straws after all.