Presidents Cup: Shouldn't this be called the U.S. Cup?
Look, the Presidents Cup is, for lack of a better term, a "shout out" to the non-European golfing world from the PGA Tour, which created and runs the event, writes Brian Heard.
I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but is it good? I'm not so sure about that.
What would be good? How 'bout we merge the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. The best of the U.S. against the best of the rest of the world every two years, match play. Bring it on.
That way, we'd have one real competition reflecting the balance of power in the men's professional golfing world - the U.S. and the rest of the world. Because them's the facts (pardon my colloquialism). Of the top-20 players in the world nine of them, including the top three, are American; the other 11 are not (see how I did the math there?).
Europe fared well in recent Ryder Cup history? Sure, they've won 5 of the last 7. But the all-time score is U.S. 24, Europe (which for many years was just Great Britain) 10 and 2 ties.
The much-less-historical Presidents Cup? U.S. 5, World (less Europe) 1 and 1 tie. Bring Europe and the rest of the world together and then let's see what happens. Get what I'm saying?
Plus, at least on the American side, the top players don't want to play a big-time international match-play event every year. It's pretty well documented that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson don't want to compete in the Presidents Cup. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has had to cajole them into playing. Mickelson, in fact, has been rumored to have told friends he was going to fake an injury to get out of competing in the past. He has a career 11-13-9 record (just 1-3-3 in singles play) in Presidents Cup play. Tiger's just 13-11-1 (3-2-0 in singles).
How seriously does the U.S. take this event? Well, Michael Jordan is an honorary assistant coach. He can help the best golfers in the world how? 'Nuff said.
Presidents Cup preview
OK, that's the rant. Now, on to the golf to be played, match-play format, of course, this week at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco, California.
In case you're unfamiliar with the format, here's how it breaks down - a little different than the Ryder Cup.
Thursday - Six foursome matches
Friday - Six four-ball (or best-ball) matches
Saturday - Five foursome matches, five four-ball matches
Sunday - 12 singles matches
One point is up for grabs in every match, for a total of 34 points. If a match is halved (tied) a half point is awarded to each side.
The lineups are these (World Ranking in parentheses):
Captain: Fred Couples
Assistant captain: Jay Haas
Tiger Woods (1st)
Phil Mickelson (2nd)
Steve Stricker (3rd)
Kenny Perry (6th)
Zach Johnson (18th)
Stewart Cink (13th)
Sean O'Hair (14th)
Jim Furyk (9th)
Anthony Kim (22nd)
Justin Leonard (38th)
Lucas Glover (17th)
Hunter Mahan (25th)
Captain: Greg Norman (Australia)
Assistant captain: Frank Nobilo (New Zealand)
Geoff Ogilvy (Australia; 10th)
Vijay Singh (Fiji; 15th)
Camilo Villegas (Colombia; 16th)
Retief Goosen (South Africa; 21st)
Ernie Els (South Africa; 23rd)
Angel Cabrera (Argentina; 28th)
Mike Weir (Canada; 31st)
Y.E. Yang (South Korea; 30th)
Tim Clark (South Africa; 37th)
Robert Allenby (Australia; 32nd)
Adam Scott (Australia; 99th)
Ryo Ishikawa (Japan; 43rd)
If you're alive and you follow golf even a little bit, you know the big lineup/selection controversy. International captain Greg Norman selected his protégé Adam Scott to participate.
Scott, a once up-and-coming Australian superstar on the PGA Tour, who posted six wins in his first six full seasons on Tour, has been terrible this year. The 29-year-old has missed 10 of 19 cuts, and only a tie for second at the Sony Open (the second event of the year) has sort of halted a shocking fall from grace. He hasn't finished better than a tie for 35th on the PGA Tour since January and is ranked 99th on the money list. He's totally lost his putting stroke and hasn't been very good off the tee or with his irons either.
Scott's had a little better success on the European Tour, where as a Switzerland resident he splits his playing time with the PGA Tour - but not that much better. He's 64th on the European Order of Merit and has seen his World Ranking dip all the way to 65th - not exactly worthy of a spot on a 12-man international team.
It's a personal decision by Norman, no doubt. But Scott has played in the Presidents Cup the last three iterations and has a 7-6-2 overall record, though he's just 1-2-0 in singles play.
As for the rest of the lineups, the U.S. team has five players on it in the top 10 in the world and 11 of 12 in the top 25. The International team has one in the top 10 (Geoff Ogilvy, 10th) and just five in the top 25. On paper, the U.S. should have another easy win.
But given Woods's and Mickelson's lukewarm treatment of the event, look for other American players to carry the Red-White-and-Blue colors, like first-timers Anthony Kim and Sean O'Hair, along with veterans Stewart Cink (8-4-1 record all-time), Kenny Perry (5-5-0) and Steve Stricker (7-6-0), who could be participating in their last or second-to-last Presidents Cup and actually want to be there. Jim Furyk (13-8-2) is an assassin in events like this.
Scott wasn't the only unconventional Captain's Pick by Norman. With the other one he took 18-year-old Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, who has won four times on the Japanese tour.
Historically, Retief Goosen hasn't been good in the foursomes (2-5-2), but he's been excellent in Sunday's singles (3-1-0) and in four-ball (6-1-1). Vijay Singh, the only player other than Mickelson to appear in every Presidents Cup, is just 1-4-2 in singles play, but 13-11-4 with a playing partner. Ernie Els has been solid in both areas - 3-2-0 in singles, 10-8-2 with a partner.
At 11-7-1 Canadian Mike Weir has the best career record for the Internationals and is 3-1-0 in singles play.
In addition to Ishikawa, the Internationals have a couple of other untested first-timers in Camilo Villegas and Y.E. Yang.
Frankly, the U.S. just has too much depth. Arguably its weakest link is Justin Leonard, but he's a veteran at these events and though he doesn't have a great record (6-11-1) at the Presidents Cup, he has had some terrific moments in Ryder Cup play, so just how weak is that link? Not very.
At the top of the order, the Internationals can compete. But when you're counting on an 18-year-old (Ishikawa), a two-time wonder from Korea (Yang), a struggling former stud (Scott), an unproven South American (Villegas) and two suspect achievers on this stage (Tim Clark and Robert Allenby) to score points, you're probably in trouble.
Look for the U.S. to win it - not a blowout mind you - but let's say 19-15.