US seeking to continue Presidents Cup dominance
There is no doubt that the United States has history on its side as it prepares to defend its streak of six consecutive wins at the 12th Presidents Cup this week at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J.
However, it will take more than the swagger from past successes for the Americans to beat the International team when play begins Thursday.
The International side had arguably its best collection of players since it forged a tie with the U.S. squad in 2003 in South Africa after just missing a victory in 2015, when it lost 15 1/2-14 1/2 in Inchon, South Korea.
Of the 11 matches played since this competition began in 1994, the U.S. team has won nine times, the International team has won once, and one match was a tie, ending famously in the dusk at Fancourt in South Africa as Tiger Woods and Ernie Els of South Africa could not finish after three halved playoff holes.
For the Presidents Cup, the International team is made up of players not from Europe, and in this case, that is not a disadvantage.
The competition consists of 30 matches. Thursday begins with five foursomes (alternate shot) matches, and Friday will have five four-ball (best ball) matches.
Saturday's schedule will offer four foursomes matches in the morning and four four-ball matches in the afternoon. Sunday's slate will consist of 12 singles matches, with every player from both teams on the course.
There are no tiebreakers, with each side receiving a half-point if a match is tied after 18 holes. In a change inspired by the events of the 2003 Presidents Cup, if the match is deadlocked at the end of singles play, the competition will be deemed a tie and the teams will share the Presidents Cup.
The American team consists of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Daniel Berger, Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman and Phil Mickelson.
Hoffman and Mickelson were chosen for the team by captain Steve Stricker, who is the head of the American squad for the first time.
"My message to my players is that I don't really care what's happened the last 11 Cups or how many we've played," Stricker said. "We're here for what's going on this week and to take care of business this week and not worry about that. You know, our team has a job to do and they know that, and I'm sure that's what they are going to be worried about when it comes time to play."
The 12 players on the International team are Hideki Matsuyama of Japan; Jason Day, Adam Scott, and Marc Leishman of Australia; Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Branden Grace of South Africa; Si Woo Kim of South Korea, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela; Adam Hadwin of Canada; Emiliano Grillo of Argentina and Anirban Lahiri of India.
Grillo and Lahiri were the two captain's picks of Zimbabwe's Nick Price, who is the captain of the International team for the third consecutive tome. All except Kim, Hadwin, Vegas and Grillo were on the team that lost by one point to the Americans two years ago.
Price said the eight players returning from the close loss in South Korea have developed a strong bond that should help them in this year's competition.
"Even though we are a hodgepodge of a team from all around the world, we are all competitors and we like to compete and don't like to get beaten -- that's the bottom line," Price said. "This team is made up of a lot of golf's young guys who probably have another four or five Presidents Cups in them. They have realized how important this event is now, and they want to take it to the next level."
Liberty National Golf Club, designed by Tom Kite and the late Bob Cupp and opened July 4, 2006, is one of the world's most picturesque golf courses. It is located along the Hudson River with striking views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline. The normal sequencing of holes on the course have been altered for this event, with play beginning on the fifth hole and playing to order from that point.
The change makes it more likely that all of Liberty National's most memorable holes -- the ones near the clubhouse and with the iconic views of Manhattan -- will be played before a match ends.