So who wants to read a lengthy preview of an event you probably didn’t even know was about to occur? Possibly no one. But, here goes—tree falling in an unpopulated woods.
Tomorrow begins the 10th President’s Cup matches, more commonly referred to as “The Ryder Cup With Different Foreigners And No Tradition or Drama.” The President’s Cup pits the International Team, comprised of the world’s best players not from the U.S. or Europe, versus the American Team. In the nine previous competitions, the US has a dominant record of 7-1-1. Yes…there was a tie…due to darkness and too much gutless pathetic collegiality.
The US has won often and easily in the President’s Cup, and no one can really figure out why. Is it because there’s no history, bad blood or attention paid to the event and thus no pressure? Is it because the International Team has no identity, nothing to bond over and in some years they all speak different languages? Is it because Greg Norman spent his four years as captain off banging all the International players’ wives while the matches are going on and they all knew it? MAYBE. In several past competitions, the Internationals have had a much stronger team than the US on paper (based on World Golf Rankings) and have still lost. Interestingly, this year, quite the opposite is true.
The President’s Cup has the same format as the Ryder Cup, except when it doesn’t. It’s similar in that two man teams play fourball (aka best ball) and foursomes (aka alternate shot)matches leading up to singles matches on Sunday. It’s different in that it’s a four day event (Ryder is just three), all 20 players play on Thursday and Friday and the captains get to take turns picking the matchups (in the Ryder Cup, captains just hand in an order of players blindly and it gets matched up with the other team’s order). In the Ryder, if the matches end in a tie, the team holding the Cup keeps the Cup (because fuck you, commies). In the President’s Cup, if it ends in a tie, the teams “share” the Cup, everyone gets a participation trophy and an “I’m Special” tee shirt and our country grows weaker, softer and the Chinese laugh. In 2003, the format stated that if The Presidents Cup ended in a tie, each Captain had to pick one player and those guys played sudden death until someone won—which is an awesome idea. Captain Nicklaus picked Tiger, Captain Player picked Els, and they played an awesome couple of holes without anyone winning. And then it got dark. And someone forgot to warm up Uncle Jack’s milk and tapioca pudding and we had to call it a tie and it was the greatest moment of sportsmanship, integrity and class since Jesus himself came down from heaven and broke up a fight in the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals. In short, it sucked.
The International Team (world ranking in parenthesis), captained by three time major winner Nick Price (Zimbabwe) consists of:
Adam Scott (AUS) (2)
Jason Day (AUS) (16)
Charl Schwartzel (SA) (19)
Ernie Els (SA) (23)
Louie Oosthuizen (SA) (29)
Branden Grace (SA) (38)
Graham DeLaet (CAN) (32)
Richard Sterne (SA) (41)
Angel Cabrera (ARG) (51)
Marc Leishman (AUS) (61)
Brendon de Jonge (SA) (63)
Hideki Matsuyama (Japan) (30)
|Happy now, Shlara?|
The US Team is captained by Fred Couples for the third consecutive year, because everyone likes Fred Couples and because Ben Crenshaw and Paul Azinger and 12 other guys did not return calls.
Tiger Woods (1)
Brandt Snedeker (9)
Phil Mickelson (3)
Matt Kuchar (8)
Jason Dufner (10)
Keegan Bradley (15)
Steve Stricker (7)
Bill Haas (28)
Hunter Mahan (26)
Zach Johnson (11)
Webb Simpson (Captain's Pick) (24)
Jordan Spieth (Captain's Pick) (21)
That team is stacked. As long as Hunter doesn’t shit all over himself again like he did in 2010 Ryder Cup and Dufner doesn’t run out of Skoal Wintergreen, this should be a blowout. And I think we are all looking forward to Keegan Bradley being paired up with Phil Mickelson again so he can reenact this scene all over the back nine at Muirfield.
This year’s event will be played at Muirfield Village Country Club in Dublin, Ohio, which is a suburb of Columbus. I spent two summers caddying at MVCC, where I was taught to 1) show up, shut up and keep up and 2) how to smoke weed inconspicuously whilst fore-caddying. Muirfield Village was among the first courses Jack Nicklaus designed and is also where he still lives part time with Barbara and the kids and his insanely high pitched nasally voice. It is home to the annual Memorial Tournament and hosted the 1986 Ryder Cup, which the US lost in a pretty stunning upset, but that’s another story for another time…like the one about the hooker with dysentery.
Tiger Woods has had incredible success at Muirfield (in 17 Memorials, Tiger is 171 under par on the par 5s. Seriously) and Matt Kuchar won the Memorial this year, two things that do bode well for the Americans. Like most Nicklaus courses, especially the early ones, every hole seems to be designed with Jack Nicklaus left to right ball flight in mind. Almost every tee shot sets up nicely for a fade (or a draw if you're a lefty like Mickelson), and players who rely upon a draw are going to encounter some shots that don't fit their eye. I'm not sure Muirfield has a “signature” hole (and I never did find the glory hole I keep hearing so much about), but both 12 and 18 serve as pretty memorable challenges. 12 is a daunting par 3 over water where the golfer finds himself teeing off almost 100 feet above the hole staring down at a green that appears to run away from you towards the water. It should make for some interesting play in some tighter matches. The 18th is a lengthy par 4 with one of the tougher tee shots you’ll find. Extremely tight fairway. Miss the fairway left and you find a creek, miss it right and you are in a bunker and blocked out by trees. If you decide to hit three wood, you’re left with a long iron into an elevated, well bunkered green. Good times all around.
From the perspective of the viewer this weekend, the par 5s will provide the most entertainment as all of them present great risk/reward opportunities. Both #5 and #11 have creeks weaving down the middle of the fairway which may dissuade some from using driver off the tee. And, both are pretty easily reachable in two. The second year at worked at Muirfield, I was assigned to work the driving range during The Memorial. We had a rain delay during the final round…which meant that all the golfers went to the locker room to take cover. Except for that asshole Vijay Singh. Vijay, who was leading the tournament at the time, headed straight for the range. Vijay was on the par 5 11th when play was suspended--he had 231 yards left to the hole for his second shot. So, in a driving rainstorm, he had his caddie pace off exactly 231 yards and stand, alone, out in the middle of the range getting douched with rain while Vijay pounded 3 woods at him. This went on for almost a half hour. I would guess Vijay hit 100-150 3 woods. And then it was announced that play was suspended for the day. Fast forward to Monday’s re-start, and Vijay stuck the 3 wood to two feet, tapped in his eagle and won the tournament. But he’s still an asshole. And his caddie hates him.
The US wins again going away. I was considering the contrarian pick here, because the US always won this thing when the Int’l Team looked stacked…but I’m just not seeing it. The average World Golf Ranking on the American team is 13.6 and for the Internationals its 35.4. That seems to make a International win seem highly unlikely.
This morning's opening matches are as follows:
Mahan/Sneds vs J-Day/DaLaet - I like the internationals here. This pits two of our emotionally shakier guys together --seems like a bad pairing. Also, Jason Day is a member at Muirfield Village--his wife is from Columbus. So, that feels like an advantage.
Haas/Simpson vs Scott/Matsuyama - I like the internationals here as well. Matsuyama is a really solid young player and Adam Scott has been amazing this year. Webb Simpson has had issues all year and Bill Haas is bald...so that can't help matters.
FIGJAM/Keegan vs Louis and Charl - I like team spazz here to get some points up for the good guys. "Charl" is not a name.
Stricker/Speith vs Els/deJonge -Speith is an incredible talent (I have his picture in my hope chest next to my Rand Paul centerfold from National Review) and Stricker's Midwestern folksiness and putting stroke will win the day here. I will refer to this International pairing as El Debarge all day.
Kuch/Eldrick Woods vs Cabrera/Leishman - This one really depends on whether or not Angel feels like trying this weekend. I don't think he does. I think he plans to duff it around, take the Marlboro train to flavor country 40 times a round and drink a gallon a brandy at lunch.
Johnson/Dufner vs Rissoli and Isles - Its actually versus Grace and Sterne...who don't play in the US much. I like the Americans here based solely on jingoistic homerism. That said, I worry about this pairing. Johnson's a big God-squader and I bet Dufner thinks he's about a much fun as a kick in the pants. Put Johnson with Mahan so they can quote scripture for 18 holes and put Dufner with Woods or Speith so they can talk about getting "strange"and hand jobs.
So, I've got it 4-2 US after session #1. Let's go get em.