CHARLOTTE, NC – The U.S. Presidents Cup team includes five top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings. Nine of them are ranked 15th.
The international team is no exception, with Australian Cameron Smith, the number three player in the world and winner of The Open, making the jump to the new LIV golf circuit at the end of August.
And history is on the side of the Americans. They have won 11 of their last 13 Presidents Cup matches, losing just once and drawing once. Many of the same American players were on the Ryder Cup team that blasted the Europeans 19-9 at Whistling Streets a year ago, scoring 19 points and winning 10 to become the first team in that historic event.
With the Presidents Cup being played on American soil, Quail Hollow Club, in front of thousands of American fans starting Thursday, it’s easy to see why the Americans are heavily favored to win again.
“I think it’s clear we’re the underdogs,” international team captain Trevor Immelman said. “In general, it’s a label we’re used to because we’ve been in this competition for years.”
According to Caesars Sportsbook, Team USA is a -750 favorite to win the Presidents Cup. Although anything can happen over the course of four days of golf, an international team victory is the equivalent of Buster Douglas taking down Mike Tyson or No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County in the NCAA Tournament taking down No. 1 seed Virginia.
“Just because you’re the favorite doesn’t give you any extra shots,” said Team USA star Scotty Scheffler. “We’re not going to start at 1. There are a lot of talented players on the PGA Tour. It’s a very deep tour, and the international players obviously have a lot of talent on their side.”
Still, the result is expected to be so confusing that U.S. team captain Davis Love III was asked by a reporter on Tuesday if he was worried about becoming the next Dennis Conner, referring to the crew captain who famously lost to Australia in 2015. In the 1983 America’s Cup, New York Yacht Club’s first unsuccessful defense in the 132-year history of the race. Or, as the reporter puts it, “a man who can lose the indestructible.”
“I compare the Ryder Cup to the America’s Cup,” Love said. Ted Turner lived down the street from us in Atlanta, just like nobody cared about the America’s Cup until we started losing, and nobody cared until we started losing. Then we said how can we lose in a boat race. i know?’ We are America.
American golf fans may feel the same way about the Presidents Cup if Love’s squad is on the wrong side of the scoreboard this week.
“We’re used to being the favorite,” said Love, who has coached two Ryder Cup teams. “When we win three Ryder Cups in a row they say, ‘Oh, they’re so popular’. Another captain or another team or [the media] Remember we are loved. So we’re used to it. That is on paper, and many great coaches will tell you that the game is not made on paper. They play on the golf course there.
It’s not like they haven’t done anything as international players. Japanese Hideki Matsuyama and Australian Adam Scott won the Masters. South Korea’s Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im have won several events on the PGA Tour. Canada’s Corey Connors, South Korea’s Tom Kim and Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz have each finished first once.
“They’re all elite athletes, and they’ve reached the highest level playing on the PGA Tour,” Immelman said. “Man, I promise you, you don’t get here by accident. You don’t get here by accident. You’ve put in a lot of work. You’ve given your life to it. If you’ve made sacrifices, sacrifices, time and money and blood and sweat and tears to get to this point, you’re not going to wake up one morning and go on the PGA Tour. These 24 players They are legal.
Some are more legitimate than others. A stacked American lineup includes Scheffler, the top-ranked player in the world, and three other major champions in Justin Thomas, Colin Morikawa and Jordan Speight. Xander Schauffele won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Patrick Cantley was the 2021 FedEx Cup champion.
Scheffler was the only four-time winner on the PGA Tour last season. Sam Burns won three times. Tony Finau won twice. Max Homa successfully defended his championship with two victories at last week’s Fortinet Championship, the first event in the 2022-23 Finals schedule. Cameron Young is expected to be a PGA Tour rookie.
“I can’t really imagine overconfidence,” Homa said. “The international team is great, and a lot is being made of it, whether it’s popular or whatever, but golf doesn’t really allow for that.” Golf course preparation and everything else is a big deal. So we have a good team. We have a great team. I think it will be a good golf tournament.
A big upset happened in golf: 20-year-old amateur Francis Ummett in 2011. He won the 1913 US Open at his home course, the Country Club for Beginners in Brookline, Massachusetts. There were surprising major championship winners like Larry Mize, who took down Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in a playoff at the 1987 Masters. YE Yang of South Korea comes from behind to take down Tiger Woods in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
Captain Immelman, who won the 2008 Masters Woods by 3 strokes after the international team had surgery to remove a tumor the size of a golf ball, was pressing on his diaphragm months later.
Immelman said having eight starters on the 12-man roster could be an advantage. They are unscarred for eight straight losses in the Presidents Cup. They were not part of the 2017 team, which trailed 14½ to 3½ at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, after Saturday’s matches.
“I think what sets us free is because we have nothing to lose,” Immelman said. “If you look at our record in this competition and if you look at our world rankings against their world rankings, we have nothing to lose.”
His advice to his underlings: “Have a blast and uh, rip.”