The roster for the 14th Presidents Cup is set, and the Americans, who have won it 11 times in the past, appear to be the overwhelming favorites.
Team USA has five of the top 10 players and 11 top 20 players in the world, and the international team faces an uphill climb when play begins on September 22 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I don’t think anybody gets too caught up in being favorites,” said Kevin Kisner, one of six captain picks made by Team USA captain Davis Love III on Wednesday. “The motivation is to win for your country, your team and focus on the task at hand.”
The Americans have won eight consecutive Presidents Cup games, including a 16-14 win in Melbourne, Australia in 2019.
“[It] It was a bit closer than we wanted last time in Australia but we proved we can play and have a long road game and we have to take this home game one, seriously and two. Love said: “But our guys understand that anybody can win in the playoffs, and if they’re not ready, come Thursday lunchtime, somebody’s going to jump them.”
Here’s what to watch in the two weeks leading up to the Presidents Cup:
What would an American couple look like?
There seem to be two certainties when Love fills out his lineup: Jordan Spieth playing with Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantley playing with Xander Schauffele. Spieth and Thomas are the two most successful players in the Ryder Cup. Cantley and Schuffele have played four times at the last Presidents Cup in 2019. They also finished first in the Zurich Classic in New Orleans in late April.
World No. 1 golfer Scotty Scheffler and Sam Burns are best friends, so it makes sense to pair them together. After the Open in July, they vacationed with their wives in Greece. Kisner and Max Homme and played at the QBE Shootout in Naples, Florida in December, tied for fifth. Kisner could play with Cameron Young, a rookie who doesn’t talk much. Kisner says as much.
Gentleman Tony Finau can play with anyone — he played with Matt Kuchar and Bryson DeChambeau in the 2019 Presidents Cup and Harris English in the Ryder Cup. Maybe Finnau would be good with Billy Horschel, his character is a little hot. Two-time major winner and Presidents Cup starter Colin Morikawa can play with anyone.
What about the international team lineup?
After Australia’s Cameron Smith and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann defected to the LIV Golf Circuit, which left them ineligible for the PGA Tour-sanctioned Presidents Cup, international team captain Trevor Immelman had to scramble to build his 12-man squad. South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Abraham Anser, who are certain to make the team, will also play on the LIV Golf Tour.
Ethnicity becomes a common thread as Immelman brings out the pair, or it may not. Canada’s Corey Connors and Taylor Pendritt, who were college classmates and play a lot of golf together, are perhaps the same team. The same goes for Australia’s Adam Scott and rookie Cameron Davies, who is playing in his 10th Presidents Cup.
But Immelman said the international team has evolved to include players from different countries.
“One of the hurdles that our team has finally started to overcome over the last three or four years is that we’ve gotten to the point where we’re at the point where we’re getting the best out of a single nation,” Immelman said. “Over the last four or five years, we’ve found the atmosphere of the team. Players are very comfortable with each other, bonding with each other.
“I really have all the options for me. I shouldn’t try to put two Canadians and Koreans together and stuff like that. Even if it’s an option, I wouldn’t hang your hat on it.”
Mito Pereira and Sebastian Munoz are good friends. Munoz was waiting in the parking lot for Pereira after he bogeyed the 72nd hole of the PGA Championship at Southern Hills. There are four South Koreans on the team — Si Woo Kim, Tom Kim, Sungjae Im and KH Lee.
Hideki Matsuyama, another veteran, could be a steady force for rookie Christian Bezuidenhout. Imelman’s team is struggling to win, so if things go wrong early on, he can adjust his lineup.
Who was America’s greatest villain?
Love’s decision to pick Kisner was a safe choice. He is ranked 26th in the world and is a veteran of the smallest American team in Presidents Cup history. Kisner is a match play specialist, winning the 2019 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and finishing as runner-up twice. It is one of the best promoters in tourism.
“I’ve always loved representing my country and being part of a team sport,” Kisner told ESPN on Wednesday. “I can’t wait to play with these guys and see what they’ve got.”
When Will Zalatoris was forced to withdraw from the Tour Championship and the Presidents Cup due to a back injury, he made room for Kisner.
“Kevin adds some veteran leadership, someone in the team room that everyone likes to have around [and] It’s really easy to match up,” Love said. “We have veterans on the team who know guys who are easy to play with. We have statisticians, analytics that tell us who is easy to match and who fits the golf course, and Kevin as a veteran certainly fits that role.
Love might instead have gone with Tom Hoge or JT Poston, who are already ahead of Kisner in the Presidents Cup standings, or PGA Tour rookie Sahit Tegala, who has 11 top-25s and advanced to the Tour Championship.
Hoge was probably the biggest villain. He picked up his first PGA Tour win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February and had six top-10s. But six straight losing streaks this summer have had a predictable path. He finished 10th in the Tour Championship. He was next behind Yang, so it would be easy to keep up with him.
“I’d say our top 12 is good and our top 12 is pretty good, and that’s what makes my choices so hard,” Love said. “Start right in the automatic qualifiers. Obviously, it’s unfortunate that Will is injured. Our first 12 [were] Incredibly strong. We could have been out of the top 12 list. But when you start at 13 and go down, every one of these guys is a great player and they’ve had a good year and they have a case to play.
Who will be the emotional leader of Team USA?
Patrick Reed, who left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf, earned the moniker “Captain America” because of his strong play and passion at the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
In the year Horschel, who first competed on the PGA Tour in 2010, will make his debut in the International Team Championship at Quail Hollow. Aside from Rory McIlroy, few players have been defending the PGA Tour this season. And few players wear their emotions on their sleeve like Horschel.
“Can you get Billy back?” Love spoke. “I don’t know. I’ve been around Billy for years and I don’t know how to help him. You ride the wave a little bit. You know, he can definitely be overpowered. But sometimes that’s what we need. We need Billy Horschel on the first tee at Quail Hollow. They’re going to be over the top. And he’s going to be over the top, and I think that’s great.
Love said it was important to find a partner who could handle Horschel’s energy.
“I like playing with Billy because I want energy,” Love said. “I need someone to push me. [Tom] Keith was always trying to drive me away, making me more excited. Payne Stewart was trying to get me more excited. So the right person can carry the knee with Billy.”
How distracting will LIV Golf be in Charlotte?
The PGA Tour-LIV golf battle for the world’s best players has dominated the sport all year. The PGA Tour is hoping the slump is over after a wave of players exited the FedEx Cup. Sources previously told ESPN that Pereira intends to join the LIV Golf circuit at some point in the future.
There is no question that LIV Golf took a handful of the most experienced and talented players from the international team to hinder their chances at Quail Hollow.
“I feel bad for the game of golf right now. That’s the story, and how many days until we actually play,” Love said. “They are doing well this week. [on the DP World Tour] And the story is, you know, Billy Horschel and John Rahm wish there were no men. too bad. I really feel bad for all of us.
But Trevor has a job to do, and that’s to get 12 guys in there ready to play, and he’s focused on that. We talked a lot about this. I have to get these 12 dying people to play for a team. The USA is ready to play, and it’s going to be a great show once it gets underway on Thursday.[Former PGA Tour] Commissioner Tim Finch also used the word all the time, it’s a distraction. This is a big, big distraction that is far from what we need to talk about.