CHARLOTTE, NC – A lot has changed since the last Presidents Cup, when captain Tiger Woods led the 2019 US team to a 16-14 victory at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia.
Last week it was announced that Greg Norman was going to Congress to advocate for LIV Golf, Cameron Smith won another $4 million on the LIV Golf circuit and Max Homma defended his championship at the Fortnite Championship.
While professional men’s golf is more divided than ever, the sport will be united — at least among the players eligible to compete on the PGA Tour — starting Thursday at the 14th annual Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club.
Is there anything left? US captain Davis Love III’s team, which has five of the top 10 players in the world, is once again the heavy favourite. The Americans have won eight in a row and 11 of the last 13 meetings. After several players, including Smith, defected to the LIV Golf circuit, international team captain Trevor Immelman had to reshuffle his roster.
Love’s goal before the show is to make sure the team doesn’t lose confidence.
“I don’t think we need to do a lot of messaging or motivation,” Love said. “You certainly never want to be on a losing team and we know we’re going to be up against it. Trevor will have a team that has a chip on their shoulder and that motivation and wants to prove they can still be a contender. We’ve got to be careful. Of course these guys can’t take it lying down.
Here’s what to expect at this week’s Presidents Cup:
How it works
The Presidents Cup is a four-day tournament in which 12-man US teams compete against 12-man international teams (excluding Europe). There are 30 matches and the team with the highest total points after four days is the winner.
The schedule is:
Thursday consists of five four (alternate kick) matches.
Friday will consist of five four-ball (best ball) matches.
Saturday will include eight matches, with four foursomes in the morning and four fall ball matches in the afternoon.
Sunday’s final will consist of 12 singles matches.
Each match gets one point and both teams get half a point for each tie. If the teams meet after Sunday’s singles matches, there is no playoff.
Who is playing?
On paper, at least, Team USA looks like the favorite to win another Presidents Cup. Each of the 12 players on the US team is ranked in the top 25 of the Official World Golf Ranking, including five in the top 10. The international team has only three players ranked in the top 25.
The average world ranking of the US team members is 11.6. The international team average is 48.9.
Team USA includes: Scottie Scheffler (No. 1 in the world), Patrick Cantley (No. 4), Xander Schauffele (No. 5), Justin Thomas (No. 7), Colin Morikawa (No. 9), Sam Burns (No. 12), Jordan Spieth (No. 13), Tony Finau (No. 14), Billy Horschel (No. 15), Max Homme (No. 16), Cameron Young (No. 18) and Kevin Kisner (No. 25)
The international team includes: Hideki Matsuyama (No. 17), Sungjae Im (No. 19), Joohyung “Tom” Kim (No. 22), Corey Connors (No. 26), Adam Scott (No. 30), KH Lee (No. 43). ), Mito Pereira (No. 49), Sebastian Munoz (No. 63), Cam Davis (No. 66), Christian Bezuidenhout (No. 67), Si Woo Kim (No. 76) and Taylor Pendrit (No. 109).
Who doesn’t play?
The world team was dramatically depleted by players taking to the LIV golf circuit. The Presidents Cup is sanctioned by the PGA Tour, so LIV golfers suspended by the tour are not eligible to compete at Quail Hollow.
Australia’s Cameron Smith, world third and winner of the inaugural St Andrews Championship, will be the senior player in the international team. Chile’s Joaquin Niemann (No. 21), Mexico’s Abraham Anser (No. 24), South Africa’s Luis Oosthuizen (No. 33) and Australia’s Marc Leishman (No. 61) were also sure to make the team.
India’s Anirban Lahiri (No. 95) participated in the 2015 and 2017 President’s Cup and is not eligible this year.
“Oh, you’re definitely going to miss it,” Lahiri said last week at the LIV Golf event outside Chicago. “It’s close to my heart. I’ve been on two teams. I’m very proud to be a part of them, and they’ve been very special weeks for me. I’m going to support the international team wholeheartedly next week, and I hope our kids go there and put in a great effort and play really well. Yes, I mean, it’s something I care deeply about, and it’s sad how things are, but I wish you the best.
Niemann added: “Yes, it’s sad to see, but obviously I support the international team. I have a lot of friends and we share a lot of professional golfers throughout the year, at this time of year. Yes, I support them, and hopefully they beat the Americans.”
Will Zalatoris, who picked up his first PGA Tour victory at the FedEx St. Jude Championship last month, was on the American team. He had to withdraw himself from consideration due to a back injury. Two-time major league champion Dustin Johnson (No. 23) was also strongly considered for the captaincy selection.
What is expected
Not only did the Americans have a big advantage when they reached the world stage, but they also had more success in the three biggest match-play events: the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup.
Scheffler, who picked up his third PGA Tour victory at the WGC Match Play in Austin, Texas in late March, is 11-2-2 over the past two seasons. In the year In 2021, the Ryder Cup will be held at Whistling Streets in memory of Spain’s John Rahm, who was the world’s No. 1 player at the time.
Kisner won the Austin event in 2019 and tied for first with Scheffler this past season. He has a 22-7-2 record in individual matches. Horschel, who is making his professional debut with the team, is 13-7-2.
The international team has eight Presidents Cup starters. Only four of those players have competed in more than seven match-play matches: Matsuyama (11-11-3 individual), Conners (6-4), Scott (22-21-2 individual) and Si Woo Kim (individual) 5-9-3. individual).
Changing the direction of the green mile
Quail Hollow Club’s final three holes, dubbed the “Green Mile,” are considered the most difficult and spectacular holes in professional golf.
The 16th is the longest par-4 hole on the course and features a large peninsula with hazards on three sides. The tricky par-3 17th has water on the front and lower left side of the green. The par-4 18th has a creek running down the left side of the fairway, almost like a ball magnet as the pressure increases. By contrast, it’s the toughest finishing hole on the PGA Tour.
For the Presidents Cup, those holes will be played as Nos. 13, 14 and 15 to ensure they come into play during matches. At the 2019 Presidents Cup in Melbourne, each of the 30 matches reached the 15th hole, but 18 were decided before the 18th hole.
“There’s nowhere to hide in those holes,” Immelman said. “You’ve just got to go up and hit a great shot. There’s no room for bail. It’s just demanding. I think it’s a great idea to put those three holes in the meat of the back nine. I [can] 100 percent of the time you’ll see them ahead of the holes they can beat a little bit, no problem. It’s going to be a great thing.”
As part of the rotation, Quail Hollow’s normal 14 to 18 holes will be moved forward 11 to 15 holes this week. So players complete the traditional holes 1 through 8, 12 through 18, 10, 11, and 9.
The par-71 course is expected to play over 7,500 yards, so distance off the tee will be at a premium.
Another big change from the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club, which is traditionally held in early May, will be controlled fairways in Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass greens are stronger and the rough is a little thicker in late summer.
Players are not paid to compete.
Unlike the Ryder Cup, players do not earn money to compete in the Presidents Cup. Instead, they each receive $150,000 to distribute to charities of their choice. Since 1994, the Presidents Cup has raised more than $54.4 million for charity, including $5.4 million in 2019.