The President’s Cup: Pointless pain or possible pleasure?

John Erichsen Roar Guru

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    Jason Day (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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    In less than three weeks, the eyes of the golfing world will be upon Liberty National Golf Club for the President’s Cup, and if ever a concept needed something special, it’s this one.

    Despite the exciting finish in Korea, this event pales in significance to the Ryder Cup. Possibly because the Internationals have not yet uncovered their Seve Ballesteros and found a way to regularly steal the trophy away from the American favourites.

    Until the International team finds some back-to-back victories, this concept risks losing any appeal is still has.

    The format is sound but, at present, it reminds me of a Steffi Graf quote, from her days at the top of the Women’s game in 1987. Gabriella Sabatini, in an interview, had shared her excitement at the rivalry she had with Graf. Steffi’s response was brutal – “What rivalry?” I have beaten her ten times in ten matches. Is that a rivalry?”

    The US team and captain are far too respectful to say anything like this, but I am sure the thought has crossed a mind or two.

    So, with an International victory paramount for the event’s future credibility, let’s look at where this success may come from.

    In recent years, there has been more than a little hope that Jason Day may provide the inspirational spark, but his game has wandered a little this year, with a troublesome back and family health concerns providing understandable distractions.

    Despite some positive last round signs, Day still struggles to avoid the one or two uglies a round that hurt a scorecard. The pluses for Day are that matchplay rewards your good holes and poor holes are quickly conceded and forgotten. That won’t hurt and neither will the reality that Day’s game aligns closely with that of Seve.

    Long and occasionally wayward off the tee, Day, when confident, has a short game to match almost anyone and can putt the lights out.

    Hideki Matsuyama will be the Internationals’ big gun in 2017 – his form has been outstanding, there are no weaknesses in his game, and perhaps one or two big scalps at Liberty National might see him head into 2018 primed for a major assault.

    Hideki will need to match the best of the US team for the Internationals to win.

    Adam Scott is the Justin Rose of the International team: a fantastic ball striker and senior player in the group. He will want to lead the way and set the tone for the week, and his long game gives him the opportunity to do so.

    Will he hole enough putts to hurt his opponents? That is the only question mark over the 2013 Masters champion. Week in, week out, he hits more close than anyone.

    Australian golfer Adam Scott

    AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

    Louis Oosthuizen is a special player and will no doubt partner Brendon Grace in fourball and foursomes after their domination in 2015. Oosthuizen has a beautiful swing and when engaged with an event, he can shoot very low – the Internationals will be hoping he brings his A game to Liberty National. Showing good form in recent weeks, a sharp Oosthuizen will be a concern to the American side.

    From this point on we see the greatest disparity between the two teams. Their depth.

    Charley Hoffman is the 11th pick on the US team and he is ranked 22 in the world. Mark Leishman, ranked 23 in the world, is the International team’s fifth selection. I am not belittling the quality of the players outside the world top 25, however for every Brandon Grace the International team has, the US team has a Patrick Reed.

    Surprises in matchplay golf are not uncommon, in foursomes especially. The International team will need to start strong, keep believing and draw confidence from their showcase players if they are to have any chance of snatching the trophy.

    One last hurdle they will need to overcome is a doozy. No, I am not referring to the single victory from 11 attempts, as the past means little – look at the Ryder Cup. From the Second world War to 1983, Europe won only once (1957) with a tie in 1969 (incredible sportsmanship on the 18th green by Jack Nicklaus). Since then, Europe have won ten of 16 cups, with a tie at the Belfry in 1989.

    The last hurdle for the International team is that the US team has a ‘Phil’. My thoughts are that if the US have a ‘Phil’, the International team must find their ‘Seve’.