Pictured above: Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, Incheon, South Korea
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
The Internationals made the Presidents Cup much closer than anyone (including most of us) predicted. Did the Americans take their opponents too lightly or did everybody grossly underestimate the International squad?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I suspect the answer is: a little bit of both. But I also think that the Internationals, in the past, have suffered from nerves and a sense of inferiority, not a lack of talent. Whatever or whoever gave them more confidence this time around (the ghost of Seve again?) should be commended. It’d be terrific if they could ride this result to a victory two years from now, and make the Presidents Cup really worth watching.
Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: Regulars at this Round Table well know my distain for the PC contrivance, the faux competition scripted to fit the needs and wants of sponsors and networks. But with the Blue Jays in the playoffs, the NHL starting, the NFL getting interesting, US College football heating up, and with Canucks imitating an American holiday, there was entirely too much going on for the Prez Cup to get my attention. I did manage to watch one moment of the coverage from South Korea – a fleeting shot of Zach Johnson prepping to tee off at Number One wearing the worst toque in international competition (any sport) in digitally recorded history. Apparently there were no mirrors in the U.S.A. “team building” room.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: Everyone grossly underestimated the Internationals, but that’s not surprising, especially considering the largely biased media coverage in North America. I wasn’t around for last week’s question but told everyone within earshot (including the Twittersphere) the Internationals were grossly underrated, even after the opening session shellacking. And if it wasn’t for Jason Day, this would have been a lopsided victory (that’s right Lahiri…feel better, it wasn’t your fault).
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer @davykap): I was surprised it was so close. I thought the Americans had a distance and skill advantage on their International opponents going into the week. But, the International squad played with a lot of heart over the weekend and nearly pulled off a gigantic upset. Clearly, I underestimated Captain Nick Price’s squad.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): I think most pundits, including yours truly, were swayed by the World Rankings. Over four days of matches, the higher ranked group of players should prevail. However, virtually any top player on any tour in the world can beat any other player in a singles or pairs match and it doesn’t take but a few upsets to swing the results one way or the other. In the end, I think Captain Price got way more out of his squad than expected – it just wasn’t quite enough.
Craig Loughry, GAO Director of Handicapping (@craigloughry): I actually think the US just didn’t play well (overall as a team), and the Internationals just kept grinding. If Bubba and Fowler played better, it would have been a landslide. Of note, we did have a Canadian connection to the International squad in Danny Lee’s caddie: shout out to Kurt Kowaluk.
As usual, there were heroes and goats from the matches. Who stands out in either category?
Kaplan: On the American side, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker all looked dreadful for the entire week. Johnson and Johnson were both fantastic all week long, as was Phil the Thrill, aside from that wrong ball gaffe that resulted in the Americans losing not one, but TWO, holes in the match. For the internationals, the South African duo of Grace and Oosthuizen were unbeatable. They were the best players out there all week long, which is surprising because Louis was nursing a hamstring injury. Sang-Moon Bae also deserves the highest of praise for rising to the occasion and playing inspired golf for his hometown fans. Adam Scott sucked at putting with the short putter when it counted most … no surprise there! What was surprising, however, was Jason Day’s abysmal performance. He went 0-4-1 and probably wouldn’t have even earned the half point if Phil hadn’t used the wrong ball. Oh, and Lahiri … winless all week and missed a 4-footer on 18 in his final round to essentially clinch a tie for the US. What a disaster!
Deeks: No one stands out, in my mind. They all played their hearts out, and reinforced the principle of goodwill and good sportsmanship.
Loughry: Bubba Watson, he missed every important putt he looked at from very makeable range. JB carried him in team play. But by record, Fowler stunk for the US. Somehow Mickelson conjured up his best golf of the year for this event and really stuck out, displaying some unbelievable shots. The super goat for the Internationals was Day though: 0-4-1? Wouldn’t have expected that.
Mastroianni: Pretty obvious answers here, but for the Internationals, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace (love these two individually and as a team). For the U.S., J.B. Holmes and controversial pick Phil Mickelson coming up big. But Sangmoon Bae stole everyone’s hearts I think. Crazy we won’t see him for another two years. I just hope he can pick up where he left off.
Mumford: It would be too easy to say that Bae choked on the final hole, essentially giving the Americans the win instead of a tie. Bae played great in front of his home crowd and should be commended. My MVP pick is Branden Grace, who went 5-0-0 and in case that surprises anybody, it should be pointed out that he came within a hole of winning this year’s U.S. Open. Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Jason Day were no-shows for no apparent reason.
Does the close result elevate the Presidents Cup for future events and do you still think the format needs some tweaking?
Mastroianni: I always hold these team events in high regard so I’m not sure this week’s close matches elevates the Presidents Cup as much as it just makes it a bit more interesting going forward. I really liked it in South Korea and think it was a great decision to bring it there. Regarding the format, I’ve never been a fan of alternate shot/foursomes. That’s not golf in any relevant form to me. Some may scoff at this, but I’d much rather see a 2-man scramble format. Let’s see a bunch of birdies and see who can go lowest…give everyone a shot at everything twice.
Deeks: Yes, the result elevates the event. But as I suggested here last week, they could differentiate this competition from the Ryder Cup by eliminating one of the team sections (ideally, for me, eliminate alternate shot, which I find very contrived) and add more one-on-one matches. That’s what everyone likes to see, and where the real drama unfolds. Also, why can’t we have a round robin event every third year… i.e., the Internationals vs. the Euros?
Kaplan: Well, they need to move the date of the tournament. The bulk of this tournament was on at an unwatchable time and the replays were competing directly with both the MLB’s divisional series and the NFL regular season. This year’s Presidents Cup was quite competitive, but the International side was missing some of the highest ranked players in the world. If the Presidents Cup wants to have the same allure as the Ryder Cup, all of the top ranked players in the world need to be in attendance.
Loughry: Well a loss is a loss, but it certainly was close. This year’s event should garner more interest outside the US/Europe because of it. And there was some spectacular golf and entertainment displayed by both sides. No tweaking really necessary at this point (other than finding the matches on TV, which was a real challenge). I will say, just wait until China and India take golf seriously, that will certainly change this event.
Mumford: A close result always raises interest in a re-match. Given a few years of trading the trophy, the Presidents Cup could approach the Ryder Cup in popularity, especially with the emergence of top ranked players like Day, Bae and Matsuyama. However, I’d still like to see the annual team matches combined so that the winner of the Presidents Cup plays the defending Ryder Cup champion.