Internationals come oh-so-close in thrilling Presidents Cup

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 International Team didn’t win the Presidents Cup, but they came close. Some analysts and TV commentators (mostly American) suggest that the US Team’s victory was inevitable once they got over their jet lag. Others suggest the Internationals were simply out-manned, out-gunned and out-managed. How do you assess the loss and is there any valuable lesson for the Internationals that they can use to get a different result next time?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I would say the whole thing is over-analyzed!  The Americans just played a little bit better on the final day.  (And in the grand scheme of things, keep in mind that the whole shootin’ match would’ve ended 15-15 if Adam Hadwin had managed to sink his 10-footer on the final hole.  If that’d happened, everyone would’ve said an overall tie was the best result imaginable).  Lessons?  I dunno.  I think the only lesson is, if you lost, try harder next time.

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): I predicted a US win, but that sure didn’t look to be the case until late in the singles matches on the final day. I did enjoy the event, I’m sure many did. The Internationals just came up a little short is all. The US team were just a little more prepared and ready for that final day of play and made more putts with some poor play by the Internationals. The only lesson I can see the Internationals walking away with is knowing that they really could have won, and that they simply need to keep what I’d call a strategic aggressive pedal down when having a lead. I thought a few players took on some hole locations they shouldn’t and short sided themselves, essentially giving some important holes away. Its good to see the President’s Cup be competitive and get some much-needed attention.

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Life Member, PGA of Canada: Team play has evolved over the years. Early on the USA dominated because they developed their game using the ‘bigger’ ball, course conditions were better in the US and better weather. Over time, the ball size changed, and the European players began to play on better conditions, some of which came through play in the USA. They always struggled in the team format but since the introduction of the President’s Cup, many of the US players are involved annually in these types of matches lessoning the advantage held by the Europeans. Els did a very smart thing by building a team of younger players who will develop over time. A huge difference came from Thomas and Cantlay when they both holed ‘bombs’ on the last hole of their matches in the team portion of day two.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Well, it was an exciting competition and they were close this time.  I’m not sure that the jet lag excuse holds much water given that many of the International team had to travel a great distance to get to the event.  I just think in the end that the gap in talent was the difference.  The International team is young and should continue to get stronger.  If they can find more Sungjae Im’s, they’ll be set!  I think they learned that they can play ball with the US team and are very close to breaking through.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: OK, so there was the tie in South Africa, Weir beating Eldrick in Montreal and now a third Prez Cup that anyone I know has talked about. Most sports fans cheer for the underdog, and that was a classic. (The wonderful Royal Melbourne shared the starring role in all conversations). The discrepancy in talent was eventually just too much, and will be again next time around, especially on a U.S. parklands course. All we can take from Oz is, man, that one was fun.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Well, I certainly don’t think the Internationals were outmanaged. Ernie Els did a brilliant job and got far more out of his team than expected. That showed there’s not really much difference between a player ranked 20th and 70th. However, matches that turned on the 18th hole cost the Internationals several points. The Americans were just better closers than the Internationals. That tough to the finish grit comes with experience and winning. In future, the International Team should skip past a few choir boys with top 10’s and look for a couple of bad-ass players with trophies and attitude. Match play isn’t about rankings – it’s about winning.

Tiger Woods’ selection of Patrick Reed was initially questioned based on Reed’s past behaviour in team events, then again after the Rules violation at the Hero World Challenge. All week, Reed was a target for the Aussie fans and finally his caddie couldn’t take it any longer and pushed a spectator, for which he was suspended for the Sunday singles. Reed himself lost his first three pairs matches at Royal Melbourne and didn’t look anything like his former Captain America persona. Although he did win his singles match, he was clearly an unwelcome sideshow for the American team. Is it likely any future US captain will make Reed a captain’s pick? 

Deeks: I would say, no, he won’t be welcome ever again, unless he goes to Rome and gets the Pope to make him a Cardinal, and he renounces a lifetime of a being a selfish, obnoxious jerk.  That still wouldn’t mean anyone would like him.

Loughry: If any future captains pick him, it’s a mistake. Its not a guaranteed loss if Reed is on the team, but it is definitely a distraction. Why any captain would ever want to pick him would really confuse me. I think the only way Reed gets back on another team is if he makes it on his own play. It must have been hard to pick a partner for him, I’m sure there was a conversation had “do you mind playing with Patrick” how awkward is that? Or if the team is asked to list who you don’t want to be paired with, you know Reed’s name comes up on that list, frequently, or if asked who you would like to be paired with, there’s no chance Reed’s name is listed by anyone on that team. That has to be avoided, you don’t want that distraction, so I don’t see him ever being a captain’s pick again.

Schurman: Patrick Reed is an angry person who has a superiority attitude that arises from an inferiority complex. He appears to be full of confidence and given how many times he hits good shots he has every reason to feel that way. I doubt he will be selected for a spot in the future. There’s a big difference between the top 3 or 4 players and the next 5 or 6. Once you get to # 9, through 15 the gap narrows meaning Patrick had better finish in the top 8 because there are other choices at that point who come without baggage.

Rule: I was shocked when he chose Reed to be on the team, and you have to wonder if Tiger regrets the decision.  For me, it worked out great, because Reed and his caddie embarrassed themselves sufficiently that hopefully he’ll never be a captain’s pick ever again.  I just hope he doesn’t automatically qualify, or maybe they can come up with a new rule that the captain can ignore up to one auto pick!  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Man, he’s so unlikeable.  Boiled my blood that he won his singles match.

Quinn: Around the globe, golfers and sports men and women were celebrating that indeed there is a Golf Gawd as Reed went 0-3. Absolutely no chance he’ll ever be picked again for a team. He’ll have to play his way on. It will be good for both Cups if he stays outside the top 12 for years to come.

Mumford: Reed is a dead man walking as far as future captain’s picks are concerned. The only way he gets on a team is to play his way on. For that reason alone, I’d change the process of team selection to 12 captain’s picks, just so he couldn’t earn an automatic berth. The man is a blight on the world of golf and a serial cheater. Good riddance.

Given that this is our final Round Table of 2019, what was the highlight of the past year?

Deeks: For me personally, finally getting to play Cabot Links and Cabot Cliffs – 36 a day, walking, over two days. (I’m now having physiotherapy on my right knee.  Seriously.)   Also, following Brooke Henderson’s progress, week after week, as she racked up another stellar year, making all Canadians proud of who she is.  The rest of the Round Table may cite Tiger’s win at The Masters, but for me, the most heart-warming event of the year, bar none, was Shane Lowry’s home country (sort of) victory in the Open Championship… a magnificent performance on a magnificent golf course, in front of thousands of magnificent fans.

Loughry: Tiger winning the Masters. It was just so outrageous, the comeback from being ranked a millionth to winning at Augusta. This has to be the highlight of the year, no comparison. A close second would be Koepka’s performance in the Majors AGAIN: Masters: T2, PGA Championship 1st, US Open: T2, and The Open Championship T4.  Uh, that’s pretty impressive, a career for most, but the story and highlight of the year is TIGER, for both MASTERS win and getting his PGA Tour record tying 82nd WIN in Japan…. mic drop. GOAT.

Schurman: The biggest story has to be the comeback of Tiger Woods. He has a lot of good living to do to undo his past sins, but he appears to be trying. What I am enjoying is his style of play. He is actually swinging the club beautifully, particularly his driver. He shapes every shot and dissects a course rather than overpower it. He has always been one of the best putters who ever lived but now he is placing his ball like a true tactician. High shots, low shots, draws, fades, lots of spin, no spin, run-ups, stop dead. He is playing golf and will be very hard to beat because he simply doesn’t give anything away.

Rule: Hard to choose anything but Tiger’s victory at Augusta this year.  It ranked right up there with Mike Weir’s victory in 2003 for memorable golf tournaments for me.  I just hope it isn’t his last!

Quinn: I, for one, won’t soon forget the thrill of finding out that Kevin Tway had won the Safeway Open, first week of October 2018, to officially and confusingly and irritatingly kick off the mindless wrap-around portion of the so-called season. Trying to calmly look forward in the Tour imposed time warp from that stellar moment, a legit highlight was Rory winning the Canadian. Ever since our Open tumbled from its well-deserved status as the ‘Fifth Major’ when tobacco ads were banned from TV and the RCGA stuck with sponsor Imperial tobacco, I have maintained that the Open only counts and is only noticed south of the border — where the vast majority of the money and golf interest resides— if a star wins the event. That Rory won it after taking The Players and on his way to the Tour Championship FedEx bonanza and POY honours, put the Canadian right back on the map. This time next year hope to be discussing something, or many things, that Brooke accomplished.

Mumford: Lots of great moments in 2019 from Tiger’s win at Augusta to Shane Lowry capturing the Claret Jug to Rory’s thrilling victory in the RBC Canadian Open. But for pure theatre, I’m going with Suzann Pettersen’s pressure-packed final putt to secure the Solheim Cup for Europe and her announcement that it was the final putt of her career. What a magnificent way to go out!

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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