10/06/2016

While the cheers from Hazeltine are finally wearing off—as are the beers from the celebration, but that’s a different story—that other biannual team golf event decided to make announcements for its next installment.

On Wednesday, the 2017 Presidents Cup captains announced who would join their staffs for the next year’s competition. Steve Stricker tabbed Fred Couples, Tiger Woods and Davis Love III, while opposing skipper Nick Price named Ernie Els, Tony Johnstone and Geoff Ogilvy.

The storylines are obvious. Love will return to international competition after guiding the Americans to their first Ryder Cup victory in eight years this past weekend. He will bring good vibes to Liberty National Golf Club next fall and maybe offer a stewardship as well.

It’s no secret that the Presidents Cup has often served as the tune-up for its more celebrated cousin. This is true of both players and captains. Stricker takes the reins at the former with the hopes of landing a captain’s spot at the latter. He’ll eventually get a call, maybe as soon as 2020 when the Ryder Cup goes to his home state of Wisconsin.

Love had Stricker on his staff in Minnesota and now Strick returns the favor. It’ll be interesting to watch how Love’s role changes or how much Stricker leans on him.

As for the other American assistants, Tiger Woods stands out considering the post-Ryder Cup press conference. He said he would accept being a vice-captain again, but he’d rather play. We’ll see how healthy he is over the next year, but if Phil Mickelson can card 10 birdies at 46, perhaps a reinvigorated Tiger can play his way on to the American team. Stricker addressed that Wednesday.

“Tiger certainly could play his way onto the U.S. Team, and if that happens, replacing him as a captain’s assistant will be a great problem for me to have,” said Stricker. “But if he doesn’t, I’m honored he accepted this role for the first time in his impressive Presidents Cup career.”

Ernie Els holds a similar position for the Internationals. Although his 2016 season may be remembered for that disastrous eight-putt (or was it nine?) at The Masters, he’s only four years removed from his last major. How will he take on this leadership role? Perhaps more importantly, how will his fellow players respond to his somewhat prickly personality?

The rest of the International Team’s leadership speaks to its poor record in the event. The Internationals have defeated the Americans just once since the competition was introduced in 1994.

While Tony Johnstone and Geoff Ogilvy were fine players in their day—Ogilvy, remember, was the beneficiary of Mickelson’s collapse at Winged Foot—neither match the cache of Tiger, Couples, Love or Stricker for that matter.

It will be an uphill battle once again, one that Johnstone is used to by now. He will team with Price for the third consecutive Presidents Cup. Can the Zimbabweans finally make a competition of this thing? We’ll see in a year’s time.