Next to the FedEx Cup, perhaps no golf event induces more shrugs than the Presidents Cup. The apathy comes from two things. One, the United States holds an 8-1-1 record against the International Team. Two, it’s not the Ryder Cup, the competition with far more history and prestige.
It’s unlikely that everything will change in 2015, but there is some added intrigue this year. For the first time in the history of the Presidents Cup, an Asian country will play host. South Korea welcomes 24 of the best golfers in the world to its peninsula home. Somewhat ironically, the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon is the course.
There’s also the push of potential International Team members led by a certain Aussie. Jason Day has three of his last four tournaments, including the PGA Championship in record fashion, to assert himself into the world’s best player discussion.
Just behind Day in terms of major performances, Louis Oosthuizen played about as well as one can at the majors without winning. He lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson at the British Open, narrowly missing out on his second consecutive victory at St. Andrews.
Then there’s Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace (T4, T20, 3 at the last three majors), Adam Scott, and Marc Leishman not to mention the diminutive yet dominant Indian, Anirban Lahiri. This International Team is loaded and should put a scare into whatever group Jay Haas brings to South Korea.
But if you consider the names above, you’ll notice one nation is absent from that talented list—the hosts. Part of the rationale in playing the Presidents Cup in South Korea was to celebrate the tremendous strides the country has made in golf. K.J. Choi, who will be a Vice-Captain in 2015, remains one of the more respected players in the game and YE Yang produced the greatest upset in golf history when he took down Tiger at the 2009 PGA.
Yet the current crop of Korean golfers sits outside automatic qualification. Sangmoon Bae and Seung-Yul Noh, both PGA Tour winners, sit at 20 and 35 respectively. Given his recent form, Bae could garner a captain’s pick from Nick Price, but that’s no guarantee. Besides, he’s behind countryman Byeong-Hun An (11) in the standings.
Koreans’ best hopes for seeing a native son, outside of Ben An, may be two young men who hold citizenship elsewhere. Danny Lee immigrated with his family to New Zealand when he was eight. In 2015, he entered the spotlight for the first time since becoming the youngest-ever winner of the US Amateur in 2008. Lee has a win and seven top-10’s this season after being cut in 15 of his 28 2014 events. He’s currently 10 in the standings with hopes to build his security this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.
In a recent interview with USGolfTV contributor Kenneth Quillinan, a South Korea resident, Lee admitted that making the Presidents Cup roster was his main goal for 2015.
The other Korean who could return to his birthplace is American Kevin Na, although he’ll need to play well and hope Haas takes the sentimental route (Then again, Jay’s son Bill is also on the bubble).
Korean fans may say see the dearth of countrymen in the competition as a disappointment, but the balance of the International Team, as well as the non-traditional golf countries the players come from (India and Thailand will be represented), suggests the Presidents Cup is moving in the right direction.
Making the team used to be a bit of a formality. That’s no longer the case.