Players can talk all they want about “Anytime you put on your country’s colors, it matters a little more,” but that’s not going to sell the Presidents Cup to the casual fan.
Why? Two reasons.
First, it’s not the well-established Ryder Cup. Second, the United States holds an 8-1-1 record in the tournament. It’s been a lopsided affair from the start, so most of us treat it like an exhibition.
Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with that. It is supposed to show the international progress the game has made over time. This year, though, could be a turning point. The Cup will take place in South Korea and the Internationals are loaded one through 12.
Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen and co. will beat the Americans and possibly turn the tide of this biannual clash.
But before we go there…
First: The Course
The course to host the 2015 Presidents Cup is the first Korean host in Presidents Cup history– the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea. It’s about 40 miles west of Seoul, close to the town of Incheon.
Open to play since 2010, this private layout features a 7,300 yard “challenge to players of all playing levels,” according to Jack’s official design website. The course is the focal point of an environmentally focused green space program in place to preserve some of the beautiful natural habitat in South Korea– a country growing in population and shrinking in available real estate.
Minimalistic, this course is not. A lot of soil was moved and a lot of water hazards come into play– in fact, hazards are in play on 9 of the 18 holes. Nicklaus challenges players off the tee with classic fairway bunkering along with utilization of the nice elevation change in Korea.
Check out these videos and familiarize yourself with things:
Hole-by-hole with Jack Nicklaus:
And here are the five reasons why.
1. Location, location, location
The Americans will have to travel to Incheon, South Korea to defend their title. Forget that Jack Nicklaus’ name is attached to the course. Koreans, Japanese and Australians will line the fairways to provide a home-field advantage previously unseen for the International side. Factor in a 13-hour time difference and you have the makings for some jet lag.
Trust me, my friend who just got back from a 3-month deployment there felt that jet lag. The Americans will too.
2. Jason Day
No one has played better from August on than Jason Day. Not even Tour Championship winner Jordan Spieth. Day is not only the best thing going for the Internationals, he’s also immensely popular with his teammates. They’ll feed off his energy and focus.
For the first time in seemingly forever, 10 of the Internationals 12 players are ranked inside the top-50 of the Official World Golf Rankings. That range stretches from Day at no. 2 down to former Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel at 47.
The team features a strong mix of bombers and finesse players as well as a few wild cards, such as Indian upstart Anirban Lahiri and Danny Lee, the 2008 US Amateur Champion who won the Greenbrier and played very well down the stretch on the PGA Tour. Meanwhile, Oosthuizen put together quite a summer at the majors.
He finished T2 at both the US Open and the Open Championship.
Or lack thereof as far as the Americans are concerned. South Korea offers a different climate, time zone, geography, language as well as diet than the US team is accustomed to.
There are also five rookies on the International side, which means the tape on their match-play game is rather short.
And when talking about the familiarity of the event, Matsuyama is going to feel very comfortable, only a boat ride from his home course.
Speaking of those five rookies, the International Team will be looking to make its mark in general. The positive energy from the quintet of newcomers will aid a group looking to put its marquee event on the golf calendar for good. A win deep in home territory would surely do that.
Consider how excited Anirban Lahiri is to prove himself on the world stage being the first Indian to ever compete.