09/19/2013

The golf season never ends. At least it feels that way. Just when the PGA closes its year in a faux dramatic playoff, a major international competition comes the week after. The Presidents Cup will never get the same attention as its more celebrated cousin The Ryder Cup, and justifiably so. The Ryder Cup has a longer history, a more heated rivalry, and more moments that casual golf fans can recall off the top of their heads.

Most Americans view the Presidents Cup as a tune-up for that more heralded competition. This seems a bit unfair to the members of the International squad who lack a marquee event to display their skills. It wasn’t their fault they were born outside of the United States and Europe. Perhaps the Olympics will change all of this when golf goes to Rio in 2016. Until then, we’ll watch the Presidents Cup and root haphazardly for US Ryder Cup candidates and a collection of international stars who have our pity.

This year’s event will be hosted by the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio. Among the twenty-four competitors- ten automatic qualifiers and two captain’s picks for each team- are eleven Major champions. Others like Jason Day, Hunter Mahan, and Matt Kuchar have been knocking at the door for several seasons. In other words, what the tournament might lack in prestige it makes up for in talent.

On the US side, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson lead Captain Fred Couples’ team. The remaining members represent a collection of the US’s enviable talent pool with a few surprises as well as notable absences. Kuchar, Mahan, Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley, and Brandt Snedeker would be on anyone’s short Ryder Cup list. Veteran Zach Johnson has recovered nicely from a jittery start to 2013 to also qualify for the team. Webb Simpson, a captain’s choice, hasn’t had the same success as he did in 2012 when he won the US Open, but he’s played well enough to garner a selection. Bill Haas’s breakthrough campaign earned him an automatic spot as well.

Captain’s pick Jordan Spieth remains the player to watch. We’ve highlighted the 20 year old multiple times over the course of the season here at USGolfTV and we’ll do so again. Spieth is the most talented rookie to come into the Tour in memory. His youth will bring a spark to an veteran laden team that might be jaded by the dimmer lights of exhibition play. In his case, Americans should keep a watchful eye on Spieth during the Presidents Cup to gauge his Ryder Cup candidacy. It’s no secret the United States would love nothing more than to recapture the Cup on European soil next season. Spieth could be just the man, or kid for that matter, to do it.

Conspicuously absent from the US Presidents team are Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, and Rickie Fowler. All three had their moments in 2013, but for the most part saw their career trajectories plateau a bit. Watson played sporadically, falling too often on the wrong side of the line he toes with his “Bubba Golf.” DJ battled injuries throughout the year and has only just recently returned to form. Rickie, on the other hand, just can’t seem to stay consistent. All three will compete for a 2014 Ryder Cup spot but will watch the President’s Cup from the sidelines.

On the European side of things, Captain Nick Price brings a group of Major winners and contenders, and some relatively unknowns. Ernie Els leads the contingent of talented South Africans that includes Master’s winner Charl Schwartzel, Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen, and two of the said unknowns in Branden Grace and Richard Sterne. Jason Day, 2013 Masters champ Adam Scott, and Mark Leischman, who finished in the top ten at Augusta this season, will represent Australia well. The ever-present Argentine Angel Cabrera anchors the squad. Hideki Matsyuama, Canadian Graham DeLaet, and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge complete the International team.

The Presidents Cup just doesn’t feel the same without Vijay Singh who has transitioned into Champions Tour play. But the International side boasts enough top talent to make up for the Fijian’s absence. Jason Day is my player to watch for the world’s team. Though he has yet to win a Major, he always plays himself into contention on Sundays. Often times during the season, I wonder where Day’s name is on the leader board. I have no such issue during the final rounds at Augusta and co.

The golf season may never end, but the Presidents Cup offers an intriguing cap to the fall season. American fans can look ahead and make conjectures about our chances at next year’s Ryder Cup. International fans can admire their favorite players who get their chance on a world stage.

The US has a commanding 7-1-1 record in the short history of the event. It’s worth watching to see if the tenth installment features a changing of the guard.

Dillon Friday

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