The 12th staging of the Presidents Cup will not only be another victory for the Stars & Stripes but also a high profile for the current Commander in Chief.
Mike Wilson looks ahead to the 12th staging of the Presidents Cup, which will take place at the Liberty National GC in New Jersey and predicts not only another victory for the Stars & Stripes but also a high profile for the current Commander in Chief.
Staged biennially in non-Ryder Cup years, the Presidents Cup between the USA and an International team is said by some insiders to be preferred by some of the PGA Tour players to the more traditional event against Europe. Perhaps this is because contrary to received wisdom, PGA Tour players enjoy the remuneration they so clumsily - and unsuccessfully - demanded from the Ryder Cup. Or because the USA enjoys the sort of domination it no longer has to Europe.
Conceived and created by the PGA Tour, the biennial Presidents Cup has handed the fingerprints of the Big-3 - Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player all over it. The triumvirate captained the two teams on a combined eight occasions and staged at Muirfield Village, owned by the Golden Bear and his eponymous golf club at Incheon, South Korea on successive occasions, 2013 and 2015.
Two great Australians, Peter Thomson and Greg Norman skippered the International Team five times between them. Zimbabwean Nick Price captain for the third successive time this year, going up against US captain Steve Stricker.
Historically, the International Team, the restof-the-world minus Europe has only managed to lay a blow on their American cousins once with a convincing 20½–11½ victory at Royal Melbourne in 1998 - to where the event returns in 2019 - that team comprising this year’s nonplaying captain Price, Joe Ozaki, Craig Parry, Vijay Singh and Greg Norman.
The International Team also secured a tie against the USA over the fearsome Fancourt Links in South Africa in 2003. Otherwise, it’s been nine American victories in 11 meetings, and it’s hard to make a case for any reversal in fortunes at the end of the month.
Like the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup mimics in almost every way, strength in-depth is vital, especially when it comes down to the Sunday singles. And, although the top three in the International Team, Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day are in the top 10 on the OWGR, with Adam Scott inside the top 20, the top two Americans Johnson and Spieth and six in total in the top 15 of the OWGR with eight more in the top 30.
And, whilst the three South African International Team probable - Oosthuizen, Schwartzel and Grace are all redoubtable performers, especially in match play, Australian Marc Leishman, Korean Si Woo Kim, South Americans Jhonattan Vegas (Venezuela) and Emiliano Grillo (Argentina) are neither individually or collectively likely to strike fear into American hearts. Especially on home soil with huge jingoistic galleries fired up for what they will see in the US versus the rest-of-the-world.
And that’s the small matter of two captain’s picks.
Stricker has at his disposal the man with
the best Presidents Cup record of all time; Phil Mickelson has made the most appearances, the most overall points as well as the best return in foursomes and fourballs.
Stricker then has one to pick from Patrick Reed, Brian Harman, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Ryan Moore, Bubba Watson, JB Holmes, Webb Simpson et al., a veritable embarrassment of riches.
For his part, International skipper Price can add a Korean spine to his team with Byeong Hun An, (#65) and Jeunghuan Wang (#72). Or create a Japanese heart by adding Hideto Tanihara (#52) and Yuta Ikeda (#68) to Shooin Matsuyama, but, beyond that, his options are limited.
Alternatively, he may opt for experienced Canadian Adam Hadwin and/or the ever-steady Graham DeLaet (or even Austin Connelly), or look to Asia for the fearless young Chinese star Li Haotong following his third place in the Open Championship. Adding Danny Lee to a strong Australian presence, take a chance of Anirban Lahiri or go for outright experience with Thongchai Jaidee.
And, as if the odds were not high enough against Nick Price’s 12-man team, the venue, Liberty National GC in New Jersey is nailed-on certain to suit and be set up for the USA. That’s the name of the game in Ryder Cup, and the Presidents Cup is no different.
Both the front-nine of this dramatic urban course, which sits in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty and the towering Manhattan skyline have three Par-4 holes close on 500-yards – the fourth is a Par5 measuring 611 yards, favouring the big-hitters of the PGA Tour. And there is both water and sand aplenty to punish anything remotely off the line.
Designed by former PGA Tour star Tom Kite and renowned golf course architect Bob Cupp, at 7,353 yards and Par-71, Liberty National is a golf course on steroids and more than enough to strike fear into the hearts of a talented - but limited - International Team.
Opened for play in 2006 at a reported cost of US$250m, Liberty National has already hosted the Barclays, the-then pre-FedEx Cup event in 2009 and again in 2013, won by Heath Slocum and Adam Scott respectively. So, honours are even on that if no other score.
Then there is the Presidential question; at each event, whether in the USA or elsewhere, there is a tradition of a sitting president affiliated with the event as a quasi-ambassador, Barack Obama - a huge golf fan - twice in 2009 and 2013. Park Geun-hye, President of South Korea when the event was staged at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, where no doubt, knowing the modus operandi of recently retired PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem, the foundation stones of this year’s controversial CJ Cup at Nine Bridges would have been laid.
2017, close to New York City and his Trump Towers HQ in the Big Apple, the 12th Presidents Cup will form the perfect stage for the 45th President of the USA, Donald J Trump.
Never to miss an opportunity for self-promotion and political point-scoring, Trump, himself a keen golfer and owner of a large portfolio of golf resorts including nearby Bedminster and the Blue Monster at Doral will be all over the event like a rash. No doubt using it to his political gain whilst wheeling-anddealing to have the 2029 Presidents Cup, the next available on US soil after Quail Hollow in 2021 and TPC Harding Park in 2025.
But then the 2023 overseas venue has yet to be announced, what chance is the Trump Moscow Resort rumoured stepping forward to host the event, with his close friend Vladimir Putin as the Presidential ambassador?
2017 Presidents Cup Captains - Steve Stricker (Center) and Nick Price (Far Right) will lead the US and International Team respectively
Tiger Woods hits his second shot on the 12th during the final round of The Barclays at Liberty National Golf Club in 2013