THE PRESIDENTS CUP 2017
It has been almost 20 years since the International team held aloft The President’s Cup for the first and only time.
We take a look at the International team's chances of winning this biennial event.
As many of the world's best golfers prepare for the biennial team's event at the Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey from 28 September - 1 October, Peter Thornton highlights five things he wants to see to reignite the rivalry of this competition that dates back to 1994. Pretty much all of them lean towards a much-needed International win.
A LONG AWAITED WIN FOR THE INTERNATIONALS
It has been a long time since that famous week at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in December of 1998. It was a special tournament for Kiwi golf fans with Greg Turner and Frank Nobilo right in the thick of the historic 20 ½ to 11 ½ win. They set the tone in the opening match of the morning foursomes on day one when they defeated Mark O'Meara and David Duval 1up. It was a point that inspired the team to great things. At the time, there was worldwide hope that the International victory in The President's Cup would ignite a rivalry between the Internationals and the USA that would rival the Ryder Cup. That dream never materialised. It has all been the Stars and Stripes since with the USA winning eight of the 10 Presidents Cup with only one tie at the 2003 event in South Africa. To put it simply the Internationals have to win to restore its credibility. The Ryder Cup has gone from strength to strength - any golf fan can tell you how special the Miracle at Medinah was - while The President's Cup has become a fizzer. No fight. No drama. Minimal interest. International captain Nick Price began the week in 2015 saying the future viability of the event hinged on his team finally making it competitive. It has gone another step now - only one result will spark some real interest in The President's Cup.
Had it not been for a disastrous start where only South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace managed a win in a 4-1 loss to start the championship
BELIEF THEY CAN ACTUALLY BEAT THEM
Two years ago when the teams converged on the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, the Internationals did everything but win the event. They went down 15 ½ to 14 ½ and almost created history. Had it not been for a disastrous start where only South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace managed a win in a 4-1 loss to start the championship the final day would have been much closer and tenser heading into the Singles. Many will focus on the moment when Sang Moon Bae had the chance to win the President's Cup for the Internationals. Bae had a chance to be a hero in his home country, but after his missing the green with his third shot and failing to hole out with his fourth, he conceded the hole and the Cup-clinching point to Bill Haas. Bae was a captain's pick for the Presidents Cup, and the event was his last before beginning mandatory military service. But highlighting that moment is unfair on Bae. Throughout the week there were many moments when the Internationals could have edged closer and taken the ascendancy. A bit more belief was all that was needed. Maybe after pushing them all the way in South Korea, many who return this year will know the USA are very much beatable. On top of this, they have many players Si Woo Kim (The Players), Jhonattan Vegas (Canadian Open) and Hideki Matsuyama (3) who have won big events on the PGA Tour this year.
Sang Moon Bae had a chance to be a hero in his home country, but after his missing the green with his third shot and failing to hole out with his fourth, he conceded the hole and the Cup-clinching point to Bill Haas
The bookies have them as clear favourites and everyone in New Jersey will be expecting a comfortable win on home soil. But that could play into the Internationals hands. If they get off to a good start, the pressure will only mount on the locals. No one wants to be part of the first USA team to lose the trophy in almost 20 years.
SOUTH AFRICANS STEP UP
We hear it every time. One of our biggest challenges is to make the International team gel with players from all over the world and the language and cultural barrier and blah blah blah. There is no doubt some merit in those claims but it is not a new challenge. To counter that the Nick Price captained team have three South Africans - Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charles Schwartzel - who are capable of beating the best in the world. Grace recently set a new major record at the Open Championship, Schwartzel famously birdied the final four holes to win the 2011 US Masters and Oosthuizen was on a different planet when he claimed the Open Championship at St Andrews. If they can combine well, they could form a much needed spine for the others to feed off. We know it is going to be a hostile environment with the US fans at their patriotic best (or worst depending on your point of view) so it will take players with plenty of experience in the US to counter that.
DAY GETS BACK TO HIS BEST
This time last year, Jason Day had arrived. Such was his confidence that he said playing on the PGA Tour in this form felt like it did back in his amateur days where he was the best player out there and that everyone was trying to beat him. He won the US PGA Championship for his first major title and his rise the World No 1 ranking was irrepressible. Day has not been the same player this year for a number of reasons but most notably the decline has been the health of his mother, Dening, who underwent lung cancer surgery in March. He also admitted that he has struggled with motivation in 2017 and that he has not been as disciplined as in previous years. “I've been working very hard. I've been trying to tick the boxes, and hopefully I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.” The Internationals could do with one of their best finding his magic at the right time to lead them.
TURN THE FAVOURITISM AGAINST THE USA
Being the overwhelming favourites is not necessarily a good thing. On paper - with the likes of World No 1 Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, US Open champion Brooks Koepka and of course Jordan Spieth - the USA have a team to win and win well again. The bookies have them as clear favourites and everyone in New Jersey will be expecting a comfortable win on home soil. But that could play into the Internationals hands. If they get off to a good start, the pressure will only mount on the locals. No one wants to be part of the first USA team to lose the trophy in almost 20 years. In Steve Stricker the USA have a rookie captain - who has said his captaincy style will be similar to that of former captain Davis Love III - but Stricker's low-key approach will change if things don't go his way. Both captains will be looking at their captain's picks carefully - Kiwi Danny Lee is probably too far off at No 19 to be in consideration - as they finalise on their team make up. Everything has gone the USA's way so far in 2017 with 30 of 47 winners on the PGA Tour this year coming from the States. Can they continue that dominance? They'll be favourites to but as they say favouritism counts for little when the tournament begins.
← Stuart Appleby celebrates the win during the 1998 Presidents Cup at the Royal Melbourne Golf Course.
Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace of the International Team during the 2015 Presidents Cup. ↓
Sangmoon Bae of the International Team hugs Bill Haas of the United States Team during the 2015 Presidents Cup at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in Songdo IBD, Incheon City, South Korea.