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.

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY PETER THORN­TON

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.

Charles Schwartzel.

Ja­son Day.

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