The 2022 Edition of the President’s Cup will be the first major team event to be played against the backdrop of the LIV Golf Saga. Damien Kayat previews.
The President’s Cup
Quail Hollow Golf Club, Charlotte North Carolina
This will be the first major team event played in the backdrop of the current LIV Golf saga. And it’s going to have a massive impact on an event already characterised by utter American dominance.
The States have a resounding 11-1-1 record in this event. Their only ever defeat came in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. And who can possibly forget the scenes of Tiger and Ernie exchanging blows in the dark at Fancort in 2003?
That ended in a glorious tie that has nearly been wiped from memory by America’s recent superiority in this event. But 2019 seemed to suggest that a new period of International resistance was on the horizon.
The International side actually entered the final day’s singles with a 2-point lead. But the strong American team managed to fight back to win a thrilling event 16-14.
It was a performance that seemed to breathe new life into a somewhat flagging enterprise. But the LIV Golf experiment has possibly destroyed that burgeoning resistance.
Sure, America are going to be without the services of big-name talent such as DJ and Bryson (who would have both revelled in this bomber’s paradise). But the US PGA Tour offers a conveyor belt of talent that makes the difference negligible.
The International team has arguably lost its four most crucial players in Oosthuizen, Smith, Niemann and Ancer. And that’s not even including the likes of Leishman and Grace.
The roster of high-end International talent has just nowhere near the same depth as the American side. And it’s really depressing. It really makes you wonder what joy the American side could get out of this week.
The two teams will be competing for 30 points. Thursday’s play will see five Foursomes (alternate shot) matches. Friday’s play will offer up five four-ball (better-ball) matches. Saturday morning will see four more Foursomes matches before Saturday afternoon hosts four more Four-ball matches.
Sunday will then host the final twelve singles matches. All matches are worth one point with no playoff holes (half a point goes to each team in the event of a tie).
It’s basically a race to 15-and-a-half points. But I think nothing short of an emphatic victory will be considered success for the Americans.
The Course – Quail Hollow
Originally designed by George W. Cobb and opened in 1961, Quail Hollow has undergone a series of renovations over the years. It is wall to wall Bermuda and can be stretched to nearly 7,600 yards at the tips.
It has proven to be a bomber’s delight in recent years. Rory is a multiple winner here while the likes of Holmes, Hahn and Homa also hit it a prodigious distance.
Justin Thomas won the 2017 US PGA Championship staged here to further illustrate that point. There are six par 4’s out there that measure over 460 yards. Which makes it all the more incongruous that Immelmann snubbed New Zealand’s Ryan Fox.
Fox has arguably been the most consistent player on the DP World Tour for much of the year. And he can absolutely bomb a golf course. That combination of power and form seemed impossible to ignore.
Another thing of interest this week is the re-routing of Quail Hollow. Quail Hollow is famed for holes 16 through 18- affectionately known as the Green Mile. The Green Mile is considered one of the toughest stretches of golf on the entire PGA Tour.
With the home team able to set up the course, it obviously behoves the Americans to amplify the importance of the hardest holes (to take advantage of their superiority). The routing this year will be 1-8, 12-18, 10-11 and 9.
This will obviously bring the Green Mile into play far more regularly than a regular 1-18 layout.
Captain: Davis Love III
Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Cameron Young
Davis Love III will not only benefit from having a smorgasbord of talent at his disposal. He has also captained America twice in the prestigious Ryder Cup.
He lost in 2012 but got his revenge at Hazeltine in 2016. Let me give you a little stat to show you how little the LIV Golf absentees will affect this side. The average OWGR of this side is 11.6.
That is the lowest in the history of this tournament. Scottie Scheffler will lead this side after being named PGA Tour Player of the Year.
Key Players: Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay and Max Homa
Scottie Scheffler really shot to prominence with a brilliant Ryder Cup display at Whistling Straits last year. He almost used that as the springboard for his wonderful rise to the top of world golf. You can expect an assured display from the World No.1.
Patrick Cantlay had not won an individual title all season until a brilliant display at Wilmington. But he was a bastion of consistency throughout. He hits the ball a mile and took to Ryder Cup action like a duck to water.
Max Homa is sure to be relied upon heavily this week. He is a former winner at Quail Hollow and knows what it takes around here. And he is fresh off defending his title- rather fortuitously- at the Fortinet Championship.
One to Watch: Cameron Young
Sure to be named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Cameron Young shocked everyone with just how consistent he was with that power-based game. One of the biggest drivers on tour, Young consistently showed that he was more than a one-trick pony.
He picked up seven finishes of third or better (despite not picking up a victory). This included a runner-up finish at the Open and a T3 at the PGA Championship. I think he could intimidate the International squad members with his raw power.
Pros and cons
Their young squad has a plethora of players with either President’s Cup or Ryder Cup experience. They will also be playing at a supremely familiar course that tends to suit the American ethos of all-out power. I could go on. They are just a wonderfully balanced side. The likes of Spieth and Kisner offer great four-ball contrasts for the more explosive hitters.
As I noted earlier, what is there for this team to gain this week? It’s almost ‘lose-lose’. An emphatic victory will probably be met with polite nods of agreement. Davis Love III needs to protect them from slipping into a complacent mindset. And I’m sure that a few of these players are currently wrestling with highly lucrative offers from LIV. I wonder if that could cause some unrest in the camp.
Captain: Trevor Immelmann
Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, Corey Conners, Adam Scott, Mito Pereira, Taylor Pendrith, KH Lee, Sebastian Munoz, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Si Woo Kim, Cam Davis
I really feel for Trevor Immelmann this week. Firstly, kudos to Immelmann for becoming the youngest ever President’s Cup captain at 42 (eclipsing Tiger Woods’ mark of 43 years).
But his side have an average OWGR of 49.5. That is a 37.3 spot differential to the Americans (the biggest in the history of the tournament). What will Immelmann view as success this week?
Key Players: Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im and Adam Scott
Former Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama will be one man who won’t be suffering from an inferiority complex this year. He won twice last season at the Zozo Championship and Sony Open. He also brings some experience with four previous Presidents Cup appearances.
Sungjae Im debuted at Royal Melbourne and currently has a decent 1-1-1 President’s Cup record. Im won the Shriners last year and recently picked up back-to-back T2 finishes at the 3M Open and Wyndham Championship.
And in Adam Scott you have buckets of experience. He will be breaking his own record with a 10th appearance for an International side (gee, that’s a lot of pain). At his best, Scott is a ball-striking phenomenon and he has played some solid previous form at Quail Hollow.
One to Watch: Cam Davies
The other Aussie Cam. Sure, he may not have the mullet or all-round game of Cam Smith. But Cam Davies really came strong in the latter part of the season. He made ten straight cuts, finishing in the top 16 in six of those ten events.
It has been over a year since his lone victory at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. I just think he could be a sleeper hit this week.
Pros and Cons
This International side averages just 28.8 years of age. That is the youngest average squad in the history of the tournament. That is certainly something that nearly led them to victory at Royal Melbourne. There’s a fearlessness to youthful players that could prove ideal this week. They also have no burden of expectation this week. Many of these guys will feel lucky to be here after all the LIV guys were rendered illegible to play.
With that youth comes massive inexperience. Eight of the 12 players this year will be rookies. America may have six rookies. But several of those players have already experienced the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Ryder Cup action. The average driving distance of the International team will no doubt pale in comparison to the Americans. And that could prove to be huge. And there’s just a demonstrable quality gap.
This is going to be Liberty National Golf Club 2.0. I see no universe in which the International side succeeds this year. They need to keep things as tight as possible leading into Sunday. Sunday singles is traditionally America’s strength.
Predicted Score: 20-10