Insider: Breaking down the 24 players set to compete

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
The U.S. Team and International Team have been set. Now the focus is on Muirfield Village Golf Club.
September 04, 2013
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Now that The Presidents Cup teams are complete, here’s a quick look at the 24 players who’ll compete at Muirfield Village the first weekend of October.

UNITED STATES

Tiger Woods: With five PGA TOUR wins in 2013, he is the best player in the world and brings the experience of seven previous trips to The Presidents Cup with a 20-14-1 record. You wonder if he will once again be paired with Steve Stricker or has that union gotten a little stale after a disappointing Ryder Cup last year? My guess is you will see the two reunited and they will be very successful.

Brandt Snedeker: A rib injury derailed a season that was off to a great start on the West Coast. He’s a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR this year and making his Presidents Cup debut. Snedeker does everything very quickly, from pace of play to swing tempo to putting stroke. You would think the International team would use a deliberate pace of play when matched against Brandt. He led the PGA TOUR in strokes gained-putting last year and would match well with every U.S. Team member.

Phil Mickelson: A few years ago it seemed problematic who should be paired with Phil. That is no longer an issue. He is a team leader who matches well with young players. Mickelson has become a mentor and is not afraid to challenge rookies to perform their best.  He’s also great with the caustic comment that keeps everyone loose in the team room. Mickelson is the perfect combination of a future captain and team leader who is still capable of great golf. He’ll be paired with a young player who likes to be aggressive and gamble on shots. That choice is not just limited to Keegan Bradley.

Matt Kuchar: Matt is your “Steady Eddie.” I don’t think I have ever talked to him when he’s in a bad mood, even after difficult rounds. He is very much a family man and that seems to balance out the occasional frustration from a bad round. Kuchar is a player with an even disposition who even walks away from bad holes with a smile on his face.  In a match play format, it is critical to never get too high or low and Kuchar is perfect for that scenario. Don’t believe me? Remind yourself who is the defending champion at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.

Jason Dufner: Has had a very curious season with just four Top 10 finishes. Of course one of those was a win at the PGA Championship and three of the Top 10s have come in the last month. Dufner has been slowed by erratic putting but greatly improved on the green in his recent run. He is another player with an even disposition who shows well in match play.

Keegan Bradley: When Bradley was shaking on the first tee of last year’s Ryder Cup, Mickelson got in his face and told him was expecting to hit wedge into the opening hole in foursomes. Not an eight iron, not a nine iron … a wedge.  Bradley responded with a mammoth drive that gave Mickelson a sand wedge for the approach. Keegan is a player who responds to a challenge.

Steve Stricker: Mr. Nice Guy. I sometimes think people have the wrong perception of Striker. He is as nice a person as you will ever meet but don’t think for one second he doesn’t have fire in the belly during competition. It took me several years to understand how intense Stricker is during a round.  He has a temper, gets mad and can burn with frustration while play is in progress.  Respected by everyone from fellow players to media to the golfing public.  Has an 11-8-0 record in The Presidents Cup and at age 47, might be making his last appearance in this tournament as a player. He should be a future captain.

Bill Haas: Has a big game that shows well on big golf courses. A winner at places like Riviera and Congressional Country Clubs. Haas received a tip from Brad Faxon this season: “Look and go.”  He was spending too much time looking at putts and analyzing them instead of letting his athleticism control the stroke.  This is his second straight Presidents Cup team. He was 1-3-1 in 2011 and the experience from Royal Melbourne will benefit him at Muirfield Village.

Hunter Mahan: Was bumped out of last year’s Ryder Cup at the last second and did not make the team. That alone should fire his engines. Hunter has greatly improved his short game in the past couple years and is very good at match play. He is a former Accenture Match Play champion and was runner-up to Matt Kuchar this year.

Zach Johnson: This is a man with correct priorities. Family first. Johnson missed The Barclays so he could be at his brother’s wedding and dropped out of the Top 10 automatic qualifiers. He had to play well at the Deutsche Bank Championship to make the team and responded with a 25-foot birdie on the 72nd hole to finish 10th in the standings and make the team. Zach is another very steady player who is excellent at match play.

Webb Simpson: Johnson birdied the last two holes at Deutsche Bank to bump Webb out of the Top 10. Fred Couples said it was only right for Simpson to be on the team. He’s played a heavy schedule this year with 23 events that resulted in four Top 10s and 13 Top 25 finishes, including a playoff loss at the RBC Heritage. Would be a natural pairing with fellow Wake Forest alumnus Bill Haas. Left TPC Boston complaining of a neck injury so his health will be monitored.

Jordan Spieth: Is building a reputation as quite the closer in his PGA TOUR rookie season. Spieth averages 69.63 in the final round, ranking sixth best on TOUR. Spieth holed out from a greenside bunker on the 72nd hole to force a playoff at the John Deere Classic and went on to win for the first time on TOUR … at age 19. He closed out the Deutsche Bank Championship with a birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle finish to shoot 62. Couples should have no hesitation placing Spieth deep in his lineup for Sunday’s singles. Jordan was undefeated in his only appearance at the Walker Cup.

INTERNATIONAL TEAM

Adam Scott: One of my favorite stories of the year. He was lost in golf before The 2009 Presidents Cup at Harding Park. Greg Norman selected him with a Captain’s Pick and Scott’s confidence slowly returned. As Masters champ, Scott will be a leader of the International Team. Adam has been very aggressive hitting driver this summer, another indication of his confidence. He brings a very positive attitude to the golf course every day and his enthusiasm will fire up the Internationals.

Jason Day: Here’s a question to ponder:  How has Day managed to win just a single TOUR event? He is blessed with oodles of talent and is a very hard worker. Slumped during 2012 but I attribute that to the birth of his son, Dash, during midsummer last year.  Jason is a long hitter and good putter. A very dangerous opponent in match play.  This will be his second Presidents Cup competition; he was 1-2-1 at Royal Melbourne.

Charl Schwartzel: I watched him play during the West Coast swing and pegged him as the early favorite to win the Masters. He has finished in the Top 10 four times in 17 events, including a pair of third-place finishes and a dozen Top 25s.  He averages 4.07 birdies per round, which is second best on TOUR.  If I am Fred Couples, I am very wary of Charl Schwartzel.

Ernie Els: He only seems like he’s 60 years old because he has so much experience. Ernie is actually going to turn a young 44 in October. He’s played in seven Presidents Cup competitions, posting a 17-16-2 record, and is now a much better putter than he has been in the past. Nick Price will look at Ernie for both leadership and point production.

Louie Oosthuizen:  This man is the wild card of the International Team. He has neck and back issues but insists he will be fine next month. Oosthuizen will test-drive his health at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship the week before The Presidents Cup. When Louie is healthy, he is as good a player as any in the world.

Hideki Matsuyama: I got to watch him play when paired with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and was impressed. He did not arrive in the United States with the fanfare of Ryo Ishikawa but is very, very talented.  Hideki, despite being just 21 years old, was not intimidated being paired with Woods. Matsuyama posted Top 10 finishes in both the U.S. Open and Open Championship. He hits his short putts very aggressively. I don’t know if that’s an indication of his youth or his confidence.

Branden Grace: He is one of six South Africans who automatically qualified for the International Team. Just 25 years old, he made the cut in 7 of 12 events including a T18 at the Masters. You would be mistaken to judge him solely on this year’s limited TOUR appearances where he ranks 181st in hitting greens in regulation and 181st in strokes gained-putting. He has only played as a professional since 2007.

Graham DeLaet:  One of my favorite players on the PGA TOUR. Always seems to have a great attitude and I get the feeling DeLaet is just starting to tap into his talent. It’s as if you can almost see his confidence growing. The Canadian finished second at The Barclays and third at the Deutsche Bank Championship to automatically qualify for the International Team. He is a ball-striking machine and will match well with any pairing.

Richard Sterne: Another South African who is making his first Presidents Cup appearance. He’s played in seven TOUR events this year, posting five Top 25 finishes including a T9 at the Bridgestone Invitational. Has shown the ability to play well under pressure with a final-round scoring average of 69.5 that would rank sixth best on the TOUR if he qualified.

Angel Cabrera: Plays the game with a passion. Watch his facial expressions and body language and they will go from elation to anger to happiness … and that’s just in the course of a single shot.  This will be his fourth Presidents Cup and will be looked upon for leadership on the International Team. The Argentine just sneaked into the BMW Championship, ranking 68th in FedExCup Playoff points. He is a very gifted player. I wonder if being the only Spanish-speaking player on the team makes for a difficult pairing?

Marc Leishman: I spent Monday’s rain delay at the Deutsche Bank Championship in the players locker room and briefly watched a very intense conversation between Nick Price and Leishman. I did not linger and avoided eavesdropping but got the sense Price was challenging the Aussie. Leishman responded with birdies on two of his final four holes for a T16 finish to qualify for the BMW Championship and undoubtedly influence Price’s selection as a Captain’s Pick.

Brendan de Jonge: Nosed out Tim Clark as Price’s final pick. Price noted Brendan’s experience and length at Muirfield Village as being part of the determining process. This number also had to be a huge determining factor:  de Jonge leads the PGA TOUR in total birdies. He has made whopping 371 birdies this season, more than any other player.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.

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