Presidents Cup continues to show International Team has much ground to gain

October 06, 2013
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

DUBLIN, Ohio -- On paper, the International Team was a heavy underdog. Once it got on grass not much changed.

The U.S. won its fifth straight Presidents Cup on Sunday, 18.5-15.5. It wasn’t even that close.

 “People will say it was close,” Captain Nick Price said afterward. “Jack (Nicklaus) said it was close. You guys tell me what you think.”

What Price thinks about why the Americans have dominated the biennial matches since they were founded in 1994 -- the U.S. is 8-1-1 and hasn’t lost since 1998 -- is a story for another day.

With the U.S. having won by at least three points in every competition since 2005 and by at least that margin in seven of 10, Price’s goal was to at least make this one competitive going into singles play.

Instead, the Americans built a six-point lead going into the final session before holding off a “hodgepodge” bunch, as Price called his team. Despite saving its best for last, it was too little, too late for the International Team.

“We were behind the eight ball all day,” Price said. “If you have a feel for this game, you know it would’ve been so hard for us to win (Sunday) afternoon. Had we pulled this off, it would've been miraculous.

“There's lots of changes I would like to see but I don't think we should discuss those now. Let's let the Americans enjoy this win and let's look to the future as to what we can do to make this perhaps more competitive. The thing that is lacking as we've all said is the competition.”

There are a multitude of reasons why.

The U.S. players are of course all from the same country and play in a international team competition every year. The International Team was made up of players from six different countries scattered across the globe, and the first time Price was able to get them all in the same room at the same time wasn’t until last Monday.

Said Marc Leishman: “Some of the guys I didn't really know before."

The Americans’ roster featured seven of the top 11 and eight of the top 15 ranked players in the world. Price’s group featured just one, Adam Scott.

“Absolutely,” Price said when asked if the depth of the opponent was the difference. “That’s pretty apparent.”

The only player on the U.S. squad to have never played in an international cup competition as a professional was Jordan Spieth, who was just named Rookie of the Year on the PGA TOUR and happened to be one of the hottest players on the planet over the last six weeks. The International Team had seven rookies.

This was Couples’ third time leading the Americans. Though Price is a veteran of five Presidents Cups as a player, this was his first sitting in the Captain’s chair.

Price didn’t second-guess his pairings, but the weather delays, little time between pairings decisions and all the permutations made it admittedly tough on him.

“Of all The Presidents Cups I've been involved in, this was probably the hardest because of the weather conditions,” Price said. “The hardest part was trying to figure out the pairings. I felt like I didn't have enough time to do the pairings.

“It just seemed like we were rushed a little bit. It's the same for Fred, so that's no excuse. It’s very difficult. Half the guys were still on the golf course (when the singles matches started).”

To Price’s point, he wanted to send the experienced Els out early in singles, figuring a fast start would give the rest of the team a boost. But Price had to wait for Els to finish his foursomes match -- one that he won -- before slotting him in the fourth match with at least a 30-minute break in between.

Then there was the deficit.

No team in Presidents Cup history had ever come from behind when trailing going into singles, never mind the massive deficit facing Price and Co.

By the time the International Team won its first session of the week, capturing seven of the 12 singles matches, it was hardly enough.

“The American Team played exceptionally well,” Els said. “Their level of play was really up there and they made a lot of birdies. They seemed like they got momentum in most of the sessions, and we were trying to fight ourselves back into it.

“There were a couple instances here and there, maybe it's a lack of experience, but we just let some matches get away.”

Or in some cases, didn’t win any.

Rookies Branden Grace and Richard Sterne were a combined 0-8 on the week.

Louis Oosthuizen and 21-year-old Hideki Matsuyama won just one match apiece with each earning a half-point as well.

There were five South Africans on the team, including major champions Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel. Going into singles, the group had combined for just four points.

If there was a bright spot, it was Graham DeLaet. The rookie from Canada went 3-1-1, which included a comeback victory over Spieth on Sunday.

Brendon de Jonge, another rookie, also contributed two points on the week, and even Matsuyama showed flashes of brilliance for someone so young and inexperienced.

“These guys know what it's all about now,” said Els. “They are up for it and they showed it (Sunday) afternoon. We're getting there.”

Hopefully soon.