CHARLOTTE, NC – The US Presidents Cup team includes five of the top 10 players in the official world golf rankings. Nine of them are in the top 15, the most ever by a single team in the event’s history.
The international team has none after Australia’s Cameron Smith, the world’s third-ranked player and The Open winner, jumped onto the new LIV golf course in late August.
History is also on the side of the Americans. They have won 11 of the last 13 Presidents Cup competitions, lost only once and drawn once more. Many of the same US players were on the Ryder Cup team that defeated the Europeans 19-9 in Whistling Straits a year ago to become the first squad to score 19 points and win by 10 points at the more historic event.
Factor in the fact that the Presidents Cup will be played on American soil at the Quail Hollow Club in front of thousands of US fans starting Thursday, and it’s easy to see why the Americans are heavily favored to win again.
“I think it’s pretty clear that we’re the underdogs,” said national team captain Trevor Immelman. “We’ve generally competed in this competition over the years, so it’s a label we’re used to.”
According to Caesars Sports Book, the US team is a -750 favorite to win the Presidents Cup. While anything can happen over four days of golf, an international team win would be like Buster Douglas beating Mike Tyson or beating No. 16 Maryland-Baltimore County, Virginia in the NCAA tournament.
“Just because you’re the favourite, they don’t give you extra shots,” said US team star Scottie Scheffler. “We don’t start 1-up. There are many talented players on the PGA Tour. It’s a very deep tour and the Internationals obviously have a lot of talent on their side as well.”
Still, the outcome is expected to be so one-sided that US team captain Davis Love III was asked by a reporter on Tuesday if he was worried about becoming the next Dennis Conner, a reference to the yacht captain who is based in the US infamously lost to an Australian boat in the 1983 America’s Cup, the New York Yacht Club’s first failed defense in the race’s 132-year history. Or, as the reporter put it, the “guy who might lose the captive.”
“I compared the Ryder Cup to the America’s Cup,” Love said. “Like nobody really cared about the America’s Cup until we started losing. Ted Turner lived down the street from us in Atlanta and nobody really cared until we lost him. Then we were like, ‘How could we lose a boat race you ?know?’ We are the United States.”
American golf fans might feel the same way at the Presidents Cup with Love’s roster on the wrong side of the scoreboard this week.
“We’re used to being called favourites,” said Love, who has captained two Ryder Cup teams. “Even if we lose three Ryder Cups in a row, they tell us, ‘Oh, but they’re the favourite.’ The other captain or team or [the media] Remind us that we are the favorite. So we’re used to that. It’s on paper, and many great coaches will tell you that the game isn’t played on paper. They’re being played out there on the golf course.”
It’s not that the international players haven’t achieved anything. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and Australia’s Adam Scott won the Masters. South Korea’s Si Woo Kim and Sungjae Im have won multiple events on the PGA Tour. Canadian Corey Conners, South Korean Tom Kim and Colombian Sebastian Munoz have each prevailed once.
“They’re all top athletes and have reached top levels on the PGA Tour,” said Immelman. “You don’t come here by accident, man, I can promise you that. You don’t come here by accident. You put a lot of work into it. You dedicate your life to her money and blood, sweat and tears to reach this level. You don’t just wake up one morning and go on the PGA Tour. These players are real, all 24.”
However, some are more legitimate than others. The stacked American lineup includes Scheffler, the world’s highest-ranked player, and three other former great champions: Justin Thomas, Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth. Xander Schauffele won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Patrick Cantlay was the 2021 FedEx Cup champion.
Scheffler was the only four-time winner on the PGA Tour last season. Sam Burns won three times. Tony Finau won twice. Max Homa won twice and successfully defended his title at last week’s Fortinet Championship, the first event on the all-around 2022-23 schedule. Cameron Young is expected to be named PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.
“I really can’t imagine being cocky,” Homa said. “The international team is great and there’s a lot of talk about being the favorite or whatever but golf doesn’t really allow for that. The setup of the golf course and everything is a big deal. So you have a great team. We have a great team. I think it’s going to be a really good golf tournament.”
In golf there were bigger individual surprises: 20-year-old amateur Francis Ouimet won the 1913 US Open at his home course, the country club in Brookline, Massachusetts. There have been surprise big championship winners, like Larry Mize, who defeated Greg Norman and Seve Ballesteros in a playoff at the 1987 Masters; South Korea’s YE Yang comes from behind to defeat Tiger Woods in the final round of the 2009 PGA Championship in Hazeltine.
The international team can also draw inspiration from their captain Immelman, who won the 2008 Masters by beating Woods by three shots just months after undergoing surgery to remove a golf ball-sized tumor that was pressing on his diaphragm .
Immelman says having eight rookies in his 12-man roster could be an advantage. They have no scar tissue from eight consecutive Presidents Cup losses. They weren’t part of the 2017 team, which trailed 14½ to 3½ after Saturday’s games at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey.
“I think it frees us because we have nothing to lose,” Immelman said. “If you look at our record in this tournament and look at our world rankings against their world rankings, we have absolutely nothing to lose.”
His advice to his underdog team: “Have fun and let it rip.”
https://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/34636360/2022-presidents-cup-international-team-faces-historic-odds-pull-massive-upset 2022 Presidents Cup – International team faces historic odds