President’s Cup Recap

You know my love for individual head to head matches.  So this year’s President’s Cup was a cornucopia of surprises, disappointments and delights.  A straight-up match brings out the inner guts of the individual and showcases their deep down desire to win at any cost.  Just because you have this burning need to win, doesn’t mean you will win, but your demeanor, body language, response to challenges speaks volumes.

The US won again, by a single point, in a team event that they have dominated in the past.  Statistically, they had the stronger team.  The International team had the hottest player in the game in Jason Day and a rising superstar in Brandon Grace along with solid performers in Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Hideki Matsuyama, and Charl Schwartze.  However, the other six could only be considered as good, but not great.  The US team again showed they have talent, but not the closing power that is needed to beat a more talented European team in the Ryder Cup.
My US team disappointments are Ricky Fowler, Matt Kuchar, and Jimmy Walker.  This group combined for a 2 win, 8 losses, and 1 tie!  All lost convincingly in the single matches the last day.  Fowler has now lost his last two individual matches by landslide margins of 6&5 and 5&4.  He was never in either match! Kuchar is an enigma.  He is constantly close to winning tournaments, but doesn’t haven the push or guts to hit the clutch shot when needed.  This past week was another display of what is missing for him to be considered among the elite of the game.  Jimmy Walker looked like he was lost.  Nice guy, but unless he is in the right “zone”, but doesn’t have the self-assuredness to compete out of his comfort zone.

You could predict the competitors for the US.  Win or lose they would throw their best at their opponent.  Phil Michelson, Dustin Johnson, Zac Johnson, and Jordan Spieth were solid and were ready for each match.  J.B. Holmes was clutch in the team matches and even though he succumbed to Matsuyama down the stretch in the singles match, he was tough.  I would love him on next year’s Ryder Cup team. 

Bubba Watson let two matches get away from him.  He missed two short putts on the 18th green for valuable points.  Even when Bubba makes a putt, I don’t get the feeling I do when Spieth makes them.  For me, when Bubba putts I’m surprised it goes it.  Those two putts were pressure, must make, putts and Bubba didn’t come close on either one.  I don’t see him making a clutch putt for a major championship in the future.

The major surprise was Jason Day.  He only won one match and lost convincingly to Zac Johnson in the single matches.  The 2nd ranked player and hottest player in the game should steamroll all that is in his path.  He was the anchor of the team and if he had only a fair performance, the Internationals would have won easily.  In the past two months, he has putted well beyond his previous best.  Could his great play and great putting have run out?  Statistically, when a player gets on a hot streak with the putter, it lasts about six weeks.  Could we have seen Jason’s one stretch of greatness?  No, I’m not ditching Jason for one week of poor play, but a more realistic forecast on future major championships should be considered.
Branden Grace is for real.  4th in the US Open and 3rd at the PGA from a player that was little known prior to those two events.  He was never seriously challenged in the President’s Cup matches.  He closed every door and answered each challenge.  If this had been a stroke play event, he would’ve won going away.  Match play brings out the weaknesses and strengths in a players game and psyche.  Branden seems to have the “right stuff”.

The final score of this year’s President’s Cup was 15 ½ to 14 ½, which made it the most competitive in recent years.  I feel for Anirban Lahiri, who missed a short 3 foot putt for a tie in his match against Chris Kirk.  Prior to his miss, Chris made a tough 15 foot putt for birdie.  Had he missed, Lahiri’s putt would have been for a full point.  Instead he needed to make that putt for a ½ point.  He putted way too quickly and moved slightly and missed.  The importance of the situation dictated taking his time and getting settled in to the best stroke possible.  His rookie mistake or nerves cost the Internationals at least a tie.  That would’ve been a fitting conclusion to some exciting golf.  The Internationals are getting closer, but the American’s still have questions to figure out if they want to win the Ryder Cup and continue to dominate in the President’s Cup.


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