Match play time!
Despite all the PGA Tour/LIV hubbub that exists in the golf world, the show goes on as Team USA meets the rest of the world in the Presidents Cup. It's one of the few times a year that we get to see golf in one of its best formats. Match play, especially when it's a team format, is some of the best golf there is.
The Presidents Cup is like the little brother of the Ryder Cup. Doesn't quite get the blood flowing as much, but it's a treat regardless. Part of what makes it less appealing than the Ryder Cup is that the rest of the world (excluding Europe) simply isn't much of a match for the Americans. The USA is a staggering 13-1-1 in this competition, with the lone International win coming back in 1998.
That gap has only been magnified with so many of the International's best players being excluded due to their association with LIV Golf. The USA would still be a heavy heavy favorite in this regardless, but the odds would be much closer if the likes of Cam Smith, Louis Oosthuizen, Abe Ancer, among others were allowed to play. My associate Dan Rapaport has done a great job laying that out this week.
The last time this competition was played, the Internationals gave a Tiger Woods' led American team a serious run for their money down in Melbourne, Australia. They jumped out to a comfortable 4-1 lead and even held as commanding as a 9-5 lead mid-day Saturday. Luckily the Americans were able to close the gap to 10-8 going into Sunday and took 8 of 12 points on the final day to overtake the Internationals and win the Cup 16-14. It was a result much closer than was anticipated and I wouldn't be so quick to assume the Americans are going to steamroll them this week, if only because match play is a real fickle bitch where anything can happen.
Here's the 2019 results and the results of every Presidents Cup dating back to the inaugural 1994 edition.
2019 Presidents Cup Results
Saturday Morning Fourballs
Saturday Afternoon Foursomes
Presidents Cup History
The Format and Schedule
The President's Cup is all match play, with Thursday-Saturday being team play (meaning pairs) and a classic Sunday finish with 12 singles matches. It's similar to the Ryder Cup, but is a touch different in that 30 points are up for grabs and the event is stretched over 4 days instead of 3. There are 5 matches each on Thursday and Friday, 8 matches (split among a morning and an afternoon session) on Saturday, and 12 singles matches to bring it home Sunday. They seem to like to alternate from year to year as to which order they like to play the team portion. This year the order of events is as follows:
- 5 Foursomes matches Thursday (otherwise known as alternate shot)
- 5 Fourball matches Friday (otherwise known as best ball)
- 4 Foursomes matches Saturday morning
- 4 Fourballs matches Saturday afternoon
- 12 Singles matches Sunday
The TV schedule for those matches is as follows:
Obviously with 30 points up for grabs (as opposed to the Ryder Cup's 28), the magic number to win is 15.5 points. Another unique thing about the Presidents Cup is that there is not a "tie goes to the defending champions" rule like there is with the Ryder Cup. The USA would not retain the Cup in the circumstance of a tie, the two teams were merely "share it". That came into play in 2003 with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player as the respective captains, and hopefully that weak shit doesn't happen again.
Quail Hollow is a PGA Tour staple. It hosts the Wells Fargo every year (or at least every year it's not hosting something bigger, such as this year) and played host to the 2017 PGA Championship. It'll host the PGA again in 2025 too.
It's a George Cobb design constructed in 1959, with a Tom Fazio renovation completed in summer 2016. There's tons of tree lined holes where your positioning off the tee is key, which is diabolical given how long this course is. Quail Hollow is a trek. Nearly 7,600 yards, there are a TON of par 4's here measuring over 450 yards. 6 of em in fact, and another clocking in at 449. The par 3's are no picnic either. The greens have a ton of false fronts and swales as well, so you've got to hit the right spots on these large greens. Very much a Southeast course in that regard. There might not be a course on the PGA Tour outside of maybe Torrey and Riviera where the combo of driving distance and accuracy is as critical as it is here. That's why Rory McIlroy is such a weapon here year in and year out.
Oddly enough, the PGA Tour has elected to change the routing up a bit this week. That's laid out in the scorecard above and aims to better highlight the "Green Mile", which is holes 16-18 on the traditional routing and will play as holes 13-15 this week. They wanted to ensure that those challenging holes played a factor in more matches. I suppose there's value in that, but I'd rather guys be forced to play the toughest holes at the very end. As discussed here…
Best Hole - Par 3 14th, 223 yards (typically the 17th on the Wells Fargo/PGA Championship routing)
Terrifying par 3 here at the 14th. Honestly I hate that this hole isn't the 17th because I feel like that's the perfect spot for a hole like this in match play. We had a similar par 3 17th last year at Whistling Straits that forced the issue for anyone trying to prolong a match and I think this hole would've done that beautifully as well. Oh well.
Long iron required here to a green guarded by water on 3 sides. Green slopes hard towards the water too, so if you land it on the left side of the green and it's firm, you could be in big trouble. Likewise, if you use the bailout area to the right of the green, you're left with a sheisty little uphill pitch onto the green with everything sloping towards the drink.
Justin Thomas hit the defining shot of his PGA Championship win here in 2017. Nuked a 7 iron here to 14 feet, a bold club choice that he says was aided by adrenaline. I'm sure he'll be drawing on that memory this week.
HOT on Thursday, but not much else to write about here. Looks to be gorgeous out there.
This is a gorgeous piece of hardware, and The Presidents Cup scripting on it only adds to it. It also makes for a phenomenal logo. If I was down in Quail Hollow I would bankrupt myself in the fan shop buying all kinds of (Peter Millar) QZ's, polos, and hats with that logo on it. This is a very solid 9/10 trophy.
Scottie Scheffler (#1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Rookie)
Patrick Cantlay (#4 in the OWGR, 3-2-0 in the Presidents Cup)
Xander Schauffele (#5 in the OWGR, 3-2-0)
Sam Burns (#12 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Justin Thomas (#7 in the OWGR, 6-2-2)
Tony Finau (#14 in the OWGR, 0-1-3)
Billy Horschel (#15 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Collin Morikawa (#9 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Cameron Young (#18 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Jordan Spieth (#13 in the OWGR, 8-6-0)
Kevin Kisner (#25 in the OWGR, 2-0-2)
Max Homa (#16 in the OWGR, Rookie).
Tons of familiar but surprisingly new faces on this USA team. It's a great reminder of how much the golf world has shifted since 2019. Not because of LIV, but rather a changing of the guard with tons of young golfers dominating today's golf landscape. It's stunning that Jordan Spieth, a man who's yet to reach his 30th birthday, is the most experienced American Presidents Cup player here… and that's in spite of him being left off the 2019 team. Crazy.
Half of these guys are Presidents Cup rookies. Scottie Scheffler and Collin Morikawa were both part of that dominant Ryder Cup team last year and proved themselves as more than capable. As if the 3 major championships between them didn't already do that. Sam Burns and Max Homa have each won 4 times in the past 20 months, Billy Horschel is a long-time PGA Tour vet who has played some of his best golf the past 2 years, including winning the WGC Match Play last year. And Cameron Young was the clear cut PGA Tour Rookie of the Year last year, finishing Top 5 in multiple majors.
I don't really need to say much more. These guys can strike it.
I expect that we're going to see a heavy dose of Scheffler, JT, Cantlay, Morikawa, and Schauffele. JT in particular is the one guy I think you can expect to play in every team session. There is a rule in place that each player needs to appear in a team play match at some point so that's something Davis Love III will have to juggle. Here's some small insight into what he might be thinking for a few pairings.
Homa/Finau, Xander/Cantlay, JT/Spieth, and Horschel/Burns seem to be potential pairs. JT and Spieth is a throwback to when those two cleaned up 3 of 4 points in a losing effort in Paris at the 2018 Ryder Cup. Cantlay/Schauffele have taken 4 of 6 points when playing together in two team events. I think those are two pairs you can assume you'll see. The others will probably be mixed and matched amongst each other. As long as they play as good as they're capable, it shouldn't really matter.
Hideki Matsuyama (#17 in the Official World Golf Rankings, 6-7-4)
Sungjae Im (#19 in the OWGR, 3-1-1)
Joohyung "Tom" Kim (#22 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Corey Conners (#26 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Adam Scott (#30 in the OWGR, 16-22-6)
Mito Pereira (#49 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (#67 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Cam Davis (#66 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Si Woo Kim (#76 in the OWGR, 1-2-0)
K.H. Lee (#43 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Sebastian Munoz (#63 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Taylor Pendrith (#109 in the OWGR, Rookie)
Trevor Immelman and the Internationals were especially ravaged by the LIV Golf movement. As you can see, 8 of 12 of these guys are rookies, and Sungjae and Si Woo have each only played in one. Their inexperience is one reason why they're +600 longshots to win this thing. That and the fact that they're just flat out worse. It really isn't close.
The Americans' average world ranking is 11.6. The Internationals don't even have a single player ahead of that number and their average is 48.9. Those are the respective best and worst average rankings of any teams in this event. Hell, Hideki Matsuyama would be the 11th highest ranked player on the US team. Should I keep going?
Every sign points towards this being a victory for the US. The performance most of them put on last year at Whistling Straits against a (far) better European team only furthers that. They're going to win. I just know better than to expect it to be a rout because match play golf tends to play pretty close. The Americans always have the upper hand going into this event and the Internationals tend to play them tough, despite rarely getting the W. Never have they been held to single digit points. They always seem to hang around and give themselves a chance going into Sunday, where anything can happen. I think they'll have a healthy deficit this time around, but they won't go out without a fight.
My official prediction? Team USA 17, Internationals 13. Which is where we're starting our betting card.
Correct Score: USA 17-13 +900
USA by 4-6 Points +275
Team International +6.5 (-150) - I just really think they find a way to keep this thing semi interesting.
Justin Thomas Top Overall Scorer +650 - Not just experienced, but a winner here at Quail Hollow. Plus he's gonna play every session. Opportunities = points.
Hideki Matsuyama Top Overall Scorer +2000 - Again, opportunities = points. If it's a rout, he could be their Rahm a la 2021 Ryder Cup and as their one guy who actually has a pulse all week.
Joohyung Kim Top International Scorer +600 - LOVE this one. This is my favorite bet of the week. Tom Kim has been coming in HOT on the PGA Tour and this could really serve as a coming out party for him.
Joohyung Kim Top 3 International Scorer +150 - See above.
Kevin Kisner Top Wild Card (Captain's Pick) USA Scorer +900 - The other Captain's picks are Spieth, Morikawa, Homa, Young, and Horschel, and Kiz has the longest odds to be the guy here? The disrespect…
And that's what I got… I'm going to try to get some daily betting previews up but it's extension szn at my 9-5 (CPA life) so no promises. At worst I'll be firing them off on Twitter. Those who tailed me at the Match Play this year were rewarded handsomely for it. So follow along, should be a lot of fun.
Enjoy the Presidents Cup.