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18 Parting Thoughts From the U.S.' Victory At The Presidents Cup

Jared C. Tilton. Getty Images.

This is the continuation of the 18 Parting Thoughts column that I wrote after marquee men's golf events at Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest. We're going to continue it for the majors, Ryder, and Presidents Cup here at Barstool Sports. 

While the Americans never looked like losing, this was anything but a walkover. At one point on Sunday afternoon, around 2:10 p.m. EST, things looked somewhat bleak for the Americans—the Internationals had some pep in their step, the U.S. putters went cold, and there were some serious Medinah vibes. Could the Internationals really pull off the comeback? It was gut-check time, and the Americans appeared to give themselves some breathing room over the next two hours….only for those pesky Internationals to keep punching back, making this way closer than anyone thought it would be. The matches themselves were tighter than the final score indicates.

In the end, the Americans' huge early cushion—they led 8-2 after two sessions and 10-4 after three—proved too steep, and Xander Schauffele's up-and-down par on 18 secured an earned if somewhat unconvincing 17.5-12.5 win for the Americans. There is so, so much to discuss. And with no truly meaningful men's golf on deck until 2023, let's nerd out as long as we can. Here are 18 Parting Thoughts from the 2022 Presidents Cup. 

1. In hindsight, the Americans' ability to squeak out the close matches early in the Cup proved pivotal. Consider how the first two sessions played out—eight of the first 10 matches reached at least the 17th hole, meaning just were proper blowouts. But the Americans dominated those close matches early, winning five, tying two and losing just one of those eight ties that could’ve gone either way. Jordan Spieth summed it up perfectly, as he often does, in his post-win press conference on Friday:

“It just seems in those pivotal moments—yesterday for us on that 15th hole,” Spieth said, “and we had another one today on the 15th hole. The end of the (Max Homa) match, Taylor makes that putt on them, and then Max steps up and makes it. These moments where matches flip, and it just seems like we've been on the right side of those for the margin to be where it's at."

The Americans will feel like they escaped with the victory, that they did just enough despite not having their best. Now a bunch of these same guys—JT, Spieth, Schauffele, Cantlay, Scheffler, Burns, Morikawa and Finau will almost certainly be to be in Rome—will try to win a road Ryder Cup for the U.S. for the first time since 1993.

2. I wrote about this in detail early in the week, but I found myself really feeling for Trevor Immelman this week—and, at the same time, admiring his unwavering positivity and his team's fighting spirit. He couldn’t have been more excited to take on this job in April 2020, only for the pandemic and LIV Golf to throw his captaincy into chaos. He’s remained a relentless optimist throughout a most turbulent process, and he clearly took pride in the 12 players that he went to battle with.

This wasn’t the roster he envisioned when he took the job 29 months ago—he signed up for a 17-month commitment before this event was postponed a year due to COVID—and it’s not the group the PGA Tour or Quail Hollow envisioned, either. Still, everyone on site made the best of a suboptimal situation. PGA Tour officials said this was the biggest “build-out” of any golf tournament in history, meaning there were more hospitality/merchandise/grandstands out there than at any other venue. The eye test confirms that; organizers transformed the golf course into a mini-city. The fans turned out in droves. And despite all the Twitter tough guys (or bots, it’s hard to tell between the two these days) talking about how pointless the Presidents Cup is, it certainly didn’t feel like anything but a big-time sporting event. 

This was yet another reminder that anything can happen in head-to-head matchups and that a player's world ranking or his current form matter little in the cauldron of match play. For the second straight Presidents Cup, an underdog International side forced the Americans to dig deep, and it made for seriously compelling viewing. Rumors of the President's Cup demise were greatly exaggerated. And while I'm all for a mixed team event that combines both men and women—which is what many have argued the Presidents Cup needs to become—it need not come at the expense of this. 

3. Max Homa’s stock continues to rise right before our eyes, and witnessing it has been one of the great joys of covering golf over the past half-decade—particularly because seemingly every fan is invested in the stock. Homa’s been as honest and vulnerable as any athlete in any sport, frequently letting us in and giving us access to parts of an athlete’s psyche that’re normally off limits anyone outside his inner circle. He’s told us about his insecurities, his hopes and dreams, his pregnant wife’s shenanigans. As a result of the openness, fans feel a parasocial relationship with him. They’re invested in his progression and feel like they know him. It’s as if we’ve watched one of those Netflix documentaries play out in real time. I called his coach, Mark Blackburn, who’s been working with Max since September 2020, to get the inside-circle view of a remarkable rise. 

“Any time a player is willing to be vulnerable you have a much easier chance of actually coaching them,” he told me. “In the 20 years I've been doing this with tour players, essentially the problem is most of them are not willing to be completely open about their insecurities and inadequacies. When someone is willing to let you in, you have to earn that, but he lets you in. That’s one of the things that separates him from a lot of people. When he trusts somebody he gives them the reins. That can be good or bad bad. If it’s bad information it’s really dangerous, and if the information is good that can be a coach’s dream. The thing that attracted me to him the most initially was the fact that he was quite stoic. He’d been at the bottom and worked his way back and that resiliency and relentlessness—he has that word tattooed on his arm—I saw there was a lot of upside. I think he can become the number one player in the world.”

We talked about Max’s struggles with Imposter Syndrome—essentially an unshakeable feeling that you don’t deserve to be where you are in life—and how weeks like this one are so huge toward building belief that he can be the best player on Earth. The antidote for Imposter Syndrome are hard facts: You beat this player. You hit this shot under pressure. You starred on a team full of the best golfers in America. 

Homa’s putt to win the match on Friday evening, with the entire golf course congregated around that 18th hole and the light fading from Quail Hollow, will now be stored in the memory bank as proof that he can do it. As you might imagine, he said that winning putt was greatest feeling he’s ever had on a golf course, and I won’t soon forget watching him buzz around that green, his blood overflowing with adrenaline and dopamine, looking for anyone to aggressively high five and hug.

“I was telling my wife, when we talk about things money can't buy, money cannot buy that feeling,” Homa said. “And that was something that I will remember forever, and I will tell anybody who ever wants to hear about it how that felt.”

At the beginning of the year, he set a then-lofty goal of making the Presidents Cup team, and he shared that with the world, and then he went out and did it, and then he went 4-0 for the week.  

The coolest part? He still has so much more to achieve. Yes A full half-hour remains in the doc. But he’s yet to finish better than T-13 in a major championship, and those are still the currency of professional golf. 

4. After watching Jordan Spieth and Corey Conners putt this week, it's hard to believe they're only separated by 13 spots in the world rankings. Spieth looked like making everything he looked at this week, and this 5-0 week was the best he's looked with the flatstick in multiple years. Conners, on the other hand…sheesh. Some guys respond to pressure by playing better; Conners, on the other hand, seems to go the other way. He looked downright uncomfortable over a four-footer on 17 on Sunday (which he missed) and then chunked his approach into 18. The Internationals needed him to have a solid week and he had a nightmare. This will sting. 

5. You have to wonder how the guys who signed with LIV, knowing full-well they wouldn’t be able to play in this event, felt watching it all unfold this week. There's nothing like being part of a team.

Take it from Si Woo Kim: "I've never felt pressure like this, even after winning the Players Championship."

These team weeks are such a delightful departure from the monotony of 72-hole stroke play, and they produce out an entirely different vibe among the players: a collaborative spirit. Professional golfers are more serious about their work than ever before and surround themselves week-in week-out with entourages. They’re regimented as hell—work out, golf course, work out, home. That’s the normal cadence. As such, they don’t hang out with each other nearly as much as you might think. A guy might have one or two guys he shares houses with—JT and Spieth, Scottie and Sam Burns—but it’s nothing like the camaraderie they lean into for one week a year. They get to spend quality time with guys they’re trying to punk every week, and guys they grew up watching. 

I watched Collin Morikawa putt in front of Steve Stricker on Wednesday. On Saturday night, long after darkness had enveloped Quail Hollow, Scotite Scheffler remained on the putting green for an emergency session with Strick as Davis Love III looked on. Such collaboration simply doesn’t happen week-in and week-out, and it’s what makes these weeks special. Whereas some top players once viewed these team competitions as a chore, this American core (and the Internationals) embrace it all. It shows in the way they interact with each other and, more importantly, in the way they play. 

6. The amount of fans at golf tournaments—who, at least in theory, are among the more avid golf fans—that mispronounce very famous player’s names never ceases to amaze. On Thursday, one of the volunteers working the putting green was chatting away with a fan and clearly knew his stuff. He mused on the different routing at Quail Hollow this week, the speed of the greens and the up-and-coming International side…and then, out of nowhere, he pronounced Jordan Spieth’s name as SPY-th. Like, what? Has this guy been watching golf on mute for 10 years? Have none of his friends ever bothered to correct him? It’s one thing to mispronounce Bezuidenhout—it’s buh-ZAY-din-hote, by the way—but Jordan Spieth? Arguably the most famous American golfer since Tiger Woods? Astonishing stuff. 

7. Cameron Young has entered Rory McIlroy territory. By that I mean, it’s absolutely must-watch anytime the 25-year-old hits driver. Nay, mashes driver’s probably a more fitting term. They hit the ball virtually the same distance—Rory averaged 321.3 off the tee last season, Cam checked in at 319.3—but couldn’t look more different in the way they swing the club. 

McIlroy is the picture of grace. He’s never out of balance, and there’s a beautiful rhythm to his move. No one makes 190 mph ball speed look smoother. 

Young, on the contrary, launches every ounce of his being into the back of that poor golf ball. He takes the club back slowly, pauses at the top, then unleashes with a violence you don’t often see at the highest level of professional golf. He has one speed, and it’s 1000 percent, and it’s awesome to witness in person. 

8. The U.S. got an incredibly fortunate break when Hideki Matsuyama's tee shot on the 18th on Sunday, when he was tied with Sam Burns, hit a marshal's leg and kicked dead left. He couldn't control his approach from there, launched his second over the green and did very well—with an assist from the flagstick—to make par. Had that drive not hit the marshal, perhaps he hits the green with his second, which would've put intense pressure on Sam Burns. Instead, Burns played to the middle of the green. They wound up having the match the Internationals absolutely had to have. 

What a strange game—where a 50-something random Charlotte man decided to stand played a significant role in deciding the winner of a competition between 24 of the best golfers in the world.

9. It’s damn near impossible to make a better impression than Tom Kim did this week. The most degenerate golf fans have known about this kid since the beginning of the year, when he won on the Asian Tour as a 19-year-old. He catapulted to relevance with a solo third against a loaded field at the Genesis Scottish Open, then became the youngest player not named Jordan Spieth to win on the PGA Tour since World War II with his W at the Wyndham Championship. He’s already inching close to being a top 20 player in the world before he can enjoy an alcoholic beverage in the U.S., and he’s got heaps of charisma. He’s going to be a massive, massive star. 

It starts with his total and complete mastery of the English language, which allows him to connect with American fans in ways non-English speakers like Hideki Matsuyama cannot. He told me on Tuesday that he dreams both in Korean and in English, which is when you know you’re truly fluent. And he’s not just comfortable speaking English—he’s funny as hell. Confident, driven and honest. For those who don’t know, he goes by Tom instead of his given name, Joohyung, because he loved Thomas the Tank Engine growing up. He said he was rooting against his countryman Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship because he loved Tiger, but more so because he’d already set the goal at 7 years old to be the first Asian player to win a major championship. 

This week, he didn’t hesitate to self-proclaim himself the biggest eater on the International side. He ripped his team-issued pants not once, but twice. On Thursday, he fired up the crowd, club-twirled and quick-pick-upped his tee for a shot that flew straight into a fairway bunker. He pumped his fist and yelled after holing a putt on the 14th green…while 5 down. On Friday, he walked in a putt…only to continue walking past the hole and toward the next tee. On Saturday, he hearted a downhill eagle putt, dropped his putter and headed to the next tee. Someone else will grab it. He provided pure electricity, a lone bright spot for the Internationals. And he authored the coolest moment of the week for the Internationals, when he birdied the 18th for a one-up victory over Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, who both seemed less than enthused with the 20-year-old’s exuberance.

We’re all-in on this kid, and keeping him on the PGA Tour—he’s said it’s always been his dream to play over here—is a massive get for the powers that be in Ponte Vedra. He’s also proof of something PGA Tour officials have preached throughout this LIV battle: that new stars come and go. No one had any clue who Cameron Young or Tom Kim were 18 months ago, and now they’re starring in one of golf’s marquee events. The show stops for no one. 

10. That said—for the life of me, I'll never understand Trevor Immelman sending him out 10th out of 12 singles matches. His team faced a four-point deficit, hardly ideal but the same margin the Europeans overcame on Sunday to win the 2012 Ryder Cup and the Americans overcame to win the 1999 Ryder Cup. The key to those comebacks was early momentum; when you're down, you put your horses out first and hope they can flood the board with black and yellow early. That energy can then reverberate throughout the golf course and inject some belief into the rest of the squad. Kim was the mascot of this team, its spark plug, and Immelman opted to send him out third to last. Yes, he failed to beat Max Homa, but who knows what would've happened if he went out early. Immelman's decision made no sense in the moment and it makes no sense now. 

"As far as putting him out earlier, you know, I've been saying this all week," Immelman said. "A lot of people have been laughing. But, you know, we have our system, and we try and run it. If we're 10 up or 10 down, we run our system, and we see what happens."

Hogwash. Any great leader/coach adapts to the situation at hand. This was a miss.

11. Justin Thomas has to be an absolute nightmare to play against. He’s 5’10” on a good day and not exactly built like Adonis—and yet he swings out of his shoes and pumps it way past you. He’s a Ph.D. in the art of Club Twirling, and no one on the U.S. side interacts with the crowd with more fervor than he does. The man was dabbing throughout he and Jordan Spieth’s victory on Friday afternoon. He bitched when Si Woo Kim didn't give him a 31-inch putt to win the hole in singles and looked about ready to rip the South Korean's head off for the rest of the match. Is he justified in such pettiness? The traditionalists will tell you he's not, but can't we let golfers act like athletes one week a year? To talk shit and take things personal? Thomas burns hotter than hot, and while it would get old if it were every week, I for one enjoy quite watching his gusto in the team competitions. 

It’s a perfect match play attitude, and it’s no coincidence he’s emerged as the emotional leader of these post-Tiger American sides. Even after a singles loss to Si Woo Kim, Thomas is now a combined 16-5-3 across Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and he’s still south of 30 years old. He’ll be a thorn in the Europeans and Internationals side for another decade-plus to come.

12. That said, the event should also be three days. One of the cooler parts of the Ryder Cup is that early-morning scene on Friday, when fans scurry to the first tee, fueled by adrenaline and Irish coffee, and begin singing as the sun rises. The jam-packed schedule of two sessions on both Friday and Saturday produce a frenetic cadence, and it feels like you’re dropped into the middle of the competition right from the jump. Contrast that with the Presidents Cup—the action didn’t kick off until 1 pm on Thursday, so there was none of that early-morning energy, and there were just 10 balls in play during that opening foursomes session. After the third session wrapped up on Saturday morning there were still over half the total points still up for grabs. Sometimes less is more, and while the lopsided score surely made it feel even longer, this event dragged on one day too many. They’re not going to change it because four days means four days of ticket revenue, but condensing this to Friday-Sunday would be addition by subtraction. 

13. We must give credit where credit is due: Patrick Cantlay has sped up his pre-shot routine significantly. He used to be borderline unwatchable with all his waggles and looks at the target, and though he’s still not exactly rapid out there, it’s far more palatable. 

His longtime coach, Jamie Mulligan, said the move was conscious. “We had to incorporate footwork into his process when he hurt his back,” he told me, which explains all the foot tapping he’d do. “And it would just take a while because he wasn’t used to it. It’s much, much better now. 

Nice work all around. 

14. When you watch as much golf as I do, you learn what to pay attention to and what to ignore. You never listen to the clown standing greenside who thinks he can read putts better than the Tour pros he’s paid to come watch. The collective gallery can be quite helpful for judging a shot that you can’t see land. But if you want real insight into how good a shot was, try to listen to the caddies. 

I was standing adjacent to the teebox on the drivable par-4 8th during Thursday’s foursomes session, but I couldn’t quite see where the balls would land up by the green. Collin Morikawa, who loves himself a drivable par 4, took a rip then had a puzzled look on his face. I couldn’t tell how he felt about the shot…until his caddie, J.J. Jakovac, spoke up: “Yup, that’s money right there, Collin.” His ball finished just left of the putting surface, and Cameron Young chipped it to tap-in range. The caddies always know. 

15. After years (decades?) of trying different leadership styles, there now seems to be a prevailing wisdom among American captains. Put simply: do less. One of the key takeaways from the oft-ridiculed “Task Force” following the 2014 Ryder Cup was that team-competition weeks were too big a departure from the norm for professional golfers, who are as regimented as they come. One potential explanation for why the always-favored-on-paper Americans kept underperforming was that they were being asked to do things they weren’t on normal weeks—more mandatory team dinners, sponsor shindigs, etc. But Steve Stricker was about as hands-off as you could be at last year’s Ryder Cup, and it worked perfectly, and Davis Love III continued the laissez-faire leadership approach. 

“Davis has done an unbelievable job of -- very, very similar to Strick at Whistling Straits last year,” Justin Thomas said. “He understands he has 12 really, really good players, and he's taking information in that he needs and sees fit. But he fully understands and thinks that we are capable of playing well enough on the course. It's almost just kind of like a stay out of the way type thing. This is when you're playing, and just make sure you get to the tee on time kind of thing.”

If you want the best out of a golfer, why make him change his routine? The captains seem to have finally internalized that message, and they’re trusting that each of these players knows what works best for them—and they’re producing it on the golf course. Since that 2014 debacle, the Americans are 6-1 in team competitions. 

16. Scottie Scheffler is the No. 1 player in the world and the reigning PGA Tour player of the year. One would presume that such an accomplished golfer would have no quirks or weaknesses in his game, but Scottie does—he struggled this week out of pine straw and fairway bunkers. The reason? His right leg slides backwards during his downswing, and it’s vital to have a quiet lower body when trying to make clean contact on uneven surfaces. Scottie also hit a cold shank during Friday morning’s foursomes session and failed to win any of his four matches, finishing 0-3-1. 

This isn’t to shit on the guy. Quite the opposite, actually—his week, slips and struggles and all, is another reminder of the imperfect nature of this game. Even the best player on Earth has weaknesses and off weeks. 

17. I haven't been around as long as a bunch of other golf media types, but the shot Si Woo Kim hit from the trees right of the 17th hole on Sunday was one of the 10 best I've ever witnessed in person. After fanning his tee shot well right, he had 228 yards to the flag stick. The ball was sitting well above his feet, in the pine straw, and he had to keep it below a branch about 30 yards ahead. I thought that would make it impossible to hold the elevated green, as it would have to come in so low, but that's why he's playing and I'm typing. Kim ripped a long iron under the tree that cut, off a draw line, and he somehow compressed it enough to have it rise after it evaded the tree. It pitched just short of the green and held the putting surface, and I was positively dumfounded. He made par to keep the match all square and allow Tom Kim to drop the hammer on 18.

18. We're gonna break the fourth wall here—I want to thank all of you for following along this week. I wasn't sure how much I'd write at Barstool, or if there'd be a demand for it, but plenty of you have reached out to with words of encouragement. I was a writer well before I was a podcaster, and I take great pride in the written word. I'm beyond pumped that I have the freedom to continue doing my thing here. Major season can't get here soon enough.