Charlotte, NC | The last Presidents Cup was so close, the Internationals left with new hope that they had enough games and enough fights to conquer the mighty Americans.
It seems like a long time ago now.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Presidents Cup by a year. Even more damaging is the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, which has drained international experience.
“It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for the past three years,” said Open champion Cameron Smith, who was then officially announced 20 days later for the rival league.
Chile’s Joaquin Niemann and Australia’s Marc Leishman also signed LIV Golf for cash, just two days before the 12-man international was about to be filled. Louis Oosthuizen had a great run in the Presidents Cup, never playing for a winning team, but he did so well that he was one of the first to return in June.
Captain America Davis Love III was asked if he felt sorry for Trevor Immelman, who was chosen as international captain long before LIV was more than a Roman numeral.
“I feel bad about the golf game right now because that’s how the story goes,” Love said. “I feel bad for all of us, really. But Trevor has work to do, which is to get 12 guys out there ready to play, and he’s going to focus on that.”
The 14th edition between the Americans and an international team of players from outside Europe, which kicks off Thursday at the Quail Hollow club, looks as one-sided as the records suggest.
The Americans have only lost once, in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, Australia, 12 days before Christmas. A tie in South Africa followed by eight straight U.S. celebrations.
Team USA beat Europe 19-9 in the Ryder Cup and beat Europe in Whistling Strait with a young and hungry team.
The Americans aren’t immune to these defections either — Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau are all on that Ryder Cup team — though they’re not sure they’ll be the one team. Johnson has not won stateside since the November 2020 Masters while others are trying to recover from injuries.
The state of American golf is that it is easy to find alternatives. All 12 players are in the top 25 in the world rankings.
The International had only three players in the top 25 to fight back — former Masters champions Hideki Matsuyama, Sung-jae Lim and 20-year-old Tom Kim of South Korea, who even fought back before winning the Wyndham Championship six weeks ago. has not been considered.
Immelman brought eight Presidents Cup rookies to Quail Hollow. Only three players on his team have won games this year. Only two — Matsuyama and Adam Scott — have won a major.
Love’s team has only three players without a win this year. That includes two-time major champions Colin Morikawa and Cameron Young, a five-time runner-up on the PGA Tour who is just one shot away from two majors.
Now think back to Melbourne in 2019, where the Presidents Cup was heading for the internationals, until the last day of the US rallies and won 16-14. Ernie Els is the captain who gave the team a new logo, new identity and fighting spirit.
At the end of the game, Els said of his team: “If you look at their records and where these guys are currently, where they’re going, I can tell you.”
It was not his idea to go to a rival alliance to secure wealth.
Team USA has five Presidents Cup rookies, two (Morikawa and Scotty Scheffler) in the Ryder Cup and two (Sam Burns and Max Homa) in the past 12 months won three PGA Tour victories.
It is one-sided on paper. This is a one-sided history. If there’s pressure on the Americans, it’s not the team that ends up losing.
Immelman has made no secret of his disappointment at the absence of Oosthuizen, Smith and Niemann and those who are seen as important contributors.
All he had was 12 people who wanted to be in Quail Hollow. Players who signed with the Saudi tycoon at LIV Golf knew they faced a PGA Tour suspension, meaning they couldn’t compete in the Presidents Cup.
“When the players decided to make me their captain in early 2020 – and that was before the pandemic, before the professional game broke down and divided – I signed a specific set of rules and our team was a loyal team,” Immelman said. “Our team is a team that walks the talk. We will abide by the rules.
“These are 12 players who want to qualify. These are 12 players who want to be on the team. That’s the 12 I want at the end of the day.”
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