Presidents Cup 2013 – Who Are These Guys?
I can’t believe that we are, as a group of team match-play spectators, asking that question again. When will we ever learn? Wasn’t it just two weeks ago that we were searching Wikipedia and youtube for information on some of Europe’s Solheim no-names, only to find that they were not no-names (or “no-games”) at all?
The Presidents Cup has generally gone the American’s way, with an accumulative record of 7-1-1. So what? The U.S. had a pretty good Solheim record going as well, and a home turf advantage – they got massacred.
The two captains for this year’s version are Fred Couples and Nick Price, and they each get two captain’s picks. If you stick to what it looks like on paper, Fred has reason to rejoice, with choices like Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and the recently (and suddenly) emerged Jordan Spieth. The rest of the world, to the contrary, offers a group with no high visibility to the west, and no clear credentials. It is at this point that we in the west must repeat to ourselves one hundred times, “just because we don’t know them doesn’t mean they can’t play.” To do otherwise is an invitation to another bout of Solheim’s disease, although it must be admitted that the women of Europe had pretty hefty credentials, regardless of our state of ignorance. Such a plague hit the American team at Royal Melbourne in 1998, where a bunch of no-names did to the high-profile yanks what Europe did to the LPGA in Colorado.
Already representing the opposition are Brandon Grace, Richard Sterne, Hideki Matsuyama and Graham DeLaet. In Grace’s case, there is some reason for the outer world to worry. He has amassed zero earnings this year, has finished 12th at the Masters and has made 6 cuts. Finishing 12th at the Masters is pretty good as a rule, unless your opponent has a Masters winner, which they do,. The upside of Grace is that he is the first player on the European tour to win his first four events in the same year.
Richard Sterne? Ok, I don’t know him, but in seven events, he’s made 4 cuts and one top-ten finish. He won the ’04 Madrid Open and the ’07 Celtic Manor – and don’t diminish those events just because they’re not central to American culture. Besides, he’s under the wing of Gary Player, and that can’t ever hurt.
Hideki Mutsuyama won the Asian Amateur at the age of 18, the gold medal at the 2011 World University Games and has been ranked the #1 amateur in the world.
The toughest of the bunch could be Graham DeLaet of Canada, who made a great pro start before experiencing back damage in 2011. A Saskatchewan native, he won ten college tournaments at Boise State, has made 8 of 10 cuts in 2013, and finished tied for second in the PGA – obviously he can play, and proves it, often.
Past that, Thongchai Jaidee was the leading money winner on the Asian tour and a five-time winner, including the Volvo Masters.
If you want to up your game, play somebody good. If you want to beat them, peak at the right time. That’s what the collective European Solheim did, and there’s no reason to think these guys can’t do it, too. Bubba winning the Masters a year or two ago doesn’t relate much to this year. Furyk almost winning a big one doesn’t really relate, either, although it suggests he’s playing well. Steve Stricker might prefer to sit on a beach in Tahiti – who knows? Hot-shot newcomer Spieth might ignite, or crash.
Whether we know them or not, we’ve got to figure that a team of golfers selected from such a huge portion of the globe has got to come up with somebody who can really challenge. Treat them with any less respect, and you are handing them the advantage. All right then, yanks – head down, left arm straight, etc. – you know the drill.