USA Comes Back at Presidents Cup, Catches Internationals
In years past, I have failed to pay sufficient attention to the Presidents Cup. The Ryder and Solheim, sure, but I didn’t realize how epic the competition could get at this event sitting quietly in the back seat from the headlienrs. The U.S. versus the Internationals, or just about any country or continent versus anyone is not supremely interesting to me, although I like the personal dynamic of the Solheim. However, this week, I realized just how international the team of Internationals is.
Young and old, familiar or new, the international team brought out a slate of interesting folks. Abraham Ancer hails from Mexico, in the U.S.’ own back yard. He wanted to face Tiger Woods in the worst way, but unfortunately for Ancer, Tiger had one of those days Tiger can still have from time to time. Woods took the singles match on the final day against Ancer, 3 and 2 – but I still don’t know which ‘presidents’ we’re talking about.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan was four up through ten holes over Tony Finau. However, Finau suddenly took charge and birdied the next four, going on to win.
Patrick Reed took care of Taiwanese golfer C.T. Pan without too much trouble, despite a tough week of heckling and news items. A caddie change became necessary after the main guy had a testy exchange with a heckling fan. The insults hurled on the first day continued, but Reed answered with what he does best under pressure, and in match play – birdies. According to Reed, “When you make birdies, you don’t hear much.” Reed is a wicked match player, and seems to love the gunslinger, face to face model of competition. In terms of intimidation, rivals shouldn’t even bother. It brings out the birdie in him, and he can compartmentalize abuse like no other.
Some of these names at the Presidents Cup are famous ones, but I didn’t know they were at the event, like Dustin Johnson. Unfortunately for China’s Haotong Li, he drew Johnson’s number and went down to defeat, 4 and 3. Canada’s Adam Hadwin managed a tie with Bryson DeChambeau. The internationals finally got a lick in as South Korea’s Sungiae Im defeated Gary Woodland. Im’s colleague, fared less well in a 2 and 1 defeat at the hands of Webb Simpson.
Joaquin Niemann out of Chile, fell to Patrick Cantlay 3 and 2, but Aussie Cameron Smith defeated Justin Thomas 2 and 1. I’m sure that Smith enjoyed his victory, although what he really wanted was to take on Patrick Reed. It might not have gone well. Smith probably would have made him mad, and received a volley of birdies in return. Two ties rounded out the American victory between Matt Kuchar and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Matt Kuchar and Australian Marc Leishman.
The International team remains winless in 9 consecutive Presidents Cup, but this time, it came so close to being different. Captain Ernie Els committed himself a thousand percent to pairings and team familiarity. In previous Presidents Cups, golfers sometimes arrived as strangers on the first day. Els’ efforts were affirmed in a seriously equal match, and his team was anything but overwhelmed. Seeing the team spread so widely around the globe was fun for me, more than one continent taking on another. The team selection adds an air of fascination, with different countries in different stages of developing the game. For the men, Australia, South Africa, and Canada have always had luminaries in the game. In Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, I usually expect a sturdier presence among the female players. Mexico and Chile are fun additions as we gain familiarity with their stars.
The Presidents Cup will from now on capture more of my attention. Good guys and villains are an integral part of an intra-continental event, but it leaves too many countries out. This is a sign of truly global golf. Now, if we can just manage to elect a female president in the west one of these days, perhaps a parallel event for women is in the offing.