PRESIDENTS CUP: Though it may not pack the same history, tradition, or emotional punch as the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup has become an important event in its own right, and this week the 14th edition will be staged at the famed Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, a course best known for being the permanent host of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship.
The format is well known to most who follow the game: two 12-man teams will compete over four days, with one side representing the United States and the other the rest of the world, minus Europe. Much like the Ryder Cup, it’s a match play tournament, with best ball (fourball), alternate shot (foursomes), and singles formats all used. The team captains decide on parings, matchups, and order of play, and this year the Americans are captained by Davis Love III, while Trevor Immelman leads the International team.
Ok… that’s the obvious, boring stuff. The real subplot here is the Presidents Cup’s place in the golf world amidst the ongoing LIV/PGA Tour feud (or maybe “war” is more appropriate at this point). You see, the Presidents Cup, being owned by the PGA Tour, has banned all LIV players from participating. This has left the U.S. team without a couple of stars, but it has positively decimated the Internationals, with names like Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, and Marc Leishman all barred from the competition.
There were some questions about the way it was all handled, with International captain Trevor Immelman specifically citing the Oosthuizen decision as puzzling, as the Internationals have never had to be PGA Tour members in the past, and Oosthuizen resigned his Tour membership before joining LIV and is therefore not technically suspended. The Tour held firm, however, and now Immelman is left captaining a team of guys who can objectively be called “second rate” when compared to their American counterparts.
These actions are consistent with the way the PGA Tour has handled the LIV situation from the beginning, but that doesn’t make them good for this particular event– as a matter of fact, with such a strong contingent of would-be Internationals now on the LIV Tour, barring such players forevermore would seriously (fatally?) damage the credibility of this tournament. For the future of the Presidents Cup, the powers that be must figure out some sort of work-around.
For now, though, it is what it is: a colossal mismatch on paper. The U.S. team to win outright is currently trading at 1.18 at BETDAQ, and though I think that price is a little silly considering the nature of golf, there’s no doubt that the Americans are both more accomplished and more experienced. They’re also on home turf, though most of the International team will have played Quail Hollow in competition. One thing’s for sure when it comes to the George Cobb-designed track: it will put your tee-to-green game to the test. Measuring nearly 7,500 yards from the tips, it’s a ball-strikers layout that harshly penalizes mistakes and yields few easy birdie opportunities. Length off the tee is a key component to success, and the small, undulating Bermuda greens have given players fits over the years. There’s no “faking it” around Quail Hollow, which makes it the perfect stage for an event like this.
Here are a few bets that I think may be worth a look this week:
Patrick Cantlay top U.S. points scorer at 7.0- Cantlay is currently playing the best golf of his career, having found the top-15 in 8 of his past 9 starts overall, which of course includes his victory in last month’s BMW Championship. He also happens to be an accomplished match play competitor, posting an 8-4-1 career singles record in match play events, which includes victories over current International team members Sungjae Im and Hideki Matsuyama. He’ll be deployed early and often by captain Davis Love and is a good bet to finish the week as the top scorer on the U.S. side.
Joohyung “Tom” Kim top International points scorer at 7.5- Young Tom Kim has made quite a splash this summer, emerging from obscurity with a string of terrific results, including a T3 at the Scottish Open, T7 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and his first PGA Tour victory at the Wyndham Championship. He’s arrow-straight off the tee and would be among the leaders in both birdie average and scoring average if he had enough rounds to qualify, and his confidence is obviously sky-high right now. I read this week that Kim has become a leader of sorts on the International team, giving off a vibe that others want to be around. He’ll be leaned upon heavily in his first Presidents Cup and I like his chances of leading his team in points.
Internationals win outright at 8.2- Golf is a funny game, and the margin separating players at the very top of the sport is razor thin. All the talk this week seems to be centered on who ISN’T here for the Internationals, but it’s important to remember that the players who are here this week– Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Tom Kim, Corey Conners, etc.– are pretty darn good in their own right, and all they’ve been hearing about is what a mismatch this is. The American team is better, sure, but is the difference in quality between the two teams enough to justify the price? I don’t believe it is– the Internationals are worth chancing.