News & Opinion

U.S. sets up Internationals for another letdown

JERSEY CITY, N.J. – This time, the International team told everyone who would listen, it was going to be different. The one-sided history of the Presidents Cup, which the Americans lead, 9-1-1, had nothing to do with how this International team would perform this week at Liberty National Golf Club, the visitors insisted.

Instead, Thursday’s opening foursomes turned out to be just like most other days in this biennial match, with the U.S. winning the first session, 3½-1½, with the anticipated dominance. 

By the time that Phil Mickelson missed an 8-foot putt on the 18th hole in the final match that would have given the Americans a full point, the mantra of change had, well, changed. Sure, the Internationals had salvaged a half-point and avoided a 4-1 deficit, but they will enter today’s four-balls facing this reality: The team that wins the opening session has won nine of the 11 Presidents Cups.

Despite that reality, the International players remained relatively upbeat.

“I think there's quite a few of us that played now in the last three together,” Louis Oosthuizen said after he and South African countryman Branden Grace defeated Daniel Berger and Brooks Koepka, 3 and 1, for the visitors’ lone full point (scores: http://bit.ly/2xzUKfk). “So, it feels more comfortable. We feel more comfortable around each other.”

International captain Nick Price agreed, suggesting that his players are not disappointed but in a better position than they have been in previous matches.

“We have a resilient team,” said Price, who has captained the past two International losses. “You know, they have this ability to come back and bounce back, and they have done it. They did it last time in Korea.”

It might sound good, but history will show that the Internationals trailed, 4-1, after the first session in 2015 before losing, 15½-14½. Price and his 12 players again find themselves in the same sort of quicksand. To suggest that this time will be any different is similar to the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Of course, it is sport and anything is possible, but looking down the roster for today’s four-ball session, it’s difficult to find more than one point for the Internationals.

11:35 a.m.: Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth (U.S.) vs. Adam Hadwin and Hideki Matsuyama
11:50 a.m.: Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler (U.S.) vs. Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen
12:05 p.m.: Kevin Kisner and Phil Mickelson (U.S.) vs. Marc Leishman and Jason Day
12:20 p.m.: Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell (U.S.) Anirban Lahiri and Charl Schwartzel
12:35 p.m.: Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson (U.S.) vs. Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Scott

Another winning session for the U.S. today would make any possibility of an International victory fleeting, at best.

U.S. captain Steve Stricker recognizes that potential, and he front-loaded his first two pairings with Thursday winners Reed-Spieth and Thomas-Fowler.

Las Vegas oddsmakers, who had the Americans opening as 1-4 favorites, see the likelihood of another U.S. victory as even more probable. They moved the line to 1-7.

There’s always Royal Melbourne in two years.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli