Team USA's Keys to Victory at the Presidents Cup in South Korea
Total number of matches Phil Mickelson has competed in the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup and Walker Cup play, the most by any player in team competitions and a record that will take decades for anyone to surpass. A controversial Captain’s pick after his poor play this summer, when he failed to secure a single top-10 finish, Mickelson not only brought great team sprit to the locker room but came through big on the course, winning four of his five matches and securing a draw in the other despite the bizarre rules violation that cost him and partner Zach Johnson an “extra” hole. Of course, Phil turned his rookie gaffe into motivational gold by reminding opponents Jason Day and Adam Scott that they still couldn’t win despite being spotted two holes. After his play in South Korea, it’s hard to imagine anyone second guessing Captain Davis Love III if he selects Lefty to join the Ryder Cup squad in Hazeltine next year.
This was the third Presidents Cup to come down to the final hole. Bill Haas went into the 18th one up on Sangmoon Bae on Sunday, and by winning the hole, secured the U.S. victory. Had Bae won 18 to halve the match, the two sides would have tied with 15 points apiece. In 2003, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els halved the third playoff hole with par, and due to darkness, the match was deemed a tie, resulting in the first (and only) draw in Presidents Cup history. In 1996 Fred Couples, playing in the final group against Vijay Singh, made a birdie putt on 17 for a 2 & 1 win, securing the cup for team USA by a score of 16.5 to 15.5.
Jason Day’s record for the week caught everyone by surprise. The Aussie was the best player in the world over the summer, nearly won Player of the Year honors and was expected to be the unofficial leader of the International squad. Instead, he failed to earn a full point and never seemed to gel with three different partners, losing twice to Jordan Spieth and getting beaten handily by Zach Johnson 3 & 2 in Sunday singles. In many ways, Day’s poor play is the reason for the U.S. win.
Phil Mickelson, Bill Haas and J.B. Holmes accounted for 7.5 of Team USA’s 15.5 points, a performance that makes Jay Haas, who selected Mickelson and Haas as Captain’s picks then added Holmes to replace an ailing Jim Furyk, look like a genius.
Dustin Johnson turned a 1-down deficit with Danny Lee into a two up victory on Sunday by winning the final three holes. He also teamed well with Jordan Spieth, as the duo won two of their three matches. The only one they didn’t win was against the powerhouse pairing of Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, who became the first international tandem to go 4-0-0. Despite a muscle strain which has hindered his play over the last month, Oosthuizen made eagle on 18 to halve his singles match with Patrick Reed while Grace beat Matt Kuchar 2 & 1 to become just the fifth player in Presidents Cup history to go 5-0-0.
Adam Scott managed just one win this week, dismantling Rickie Fowler 6 & 5 in singles. But paired with four different players, Scott still couldn’t find a winning partner (he’s had 11 different partners in his seven Presidents Cups) going 0-2-2 in foursomes and fourball. Despite a new caddie and switching to a standard length putter, Scott still struggled on the greens, and with the putting ban going into effect at the end of the year, we have to wonder if the Aussie’s career could be in trouble.