Tour Confidential: Facing a three-point deficit after one session, is this U.S. team already doomed?

December 12, 2019

Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they break down the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. At the Presidents Cup opening four-ball session on Thursday in Melbourne, Australia, the International Team won four of the five matches to take a 4-1 lead. With four sessions remaining, including Sunday singles, we’ve convened our panel for an emergency session surrounding the following question:

No team has ever lost a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup when leading by three or more points after the opening session. Is this U.S. team already doomed?

Sean Zak, senior editor (@Sean_Zak): Hell no! They have the better players. They just need them to play like it. Also, kill the DeChambeau-Finau pairing as quick as you can. That one never made sense.

Luke Kerr-Dineen, instruction editor (@LukeKerrDineen): A deficit this large only matters when the teams are relatively equal in strength, which is simply not the case here. The U.S. team is still so much more talented, and far from being doomed, I think they’re still the favorite to win this thing. Which suggests, actually, that the only thing this lead dooms is the Presidents Cup itself. If the International Team races to a three-point lead on home soil and the U.S. team still manages to cruise to victory, as I suspect they will, it all but proves this is not a competition in any sense of the word. In the minds of so many golf fans, the Presidents Cup will be solidified as little more than a low-stakes, Harlem Globetrotters-style exhibition, where the opposing side exists only so the real stars of the show can showcase their ability. Squander this lead, and it will prove to so many fans that it is essentially impossible for the International team to win this contest.

Jonathan Wall, equipment editor (@jonathanrwall): The U.S. has a 69-37-18 all-time record in foursomes. Guess which format is on tap for Day 2? This thing isn’t close to being over.

Josh Sens, senior writer (@JoshSens): The odds I’m looking at now have the Internationals as slight favorites to win it all, which seems right to me. The U.S. has more firepower, sure, but the nuances and complexities of Royal Melbourne neutralize some of that. The premium here is links-like creativity and dead-eye putting. And in that respect, I don’t see this contest as overly lopsided. I got a kick out of the post match handshake between Oosthuizen/Ancer and Woodland/DJ yesterday The internationals barely came up to the Americans’ shoulders but the puny guys had just administered a waxing. A possible metaphor for the final result.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Not at all. The U.S. team will get over its jet lag little by little, get used to the course and the flies. The Patrick Reed taunting will simmer down (not that it should) over time. A pep-talk from Tiger and what-it-takes will have more meaning than any pep-talk ever delivered by coach/manager since Bob Knight was at the height of his red-sweater excellence. And when it’s all said and done, the Americans will play well enough to lose by a point.

Dylan Dethier, senior writer (@dylan_dethier): The only thing I’d add is that this is quite literally the perfect start to this Presidents Cup. Team USA winning? Yawn. But having to overcome a three-point International Team head start — that’s the good stuff. The U.S. needs to win 14.5-10.5 the rest of the way, which feels more than possible. We’re only 1/6 of the way through!

Jessica Marksbury, multimedia editor (@Jess_Marksbury): I’m impressed by how dismissive many of us seem to be in the face of this very convincing stat! Doomed seems too strong a word, but I’ll concede that this start certainly makes things more interesting going forward. The Americans’ so-called “superior talent” hasn’t prevented them from losing Ryder Cups in the past, and as Josh pointed out, Royal Melbourne isn’t a course that appears to favor them in any way. I know we’re only one session in, but I’m worried for the ol’ red, white and blue at this point.

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