Predictions and analysis for Presidents Cup singles matches

November 20, 2011

There is no need to quote the great sage, Yogi Berra, here, because it should be obvious that the Presidents Cup isn't over just yet.

Yes, the United States holds a 13-9 lead over the Internationals, and a four-point edge going into the singles final round is a big one.

This Presidents Cup is over, however, barring The Miracle at Melbourne. That's what it will take, something on the order of the American charge at the 1999 Ryder Cup at The Country Club at Brookline. You may recall that Ben Crenshaw captained a struggling U.S. team that suddenly turned it on in the singles and rallied, incredibly, to win. How far behind were the Americans then?

Four points.

The key to that victory was front-loading. Crenshaw sent his best players out first in an effort to close the gap and turn up the pressure. International captain Greg Norman didn't do that here. In fact, he did just about the opposite.

Will that strategy work? You know what the great sage says about strategy in baseball — if it works, it's smart; if it doesn't, it's dumb.

Here's how the single matches shape up:

K.T. Kim vs. Webb Simpson. This may be the most crucial match in the bunch. Let's tell it like it is — Simpson is the best American player in 2011. The Internationals can't afford to fall five points behind by losing this one. That's why Norman's choice of Kim seems second-guessable. On the other hand, Kim played some impressive shots in his Saturday fourball match. If Kim knocks off the Americans' top gun, that's going to build momentum for the rest of the International team. Still, Simpson has had a hot hand all week. Sorry, Shark. The pick: Simpson.

Charl Schwartzel vs. Dustin Johnson. The current Masters champion has looked off his game all week, especially on the greens. Johnson has played reasonably well tee to green, but he's also struggled with the putter. Who's going to finally make some putts? Maybe the guy who birdied the last four holes to win the Masters. The pick: Schwartzel.

Ryo Ishikawa vs. Bubba Watson. Ishikawa was a late arrival and struggled with his game, dragging down Ernie Els in two straight losses. Then he turned it around, and he and Els got a win on Saturday. But Watson loves match play and joined forces with Simpson to be America's most formidable twosome. The pick: Watson.

Geoff Ogilvy vs. Bill Haas. Ogilvy grew up practically on the other side of the Royal Melbourne fence. Haas had a very solid week, and he really looked comfortable on this stage. But this is the ultimate home game for Ogilvy. He has to win for his team, his friends, his hometown–he has to. The pick: Ogilvy.

Jason Day vs. Hunter Mahan. Day had a great year in the major championships, and he was picked by many to lead the charge for the Internationals. But his game got exposed a bit this week. He hits a high ball, even in the wind, and he's not very good playing out of the rough. His putting is spotty, too, although some of the blame has to go to Royal Melbourne's crazy greens. Mahan solidified his reputation as one of the tour's better ballstrikers — he holed out from the fairway once, too. The pick: Mahan.

K.J. Choi vs. Nick Watney. This could be a real tussle. Choi was fairly dependable for the Internationals, but he did play a few loose shots. Watney was disappointed to sit out one session and is playing like he has something to prove. At his best, he's one of the top three American players. The pick: Choi.

Adam Scott vs. Phil Mickelson. Scott turned into the go-to workhorse of this International team. He played well and wielded that long putter pretty effectively. Mickelson struggled a bit with his short putter, but he made enough longer putts to make up for it. Mickelson also sat out Saturday afternoon's session to be rested for this match. Scott went hard all day. The pick: Mickelson.

Retief Goosen vs. Matt Kuchar. Kuchar was paired with Steve Stricker, and it got silly as Kuchar ran in putts from everywhere. Goosen, a two-time U.S. Open champ, suddenly got his putter warmed up during his Saturday fourball match. Kuchar seems like the hot hand, but Goosen specializes in surprises. The pick: Goosen.

Ernie Els vs. Jim Furyk. Neither player had his best year, and both struggled with the putter. These two veterans may be the most determined players on their respective teams. A nice matchup. Flip a coin. The pick: Furyk.

Robert Allenby vs. David Toms. Allenby is still one of the game's better ballstrikers, but he doesn't win tournaments anymore because of his weak putting. Toms is also one of the game's better ballstrikers and is still solid with the putter. Despite Allenby's big edge in course knowledge, Toms looks better here. The pick: Toms.

Aaron Baddeley vs. Tiger Woods. Baddeley redeemed himself on Friday after a bad finish in the opening round. Woods showed that his tee-to-green game is, indeed, making progress. He shaped shots like his old, dominant self, and you could see the confidence returning. Woods couldn't buy a putt and was frustrated by many close misses. But the old Woods simply wouldn't lose this match, period. But this isn't the old Woods, or is it? The pick: Woods.

Y.E. Yang vs. Steve Stricker. Stricker's game was a bit rusty early, but he came around in later matches. Odds are, this match won't matter because the outcome should be decided. Yang is an underrated player, but his play this week has been inconsistent. The pick: Yang.