The stage is set for the Presidents Cup to kick off Thursday afternoon. What we have in front of us is five foursomes matches between the Americans and Internationals.
Here’s are some things to keep in mind and how we see the matches playing out. Hint: Day 1 will be tighter than you think.
Rickie Fowler/Justin Thomas
vs. Charl Schwartzel/Hideki Matsuyama
This is a ballstriker’s fantasy. Each pair boasts a top-six player in strokes gained approaching the green and their partners also both rank in the top 40. Look for lots of tap-in birdies.
As much as the buddies-duo of Thomas and Fowler might seem like an obvious pick, what with Thomas being the hottest player in the world, this course is tight off the tee in spots, which could neuter some of their firepower. The Internationals have plenty of Prez Cup experience, which is worth something as the tri-state area’s loudest and proudest descend upon Liberty National. This one goes back and forth all day, even to the 18th hole.
Draw. USA: .5 INT: .5
Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar
vs. Adam Scott/Jhonattan Vegas
Take each player for exactly who they are: DJ is a muscle car built for creating advantages, Kooch is the king of consistency and has been banking top 10s the past month.
Scott has just one top-10 finish since the beginning of June and Vegas is the least experienced player in the group. The red, white and blue pair shall prosper here, just like they did sprinting away from Lee Westwood and Thomas Pieters at Hazeltine.
Americans win. USA: 1.5 INT: .5
Jordan Spieth/Patrick Reed
vs. Si Woo Kim/Emiliano Grillo
This will probably stand as the most uneven matchup all week. You’ve got two International rookies facing off against one of the best (if not the best) American pairings in team competition history.
Sure, Spieth and Reed have shown some signs of wavering at times in the Ryder Cup—they’re not perfect—but can Kim and Grillo possibly keep pace? They’ll have more fans watching them than any other matchup Thursday, and those fans will almost all be jacked-up Americans. The deck is absolutely stacked against Kim and Grillo, and they probably won’t reach the 17th hole.
Americans win. USA: 2.5 INT: .5
Brooks Koepka/Daniel Berger
vs. Branden Grace/Louis Oosthuizen
The Americans won the 2015 Presidents Cup, but don’t forget who kept the Internationals in the hunt for their first win since 1998. It was Grace, who went a perfect 5-0 that week.
He and Oosthuizen—who both hail from South Africa and play together frequently—were paired up from the start and won all four matches together. That’s what the pair of Seminoles in Koepka and Berger are up against. The two Americans certainly have the potential to be great together, but it might take a match to find their groove. They play different balls when on Tour, and as meaningless as that might seem for the best players in the world, it can play a small role in weeks like this one.
Internationals win. USA: 2.5 INT: 1.5
Kevin Kisner/Phil Mickelson
vs. Marc Leishman/Jason Day
The insistence of American captains to start Phil Mickelson in alternate-shot formats continues to boggle the mind, but here we are, with the ever-volatile Lefty paired alongside Kiz against likely the Internationals best pair.
The Aussies, Day and Leishman, both arrive in form and have plenty of experience in the event. If they can drive it well, the Americans will likely be playing catch up from the first hole. Let Mickelson and Kisner hang around, though, and obviously anything can happen.
Internationals win. USA: 2.5 INT: 2.5