Tour Confidential: Are the Americans really THIS good?

October 2, 2017 conducts a weekly roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and GOLF Magazine. Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com.

1. The U.S. thrashed the International side to win the 12th Presidents Cup, 19-11, marking the U.S.’s 10th victory in this competition in 12 tries. Was the rout more a result of a superior American team or an underperforming International side?

Jessica Marksbury, senior editor, (@Jess_Marksbury): I think it was a mix of both. The Americans were completely unstoppable in team play, and it seemed like they slowed down a bit in singles. Granted, the Cup was pretty much already in the bag on Saturday night. But it would have been interesting if Team USA could have tapped into its ruthless side, with each guy keeping his foot on the gas pedal to get that margin of victory record. That killer instinct will come in handy in Paris in 2018.

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, (@Jeff_Ritter): Agreed, Jess. The Internationals couldn’t match the U.S. energy over the first three days, and it felt like for every spectacular shot the US pulled off, the Internationals would suffer a lipout or some other bad break. That said, if they staged this match 10 times, the Internationals might win once.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Not even once, Ritter.

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine (@joepassov): Alan, the nature of sports says that weird results happen — both with evenly matched teams when a rout occurs, and when massive underdogs pull off spectacular upsets. In match play golf, a talent edge is never a guarantee. Just look at all of the losing U.S. Ryder Cup efforts, when we were the better team “on paper.” Still, the history of this competition has been dispiritingly one-sided, and here, the rout was indeed a mix of superior U.S. talent and an International team that couldn’t bring it when they needed to.

2. Give us your MVP for the week, and your goat.

Ritter: DJ won the most points and JT brought the most fire, but I’ll give MVP to Phil, the team’s heartbeat. Several options on the Internationals for goat, but Hideki Matsuyama’s performance was the most out of line with expectations.

Marksbury: Great pick, Jeff. It’s always awesome when a captain’s pick really delivers, especially when that guy happens to be Phil. I’ll go with DJ, though. An undefeated performance deserves all the accolades. And as for the lower-case goat … I guess you have to go with poor Emiliano Grillo, the only player to be completely shut out of even a half point.

Shipnuck: I’m going with Thomas. Let us not forget, he had never played in a Presidents (or Ryder) Cup, but this rookie was a dominant force during partner play. And his fist-pumping histrionics helped keep the US team focused even as the lead grew.

Passov: Easy to argue for any of the three figures mentioned so far: DJ, JT and Phil. However, I’ll pick Captain Steve Stricker, who presided over the least stressful match — absolutely minimal second-guessing, Rotary Club camaraderie — that I can ever recall. Strick is so well-liked and well-respected, and so easy-going, it seemed pre-ordained that his guys would play great for him. As for the goat, finger-pointing all around at the losers. I’ll name Hideki Matsuyama, whose ball-striking and results were so disappointing for three rounds that he was asked to sit out the fourth. If you’re top 3 in the world, you have to bring much more than that. All credit, though, for Matsuyama fixing his flaws for singles and taking down Justin Thomas. That’s what great players do.

3. In light of the U.S.’s dominance in the Presidents Cup, our Alan Shipnuck declared that the event is “dead,” while concocting some creative ideas for how to revive it. Does the competition need an overhaul, and, if so, what do you suggest?

Ritter: As Shipnuck wrote Saturday, anything and everything should be on the table. Gotta say I like the idea of making it a coed match, with six men and six women on each squad. Coed partners for foursomes and four-ball would be cool, wouldn’t it? And the Korean women could swing the balance of power back to the International side. At the very least, the powers that be should shave off one day of competition and a few matches in an effort to keep it closer entering Sunday.

Marksbury: I found Alan’s column very entertaining and totally agree that the competition needs an overhaul. We Americans love to win, but it’s not fun when it’s so one-sided. I LOVE the idea of drafting a couple of players from Europe to play for the Internationals. Jon Rahm and Rory would certainly have brought a lot to Liberty National this week.

Shipnuck: Am I supposed to recuse myself here? I got a lot of creative suggestions on Twitter, the most inspired being nations without universal health care coverage versus those that have it. Unfortunately, the only easy fix is to have smaller teams and fewer matches, to help the Internationals disguise their talent gap. But the U.S. has a huge advantage getting to play a team event every year, and our infrastructure — AJGA, college, mini tours, etc. — is simply producing better, younger players.

Passov: We already had a team event where the Australias, Japans and South Africas of the world could compete with the U.S. It was called the World Cup, and it was a two-man team competition. Perhaps compromise and make the Presidents Cup a four-person team event, as the USGA did with its World Amateur Team Championship. Now you’d see some real competing to make the team—and no silly/controversial captain’s picks.

4. Liberty National has the location and the views, but did the course prove itself worthy of hosting a match-play competition of this caliber?

Ritter: It took nothing away from the show, and there were some fun holes, especially the opener where guys frequented the pond. The par-3 closer wasn’t bad, either.

Marksbury: I never got tired of those skyline views. The course looked awesome on TV, and the weather really cooperated. I loved the driveable par 4 and closing par 3. What more could you ask for from an exhibition match-play event?

Shipnuck: At the majors (and every stroke play event), the players are battling the course. At the Cups, you’re trying to beat the other guys, so the course takes on less importance. Liberty National was a perfectly fine venue and I agree it looked awesome on TV.

Passov: Even after a major overhaul, Liberty National doesn’t sniff our Top 100 courses in the U.S. in terms of design quality. For setting, spectacle and match play, however, it’s world-class.

5. Jhonattan Vegas thwarted Jordan Spieth in singles play on Sunday, closing out the three-time major-winner 2 and 1. For all his success at the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup in team matches, Spieth is 0-5 in singles. What gives?

Ritter: He might simply get gassed from taking each team’s best shot while partnering with Reed. But today really shouldn’t count against his record, since the outcome was decided.

Marksbury: I know we always give the young players a hard time for being tired from back-to-back rounds of golf, when it’s what they do for a living. But Jeff makes a valid point. Spieth and Reed were under quite a spotlight this week, and they both play with so much emotion that it has to take a toll. We all know that Jordan can perform in the clutch, but it must be hard to get really fired up for a match that you know doesn’t ultimately matter. I’ll give him a pass.

Shipnuck: He blamed fatigue, but in the history of the Cups the best players have almost always played five matches, so Spieth has to learn to fight through it. At the ’14 Ryder Cup he was sent out first in singles, on the theory that this bulldog would take down one of Europe’s best players, but Spieth’s loss set the tone for the U.S. getting roasted that day. I agree the loss to Vegas wasn’t meaningful but Spieth needs to find a winning formula in singles.

Passov: Jeff, Jess, Alan—you’ve expressed the dilemma perfectly. With your team leading 14.5 to 3.5, and with a bunch of players teeing off before him on Sunday, how motivated can you possibly be, when you know your match won’t matter? I’d rather judge Spieth when he plays singles matches that matter.

6. During the assistant captains’ press conference, Tiger Woods said he “definitely” could see a scenario in which he doesn’t return to competitive golf. Could you see that scenario?

Ritter: If it wasn’t possible, I doubt Woods would even open the door. He’d obviously be missed on the course, but there are many ways he can still have a huge impact on the game in an elder-statesman role. Weeks like this one are the tip of the iceberg.

Marksbury: It makes me sad to say so, but to echo Tiger: Definitely. It’s been such a long road for him, in terms of injuries and rehab and everything else going on in his life. Tiger is in his 40s now, his kids are growing, and the idea of him playing the Tour again, let alone WINNING, seems more and more nonsensical. It’s great to see him at events like this, where he’s present and involved, but not the star of the show. As Jeff noted, his influence on the game can continue in a big way even if he never plays another competitive round.

Shipnuck: I’m sorry to say but I think we’re already there.

Passov: I’ve defended Tiger’s multiple comeback efforts every time—citing his legacy as the greatest champion and fiercest competitor of our generation. But with every passing year and rehab, we’re witnessing a new slate of players that hit it longer and straighter, chip better, and make more putts. Trust me, though—when he does decide to tee it up again, it will likely be the biggest golf story of the year. That’s why Tiger is always relevant to these conversations.