International team out to end U.S.domination in Presidents Cup

Even at a relatively young age, The Presidents Cup does not lack for moments that reveal the passion and pressure when the best golfers in the world put the flag ahead of the bank account.

Tiger Woods could barely see the hole in the darkness of South Africa when he made a 15-foot par putt in a playoff against Ernie Els that broke two directions. He called it “one of the biggest putts in my life,” and “one of the most nerve-racking moments I’ve ever had in golf.” Usually, such talk is reserved for the majors.

For emotion, look no further than Chris DiMarco making the winning putt and charging into the arms of captain Jack Nicklaus, or Nick Price — as fine a gentleman as golf has known — snapping a putter over his knee when he missed a putt to lose on the final hole.

Fred Couples never showed more exuberance than the time he made a 20-foot birdie on the last hole to beat Vijay Singh.

And while the International flag represents countries from all continents except Europe, Mike Weir faced enormous expectations and a Maple Leaf at every turn when he played on home soil in Canada against the world’s best player. He won the last two holes to beat Woods, which came with a cheer so loud that captain Gary Player said it could be heard “all the way to Kansas City.”

In 15 years of these biennial matches, there is no shortage of highlights.

What The Presidents Cup lacks is competition.

The Americans already lead the series 5-1-1. They have never lost on home soil, and will have a chance to keep that record perfect when the eighth edition of these matches is played this week at Harding Park Golf Course. The only time the International team won was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne in Australia, held so late in the year that some of the Americans spent more time Christmas shopping online. At least that was their excuse.

The players are just as good, if not better, than at the Ryder Cup. Each team at Harding Park has seven major champions (with 35 majors among them). Europe’s team from last year’s Ryder Cup had only one major winner.

Of the 24 players at The Presidents Cup, 18 are among the top 30 in the world ranking.

Even so, perhaps the best Ryder Cup comparison is from the early days of the competition, which was clearly a red, white and blue affair.

“We need to win,” Geoff Ogilvy of Australia said. “It’s going to take the International team winning a few times to annoy the U.S., to get them geared up like they are in the Ryder Cup.”

No one can explain why these matches have been so one-sided.

This will be the fifth time that The Presidents Cup is held in the United States, although that shouldn’t matter because all but three players on the International team have homes in America, and all but one player — Ryo Ishikawa — is a PGA Tour member.

“The Presidents Cup is like playing with your buddies,” Kenny Perry said. “The International squad is like the guys we play with week in and week out here. We know each other, we’re all good friends. A lot of barbing, jabbing going on out there. And it’s really fun.”


Past results

The U.S. holds a 5-1-1 edge in the all-time series and hasn’t lost the Cup since 1998:

2007: U.S. 19½, International 14½
2005: U.S. 18½, International 15½
2003: U.S. 17, International 17*
2000: U.S. 21½, International 10½
1998: International 20½, U.S. 11½
1996: U.S. 16½, International 15½
1994: U.S. 20, International 12

* Tiger Woods (U.S.) and Ernie Els (Int.) halved three sudden-death holes with pars. The match was called because of darkness and deemed a tie. The teams opted to share The Presidents Cup for the next two years.


Guidelines of The Presidents Cup

– The Presidents Cup was developed to give the world’s best non-European players an opportunity to compete in international team match-play competition.

– The U.S. team was based on official earnings from the start of the 2008 season through the 2009 PGA Championship.

– The International team was chosen on the basis of the official world golf ranking and does not include players eligible for the European Ryder Cup team.

– Each team also consists of two captain’s picks.

– Competition consists of 34 matches; 11 foursomes (alternate shot), 11 four-ball matches (best ball) and 12 singles matches, involving all players.

– All matches are worth one point, for a total for 34 points. The first team to earn 17½ points wins.

– There are no playoffs for foursomes or fourball matches, each side receives half a point if the match is all square through 18 holes.

– Singles matches go to extra holes until a winner is determined.


Schedule of events

8 a.m.: Gates open to public for practice rounds

8 a.m.: Gates open to public for practice rounds
4 p.m.: Opening ceremonies

9 a.m.: Gates open to public
11:30 a.m.: Foursome matches
TV: Golf Channel

9 a.m.: Gates open to public
11:55 a.m.: Four-ball matches
TV: Golf Channel

6:30 a.m.: Gates open to public
7:30 a.m.: Foursome matches
12:05 p.m.: Four-ball matches
TV: NBC (KNTV, Ch. 11)

7:30 a.m.:
Gates open to public
9:25 a.m.: Singles matches
TBD: Closing ceremonies (30 minutes after play ends)
TV: NBC (KNTV, Ch. 11)

Five key holes at Harding Park

Hole 18
525 yards
Par: 5
Info: Three bunkers are on the right side of the fairway, but this is a tee shot to rip. Most players will have no trouble getting home in two, which could lead to some fireworks if the match gets this far. The green features bunkers in the front and slopes gently from front to back.

Hole 15
Length: 468 yards
Par: 4
Info: This played as the closing hole in the 2005 World Golf Championship. The tee shot must carry Lake Merced and a stand of tall trees, yet anything to the right is likely to find two large fairway bunkers. Once in the fairway, the approach is to a green that is pitched subtly from back to front. Anything short could spin back toward the fairway.

Hole 13
Length: 336 yards
Par: 4
Info: The first of two risk-reward holes on the back nine that should make for some intrigue in match play. The hole can be reached with a big drive, yet the small green is nestled among the trees and surrounded by bunkers — three on the left toward the hole, another to the right.

Hole 5
Length: 606 yards
Par: 5
Info: The shape of the hole, more than distance, might keep most players from reaching the longest hole at Harding Park in two shots. The hole bends to the left off the tee, then turns hard to the left in the final yards toward the green. It still might require birdie to win the hole, whether that’s getting it close to the green in two or going in with a wedge for the third shot.

Hole 7
Length: 473 yards
Par: 4
Info: A dogleg left and one of the toughest driving holes. The tee shot must negotiate a corridor of trees, with the preferred shot a draw around the tall limbs at the corner of the dogleg. The only bunkers are to the front and left of the green, which has a subtle hump in the middle.

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