'The bell rings on Thursday, guys.' - Nick Price
September 13th, 2017
If ever there is a time and a place where the long-suffering supporters of the bi-annual tilt by the Internationals to arrest a generation of suffering in the Presidents Cup, 2017 and New York City may just be that time and place.
For an ‘away’ game, there’s no more ‘international’ metropolis than the Big Apple, which boasts arguably the most passionate and verbose golf galleries in the game.
If there’s anywhere an International player might be inspired to lift any palor of doom that has hung around The Internationals for far too long now, it may be on the fairways of Liberty National Golf Club, under the shadows of the Statue of Liberty in New Jersey, where the 12th staging of the Cup will be held from September 28 – October 1.
The United States team will be aiming for a 7th straight victory having last triumphed over Nick Price’s team by a single point in South Korea in 2015. Conversely, it’s been an age since the Internationals tasted their lone victory at Royal Melbourne back in 1998, when the team featured Captain Price and Assistant Captain Ernie Els.
You need only look to the list of non-playing captains on both sides to get a sense of the generational shift that has occurred, with Price being backed up by Els, Tony Johnstone, Geoff Ogilvy and Mike Weir, while U.S. skipper Steve Stricker will be leaning heavily on the seasoned advice of Fred Couples, Davis Love III, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk in their team room.
‘Despair’ for the failings of the past would be a word Price would need to look up in the dictionary, no more pleasant and positive an individual exists in the game, and he has every right to feel this could be the year.
The quality at his disposal at the top of the order in the three campaigns Price has led has never been in question. The Internationals have always stacked up well in terms of talent and world rankings but the depth of talent on the opposition side of the fence has always provided an advantage as you progress down the list and into the captain’s picks.
In 2017 however, the collective world rankings and experience levels of Price's squad have arguably never been this strong since the Presidents Cup’s inception in 1994.
“This could turn out to be one of the best Presidents Cups ever.” Price told Golfplus Media in August.
Included in the team is world no. 3 Hideki Matsuyama, former world no. 1 players Jason Day and Adam Scott – who has won around Liberty National and will play a record-tying 8th Presidents Cup for the Internationals - the current Players Champion Si Woo Kim and the 2017 Arnold Palmer Invitational winner, Marc Leishman.
Major champions Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen are world class performers, as is their countryman Branden Grace who was the best performed player on either team in the 2015 matches, while Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Hadwin are both Cup rookies but PGA TOUR winners this season.
Vegas, Kim, Hadwin and Emiliano Grillo are Cup rookies while the U.S. team, bristling with talent as it invariably is, will field six rookies (Kisner, Berger, Hoffman, Koepka, Chappell and Thomas), albeit two are current major champions in Koepka and Thomas.
Still, Captains Price and Stricker need not remind any of their players that matchplay golf is an entirely different animal to stroke play. It's how quickly each can get their players to settle into their team and the pressurised environment that may again provide the key to who comes out on top on Sunday evening.
“The hardest thing I find after being involved in a number of these (Presidents Cups) now is trying to impress on the rookies on the side, what this means to us all. They only really start to feel that team spirit and camaraderie towards the end of the week.” Price said.
“Certainly the last time in Korea, it was a lot better but some were a bit like deer in the headlights. We were behind the eight ball after Day 1 but fought back to only lose by a point.”
“What we’re trying to do is get them to realise that they need to come out with all guns blazing on Thursday.”
The International Team. The United States Team.
Hideki Matsuyama Dustin Johnson
Jason Day Jordan Spieth
Adam Scott Justin Thomas
Louis Oosthuizen Rickie Fowler
Branden Grace Daniel Berger
Charl Schwartzel Brooks Koepka
Marc Leishman Kevin Kisner
Si Woo Kim Patrick Reed
Jhonattan Vegas Matt Kuchar
Adam Hadwin Kevin Chappell
Emiliano Grillo Charley Hoffman
Anirban Lahiri Phil Mickelson