The Presidents Cup has always been an after thought in the golf world… similar to a punch line in a joke. The team event felt like a formality, much a like work event that you have to attend but don’t want to go. The biggest problem with the Presidents Cup is how one sided the event is year after year. Team USA had won the Presidents Cup 11 of 13 times and one of the other two times ended in a controversial tie. This year felt no different going into the matches because on paper the United States team was going to win just by showing up… think again.
Many golf fans, including myself, don’t hold the Presidents Cup in the same regard as the Ryder Cup. There are many reasons for this but I’m not convinced the American players get fired up to play in this event. That’s why when Brooks Koepka announced he wasn’t playing, it wasn’t that big a deal. However, when Jason Day announced he wasn’t playing, we all thought “well now the International Team really doesn’t have a chance.”
International Team Captain Ernie Els did not bat an eye.
Ernie Els knew that this team, his team had the potential to do something special. Els has the course record at Royal Melbourne while assistant captain Geoff Ogilvy literally lives on course. The International Team would be lead by Presidents Cup vets Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen, but the rest of the group were YOUNG and inexperienced. However, these young players were chomping at the bit to prove that they belonged on the world stage. This was the perfect storm Ernie Els was hoping for.
The International Team came ready to play and punched the Americans in the mouth. Thanks to the leadership of Els and company, they were prepared for the test of Royal Melbourne. Outside of Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas, Team USA did not look great. Nevertheless, the Americans were able to bounce back and eventually win the Presidents Cup for the 12 time in 14 playings; however, the International Team sent a message. In the Oscar winning film Rocky, Rocky Balboa may have lost the fight to Apollo Creed but the boxing world was put on notice about Rocky. Similarly, the International Team may have lost this round to team USA, but I think that International Team will be a force to reckon with in the years to come.
As I mentioned above this International Team is very young. Sungjae Im, Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Smith are already great players and gained valuable experience this week. Most importantly they had the Presidents Cup in their hands, and it slipped out from their grasps on the last day. Memories and moments like that are not easily forgotten and will stay with these players forever.
The Americans almost losing was arguably the best thing that could have happened to the Presidents Cup. This year had the recipe for success: a championship golf course, two legendary captains, Tiger Woods playing well, controversy (Team Reed), and drama.
It has taken nearly three decades but the Presidents Cup has finally arrived and is almost ready to step out of the daunting shadow of the Ryder Cup. The only aspect missing from the equation is an International Team victory on United States soil. I will always cheer for Team USA but watch out for the International Team in 2021; they will be ready.