Roundtable: Predicting the Presidents Cup
8 Min Read
Written by Staff @PGATOUR
Presidents Cup team lineups
Here, PGATOUR.COM’s team of writers takes on that question and more as players eye Thursday’s opening round.
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The U.S. will be favored, especially given the U.S. Ryder Cup Team’s 19-9 demolition of Europe at Whistling Straits last fall, which some said heralded a new era of U.S. dominance in international team play. But did it? Does it follow that the U.S. is headed for another record-shattering victory at Quail Hollow?
Cameron Morfit, Staff Writer: Not necessarily. Although I’m under no illusions about the enormity of the International Team’s task, this U.S. squad has five new players – Sam Burns, Max Homa, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner and Cameron Young – from the one that played at Whistling Straits. The U.S. may have gone from strength to strength, but it’s a different lineup, and you don’t know how a team is going to come together until it either works or doesn’t.
Ben Everill, Staff Writer: Yes. They should win by Saturday… If the U.S. Team doesn’t win by a double digit margin, they have failed… (Is that how reverse psychology works? Is that how one heaps the pressure on to one side and removes any and all pressure from the underdog Internationals?). I try to jest of course. I make no secret of a bias towards the Internationals given my Australian heritage but I truly actually believe this crew of players is capable of springing one of the greatest sporting upsets of all time. The U.S. Team is phenomenal. No doubt. But they shouldn’t expect a walkover. This crew of underdogs is very hungry indeed.
Kevin Prise, Associate Editor: No. There’s power in the proverbial chip on the shoulder, and the Internationals should draw energy from the stats suggesting an American runaway train. It’s golf, it’s match play, and these guys are all top-level players. But the United States team dominated the Ryder Cup for a reason; the last decade has produced a relentless stream of elite American pros that will win more than they lose in these situations. The U.S. should win, but I wouldn’t expect to see a blowout.
How can the international team pull off the upset?
Morfit: Much will be made of the International Team’s eight rookies, but youth isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The U.S. Team that crushed Europe last year was the youngest since the first Ryder Cup in 1927. What the International Team needs is pleasant surprises, by which I mean players who – unbeknownst to anyone – tap some new vein of ferocity amid the unique demands of this event. Sungjae Im was a rookie in 2019 and all he did was go 3-1-1. The underdogs also need a good start, because as Ted Lasso would say, you gotta believe. If the Internationals can just hang in there early, then it would help immensely.
Everill: With a no fear attitude and unrivaled teamwork. Ernie Els unlocked the secret to the International Team in Melbourne back in 2019 by pushing against the cliques of country and friendships and using data to find the best pairings. It was a move that could have split the team dynamic apart, but with buy-in from the players they forged a lead heading to Singles for the first time since 2003. Once again Trevor Immelman must lead with strength and stick to a game plan that can upset the U.S. rhythm. And lets be frank, at the end of the day the International guys will need to bring their best golf. There is no room for a bad week. The U.S. has depth to cover for a weak link, the Internationals all must step up.
Prise: By playing their best golf and winning the close matches. These guys have all won or contended at the highest level, and nobody disputes they have the potential to win any given match against the Americans. It’s cliche, but they’ll need to take advantage of their opportunities and make the key putts down the stretch, again and again. If the Americans display a laissez-faire attitude at any point, the Internationals need to strike. And if they’re within a point or two into Sunday, anything is possible.
Which pairing do you guarantee we'll see?
Morfit: Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele are the obvious one for the U.S., and although I don’t presume to know what the analytics say about this, I suspect International Team Captain Trevor Immelman will match 20-year-old Tom Kim with the steady, seasoned Adam Scott.
Everill: Cantlay and Schauffele, for sure. The winning duo from the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and best mate crew will spearhead the U.S. Team of course. Probably will get a look at the Texas combo of Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth as well unless Justin Thomas keeps Spieth in his pocket.
As for the Internationals… I’m not going to give up any secrets. But I could see Aussie Cam Davis joining up with the likes of Hideki Matsuyama or Christiaan Bezuidenhout.
Prise: Gotta go with Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners. The Canadians were teammates at Kent State and rose through the Korn Ferry Tour ranks en route to earning their PGA TOUR cards; heck, Pendrith was best man at Conners’ wedding last fall, and he stayed with Conners in south Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus. It’s one of those bonds that can truly bring intangibles in an emotional competition like the Presidents Cup, integrating deep friendship with national pride. On the American side, I’ll say Sam Burns and Scottie Scheffler. The two spend a good deal of time together on the road, their wives are good friends, and their innate understanding of each other’s personalities would prove beneficial down the stretch in a tight match.
What's a surprise pairing you'd love to see?
Morfit: The excitable Billy Horschel (fire) paired with the imperturbable Cameron Young (ice). It feels like they would balance each other out, and it could happen, since Young’s old Wake Forest pal Will Zalatoris got injured and will miss the Cup.
Everill: Patrick Cantlay and Billy Horschel. I’d LOVE it if the U.S. split up the Cantlay-Schauffele power team and put the cool as ice Cantlay into the washing machine with the excitement machine Horschel. Ok ok ok… real life it would be cool to see Horschel with Thomas as CEOs (Chief Entertainment Officers). On the International side I can’t wait to see a fired up Si Woo Kim with anyone prepared to get revved up with him, with Tom Kim coming to mind first!
Prise: Might not be a surprise per se, but to go a bit off the grid, Justin Thomas and Max Homa. They rose the ranks together as Walker Cup teammates in 2013, Korn Ferry Tour Class of 2014, and neither minds getting in the trenches on social media; they would have tons of fun with this pairing, as would their fans online and in person. JT would relish being around for Homa’s debut on this stage, and the excitement would radiate. For the Internationals, let’s go K.H. Lee and Adam Scott. Lee doesn’t shy away from his ambition of being the “No. 1 golfer in the world and No. 1 sexiest golfer in the world,” and Scott has spent time in both of these conversations throughout his career.
What will be the final score?
Morfit: 17-13, U.S.
Everill: 15.5-14.5, INTERNATIONAL. Shock the world!
Prise: 16-14, U.S.
Who will be the MVP for each team?
Morfit: Justin Thomas will be the MVP for the U.S. – he lives for these moments. Adam Scott went only 2-2-1 in 2019, but he’s enjoying better form after recently playing his way into the TOUR Championship and will lead the Internationals.
Everill: Xander Schauffele will take top spot for the U.S. but he will be overshadowed by Sungjae Im’s undefeated week.
Prise: Scottie Scheffler will put a cap on his Player of the Year-winning season with another signature performance for the U.S., going undefeated and accruing key points down the stretch in a down-to-the-wire competition. I’ll echo Ben and take Adam Scott for the Internationals. He’ll embrace his leadership role and pull out all the stops to keep his team within striking distance into the final matches.
Who will be the biggest surprise first-timer for each team?
Morfit: I see the International Team rallying around Tom Kim, whose explosive game is perfect for this. Sam Burns is going to turn heads for the U.S. As the college player of the year he was somehow left off the 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team, so he’s been waiting a while for this moment.
Everill: While Tom Kim is the most logical option for the Internationals I wouldn’t sleep on Christiaan Bezuidenhout. This guy has been a literal fighter his whole life and won’t be overawed by the occasion. Also, he is the lone South African for countryman Captain Immelman and that will drive him to success. Only twice has the International Team had a lone South African player… during the famous win in 1998 and the almost win in 2019.
Prise: Hard to peg anyone on the American team as a surprise, but I’ll go with Homa. He seems to be built for team golf and will certainly frame the moment in his mind. He’ll execute some clutch shots under pressure and will depart Quail Hollow expected to be a consistent U.S. force for years to come. For the Internationals, I’ll take Pendrith – he’s one of the world’s preeminent drivers of the golf ball, a profile that fits Quail Hollow to a tee. He blends an even keel with an innate hunger for the arena, which will come to the forefront in Charlotte.