THE PRESIDENTS CUP
Presidents Cup: Match previews for Day 1
December 11, 2019
By Staff, PGATOUR.COM
- December 11, 2019
All-time shots from the Presidents Cup
MELBOURNE, Australia – The five opening Four-Ball matches of this week’s Presidents Cup are now set, with International Captain Ernie Els and U.S. Captain Tiger Woods unveiling their partnerships for the critical opening day at Royal Melbourne.
Here’s a look at each match, along with our staff predictions from onsite writers Ben Everill and Mike McAllister.
MARC LEISHMAN/JOAQUIN NIEMANN (INTERNATIONAL) vs. JUSTIN THOMAS/TIGER WOODS (USA), 5:32 p.m. ET
Overview: Woods wanted to go out early as a player so he could get done and resume his captaincy duties as soon as possible. “It was important for me to get out there as a player, but also as a captain, I want to obviously see my guys play,” Woods said. “This is my first time as a captain. I want to be able to enjoy that part of it, as well.” Woods is playing for the first time with Thomas; it will be Tiger’s 11th different partner in his Presidents Cup career. Woods will also be looking for his first Four-Ball win at Royal Melbourne; he’s 0-4-0 in his two previous appearances here in that format. Leishman, as one of the three Australians on the team, hopes to get the local crowd revved up while playing with Niemann, the Presidents Cup rookie from Chile. Niemann won A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier in his first start of the new PGA TOUR season.
Player records: Leishman (3-7-3 overall; 0-4-0 in Four-Balls; Niemann (0-0-0); Thomas (3-1-1 overall; 2-0-0 in Four-Balls); Woods (24-15-1 overall; 7-9-0 in Four-Balls)
Ben Everill’s prediction: Halved. Leishman will step up in front of his home crowd and Niemann will relish this challenge. Taking Woods to 18 will kick things off the right way.
Mike McAllister’s prediction: USA, 3 and 2. I expect Thomas to be this week’s top player. Partnering with Woods reinforces that thought.
ADAM HADWIN/SUNGJAE IM (INTERNATIONAL) vs. XANDER SCHAUFFELE/PATRICK CANTLAY (USA), 5:47 p.m. ET
Overview: Hadwin is determined to make amends after a disappointing performance two years ago in his Presidents Cup debut. He’ll partner the PGA TOUR’s reigning Rookie of the Year, who could be one of Ernie Els’ big performers this week. Im has a win, a runner-up and a third in his last six worldwide starts. The Schauffele-Cantlay partnership seems like two players cut from the same mold, especially from a personality standpoint. Both are low-key, which should help each in handling the excitement of their first Presidents Cup appearances. Both also have similar games, with each ranking inside the top 10 in Strokes Gained: Total last season.
Player records: Hadwin (0-2-1 overall; 0-0-0 in Four-Balls); Im (0-0-0); Schauffele (0-0-0); Cantlay (0-0-0)
Ben Everill’s prediction: Internationals 3 and 2. Sungjae Im is going to be the star of the show this week and Hadwin has something to prove. Cantlay will take time to adjust to Royal Melbourne.
Mike McAllister’s prediction: USA, 1 up. I can see this one going either way, but the Americans have a bit more experience in winning on TOUR (six combined wins to 1 for the International duo) on their side.
ADAM SCOTT/BYEONG HUN AN (INTERNATIONAL) vs. BRYSON DECHAMBEAU/TONY FINAU (USA), 6:02 p.m. ET
Overview: A huge match up in the context of the Cup. Scott must be a leader both on and off the course if he is to get his first victory in his ninth Cup appearance. Taking An under his wing the Australian must produce his best stuff right from the start so the pressure is on. The U.S. pair both made their team debut at last year’s Ryder Cup and will take a level of calmness because of it. But DeChambeau reappeared in his new bulked up body after a lengthy layoff and could only finish 15th of 18 in the Bahamas. Finau’s fall was far from exciting, finishing near the rear of three non-cut events and missing the cut in another.
Player Records: Scott (Overall 14-20-5, Four-Ball 3-9-3), An (Overall 0-0-0, Four-Ball 0-0-0), DeChambeau (Overall 0-0-0, Four-Ball 0-0-0), Finau (Overall 0-0-0, Four-Ball 0-0-0).
Ben Everill’s prediction: Internationals 3 and 2. Scott knows Royal Melbourne and An wants to prove his worth as a late call up. Despite all of DeChambeau’s physics prowess he needs more time to figure this course out and Finau is rusty.
Mike McAllister's prediction: Internationals, 2 and 1. Scott, who hasn’t won a Four-Balls match in this event since 2005, will ride his course knowledge to victory.
WEBB SIMPSON/PATRICK REED (USA) vs. HIDEKI MATSUYAMA/C.T. PAN (INTERNATIONAL), 6:17 p.m. ET
Overview: U.S. Captain Tiger Woods has sent the calm Simpson out to deal with the local crowds who are expected to rise up and get vocal against Reed. It provides a great yin and yang pairing as Reed will thrive under pressure and Simpson can just cruise through it. Matsuyama will be the experienced influence Pan needs on debut just as Pan will be the smiling assassin Matsuyama needs when he fails to meet his own high standards and needs to relax.
Player Records: Simpson (Overall 5-3-2, Four-Ball 2-1-1), Reed (Overall 4-3-2, Four-Ball 2-0-1), Matsuyama (Overall 4-6-3, Four-Ball 1-2-2), Pan (Overall 0-0-0, Four-Ball 0-0-0).
Ben Everill’s prediction: U.S. 2 and 1. Reed is at his best when under the pump and he has been for a week so it should lead to a gutsy performance.
Mike McAllister’s prediction: Internationals, 1 up. Matsuyama had a half-point (with Adam Hadwin) against Reed (and Jordan Spieth) two years ago. He gets the full-point this time.
ABRAHAM ANCER/LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN (INTERNATIONALS) vs. DUSTIN JOHNSON/GARY WOODLAND, 6:32 p.m. ET
Overview: The bash brothers from the U.S. up against the smooth swinging Internationals. Johnson hasn’t played since knee surgery after the TOUR Championship in August but Woodland played well in the fall. They say you can’t overpower Royal Melbourne so we are about to find out. Oosthuizen is the International spearhead coming off a runner up last week at the Australian Open. Ancer won the Australian Open the year before. Possibly the best International duo.
Player Records: Ancer (Overall 0-0-0, Four-Ball 0-0-0), Oosthuizen (Overall 7-5-3, Four-Ball 3-3-0); Johnson (Overall 8-4-2, Four-Ball 2-3-0), Woodland (Overall 0-0-0, Four-Ball 0-0-0).
Ben Everill’s prediction: International 2 up. Oosthuizen is in great form and Ancer has proven his chops in Australian conditions while Johnson will be rusty and lacking touch on a course that demands it.
Mike McAllister’s prediction: Internationals, 2 and 1. Oosthuizen is in great form, and Johnson might be rusty.
Haotong Li and Cameron Smith (Internationals); Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar (USA)
It’s probably difficult for Smith, the young Australian, to miss the first day, but Els has seven rookies on his team, so not a surprise that he’s sitting out two of them. The Royal Melbourne fans will still be able to cheer their two veteran Aussies in Adam Scott and Marc Leishman. “There's enough Australians out there tomorrow to rally a lot of guys,” Els said, “but as I said to them, we are all one this week, Australians, South Africans, the whole Internationals.” Fowler was the late addition after Brooks Koepka withdrew on the American side and had to shake the rust off last week at the Hero World Challenge. Kuchar hasn’t had a top-10 finish in his last 11 worldwide starts.