Nick Price has circled the globe dozens of times as a professional golfer.
He has won three major championships among almost 50 tournament titles, enough to build a Hall of Fame career.
Yet it is clear how much his one team victory — at the 1998 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne — means.
”I just wish in some form or fashion on the Monday or Tuesday of the week of the Presidents Cup just to be able to show the guys the feeling of what it’s like to be on the winning team,” said Price, the captain of the International team that will take on the United States in October at Muirfield Village.
Golfers lead a relatively solitary life, shuffling from event to event, practicing, playing, checking bags, catching flights, sleeping in hotels, then practicing and playing some more.
When the opportunity arises to share the feeling of victory with others — to win as a team — it’s a remarkable, career-changing emotion.
”Those 11 teammates I had, those were like my brothers,” the 56-year-old native of Zimbabwe said. ”We had such a phenomenal week and huge ups and downs and huge emotional swings. If you could just capture that and put it in a capsule and show the guys what it’s like, we’d have their attention.”
As the time draws near for this year’s competition — in almost nine weeks — Price and assistants Shigeki Maruyama, Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone will have some decisions to make. The top 10 International players (excluding those eligible for the European Ryder Cup Team) will make the team, along with two captain’s picks.
One major worry is that former British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen is currently sidelined while allowing a series of injuries to heal. He is No. 2 in the International rankings heading into this week’s Bridgestone Invitational at Akron Firestone, and is expected to be out for two months.
”I spoke to him, and he’s not going to play until the Dunhill Cup, which is the week before the Presidents Cup,” said Price, who won what was then called the World Series of Golf at Firestone in 1983. ”So we really won’t know until he’s match fit or not until the week before. Since he’s one of the top four or five players I have on the team, it’s a concern.”
Price says he’s encouraged by the way many of his players are performing, including reigning Masters champion Adam Scott, four-time major winner Ernie Els, 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel and 2007 US Open and 2009 Masters champ Angel Cabrera.
Still, he recognizes that any team that takes on an American side that includes Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson will likely be overlooked.
”You know, I’ve always enjoyed being an underdog,” Price said. ”The favorites have more pressure on them, no doubt about it.”
Price said the Presidents Cup is about where the Ryder Cup was in the 1970s — a biennial exhibition dominated by the Americans. Then the British side added European players, the Euros won, and now the Ryder is a centerpiece of the sport.
A similar explosive upset would change everything.
”Something is waiting to happen,” Price warns.
Great players are one thing; it’s a huge reason why the Americans have dominated the Presidents Cup — winning seven, tying one and only losing once. But as he looks back on his career, Price also realizes the strength of playing for and with others.
”I go back to the morale and the camaraderie and the momentum in a team,” he said. ”When you have that, the sky’s the limit.”