Maybe if Adam Scott sounded more English, or German, or Swedish than Australian, the Internationals would have a better chance at this week’s Presidents Cup.
European golfers are kryptonite for an American in the Ryder Cup, as was so painfully evident last year in Chicago.
In the Presidents Cup, though, the US can’t help but win.
In truth, the PGA Tour’s attempt to create a competition to rival the Ryder Cup has been more sizzle than steak, but that’s mainly because it has been absurdly one-sided.
“It’s really important for the Internationals to get a win,” Scott says. “We need to make this thing really relevant, make it a real competition, because it’s gotten a bit lopsided.”
It’s not likely to get less lopsided this week.
The US has won seven of the nine competitions and is a red-hot favorite to make it eight of 10 at Muirfield Village, starting Thursday.
It shouldn’t be so one-sided, because the Internationals are often at least as good as the Ryder Cup Europeans. But for whatever reason, they’ve won only once — in Australia in 1998 — when a halfhearted US team played like they didn’t really want to be there so close to Christmas.
The Americans have not just history on their side here, but this time the better players, too.
Seven of the top 11 ranked golfers in the world will wear the stars ’n’ stripes on Thursday.
Nick Price’s Internationals, meanwhile, will feature seven rookies, two of them — captain’s picks Marc Leishman (61) and Brendon de Jonge (63) — well outside the top 50 in the world rankings.
Ernie Els has played in seven Presidents Cups — winning only one — and thinks the problem has been in changing a losing culture.
The Europeans’ stirring comeback in last year’s Ryder Cup at Medinah came about, he says, because they believed they could win.
“I really didn’t think that the Europeans would pull it out, but it shows you, you’ve beaten a side before, you know you can do it again. I think that’s the European motto. They feel like they can beat these guys,” he says.
“And it’s a momentum thing, and that’s the thing we need to change. We are kind of under a rock at the moment, and they are holding it over us.
“It’s a momentum thing. Guys start believing, and you start hitting unbelievable shots. When you feel you’re up, you hit great shots. When you’re down, it’s almost like you’re trying a bit too hard, and I think that’s where we might have been the last couple of Cups.”
The other constant has been that the Internationals have invariably been chasing from the first session; “on the back foot,” as Scott says.
The US has won the first day in six of the nine Presidents Cups, holding a cumulative points lead of 33-1/2 to 16-1/2 in those nine sessions.
“The start is really important,” Price says. “In the past, it’s been alternate-shot, foursomes, the first day, which I think is the hardest format, by far.
“And because of the dynamics of our team and where they all come from, it’s very difficult to put a great foursomes pairing together from the get-go.”
To that end, Price’s Internationals are heartened by the fact the format’s changed this year and the opening session will be four-ball, where players play their own ball and count the best score.
“I’m really happy that it’s better-ball first,” Price says.
But he’ll still need his players to fire, which they haven’t done often enough in the past. Overall, the US has won 73 points to the Internationals 39-1/2.
“I wish I could explain why,” Hunter Mahan says.
He and several of his US teammates pointed to the pressure at Ryder Cups being greater than at Presidents Cups.
“I think we also get to hang out more in this event than at the Ryder Cup,” Mahan says. “The Ryder Cup, there’s a lot more asked of the players. And it can be a little more difficult and more stressful for everyone.
“You don’t really have too much time to just chill and relax and hang out with one another, and in this event, you do a little bit more of that.”
Davis Love III, who captained last year’s losing Ryder Cup team and is an assistant here to Fred Couples, said the difference at Presidents Cups is that the American players don’t “care so much they get in their own way.”
“At the Ryder Cup, you get behind and you’re obviously thinking about results,” he says. “You’re trying too hard to win.
“The reason why the American team isn’t winning as much in the Ryder Cup isn’t because they don’t care but because they care too much. They’re trying not to let anybody down.”
At the Presidents Cup, they don’t have that problem.