Americans try to hold Presidents Cup

The Presidents Cup looks more like the Ryder Cup every year, at

least in one respect. One team does all the winning.

It’s about the only cup the Americans can win anymore.

Tiger Woods, who has won the Memorial five times, returns to

Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, with a strong American team that

is a heavy favorite to win the Presidents Cup and keep its record

perfect on home soil.

Since this event began in 1994 as a chance for players outside

Europe to compete in matches styled after the Ryder Cup, the

International team has won just one time. That was 15 years ago in

Australia, where the Americans spent most of their time counting

money won at the casinos or spending it while shopping online for

Christmas gifts.

The last three matches haven’t even been close.

”It’s not a question of beating the Americans. It’s a question

of winning the cup. And I think that’s something that’s really

important to the International team,” said Nick Price, who takes

over the captaincy from Greg Norman. ”We’ve had a tough time. So

what I’m trying to figure out is how do we turn the tide?”

International players have been talking over the last several

years about the need to win – or at least make it interesting on

Sunday – to keep golf fans from losing interest. Woods, not

surprisingly, doesn’t see it that way.

”We like the way it’s gone,” Woods said, ”and we’d like to

keep it going that way.”

The last time Price was involved in this competition was the

last time it was close. The matches were so tight in South Africa

that Price, a three-time major champion and dignified member of the

World Golf Hall of Fame, snapped the putter over his knee after

missing a short putt.

Those matches ended in darkness after Woods and Ernie Els played

three playoff holes, both conceding the pressure was as great as

they had ever felt. It ended in a tie, and ever since the

Presidents Cup has been a mismatch.

On paper, this one doesn’t appear to be much different.

The Americans are so strong that it didn’t have room on its

12-man team for Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson or Bubba Watson.

Fred Couples, back as captain for the third time, used one of

his picks on 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who started the year with

no status and finished No. 10 on the U.S. PGA Tour money list.

Price used his picks on two players who didn’t win a single

tournament this year.

The International rookies include Brendon de Jonge, Richard

Sterne and Branden Grace. The American rookies in the Presidents

Cup include Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner, who have won two of

the last three US PGA Championships.

”On paper, everything seems great,” Brandt Snedeker said.

”But it’s not played on paper. Those guys are going to be very

well coached. They’re very, very good players with a track record

at Muirfield. They probably have a better record, taking Tiger out

of it.”

Then again, the International team might feel as though it has

nothing to lose.

The pressure will be on the Americans. If they fail to win, it

will be the first time they have not held any of the professional

cups – Europe has won the Solheim Cup the last two years, including

last month in Colorado, and Europe has won the last two Ryder Cups,

and seven of the last nine.

So why can’t they seem to lose the Presidents Cup?

The pressure isn’t as great, for starters. Europe plays for its

tour in the Ryder Cup. The International team plays under a

manufactured flag. Most of the players already are U.S. PGA Tour

members, and in many cases live in the same neighborhood as the

U.S. players.

Muirfield Village is the course Jack Nicklaus built for his

Memorial. It becomes the first golf course to host the Ryder Cup

(1987), Solheim Cup (1998) and Presidents Cup. History could be on

the side of the International team. It was at Muirfield Village

that the Americans lost the Ryder Cup at home for the first

time.

Els is the only player who celebrated an International win, even

though they seem to celebrate just as hard when they lose. Masters

champion Adam Scott was on the team in South Africa in 2003, and he

was among the most vocal on the second green when captains Jack

Nicklaus and Gary Player agreed to tie the cup. That’s when

Nicklaus reminded Player that the defending champion keeps the cup.

Scott wanted Els to keep playing, and then the teams agreed to

share the cup.

Still, the Australian has been on every team since then and it

always ends the same way.

”I feel it’s important for the Internationals to win and just

for myself, for my own satisfaction of being on a winning team,

which I haven’t done,” Scott said. ”I want to experience that

kind of elation with a bunch of other guys around me.”