Six reasons to pay attention to the Presidents Cup
Did you know it’s Presidents Cup week? I swear! It really is!
The Presidents Cup, for all the good it does in bringing a different part of the globe into the World vs. USA dynamic, always seems to have an uphill battle when the event rolls around every two years. It isn’t the Ryder Cup, of course, and it doesn’t help when the event is played in an obscure time zone that makes it difficult for the American golf fan who likes his or her regulated schedule to never change (wake up, have coffee and get up close and personal with the couch and remote).
But this year could be totally different. Not only is the hottest golfer in the world on the International team (no knock to Jordan Spieth’s great play at the Tour Championship), but this Presidents Cup, for us West Coasters, is coming on right when dinner is finishing up and relaxing is the only acceptable option.
So what is so intriguing about this year’s Presidents Cup that should force you to stay awake later than normal and catch some of these matches live? Let’s dive in.
1. A monumental moment for Sangmoon Bae this week will be followed by mandatory military service for his country
Imagine for a moment that you, kind reader, were exceptional at a sport. So good that of all the people on this planet, you were one of the 100 or so who were considered the best. Now consider that after your greatest three-year stretch as a professional, one of the premier events in your profession was going to be hosted in your home country. What an amazing and fortunate moment for you not only as a citizen but as a representative of your birthplace.
Bae, a 29-year-old from South Korea, will be as big a draw this week at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club as anyone in the field, including names like Mickelson, Spieth and Day, but immediately following the event he will begin mandatory military service for his country. One week you’re the star of the show and the next you’re signing up for something that will take you away from the sport you love and the game that has made you famous for something everyone in your country, millionaire or otherwise, has to do.
Root for the United States if you’re from here all you want, but for most, cheering on Bae this week with everything that is happening around him seems like a lay-up. And if he goes 3-1-1, it would be one of the coolest weeks for any player in the history of this event.
2. The return of Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed
The last time we saw Patrick Reed in a team event, he was shushing the European crowd on his way to an incredibly impressive 3-0-1 performance, maintaining the idea that Reed might be the best match play golfer on the planet.
But his 2015 was a different story altogether. Reed won just once, way back in January, and after losing in a playoff to Jordan Spieth at the Valspar he went nearly four months between top-10s.
But his play during the FedEx Cup playoffs showed promise. Three straight top-28s, including a T-4 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, was definite improvement for the youngster, and it looks like, once again, he will be paired with Spieth.
But things will be quite different this year compared to last. Spieth is No. 1 in the world, and the Player of the Year and is not only the face of the game right now but the American with a target on his back as the Internationals get set for what they hope is a huge upset.
Last year these two were the fun-loving young guns who could win or lose every match without changing our impressions of them. Now they’ll be one of the most polished teams captain Jay Haas can roll out, and it’ll be interesting how Reed’s game holds up considering his up-and-down season and the pressure that will come with playing alongside Boy Wonder 2.0.
3. Will Rickie Fowler bring the best out in Phil Mickelson?
Let’s face it, Mickelson is not playing the type of golf that made him so famous and won him so many golf tournaments. Phil hasn’t brought home a trophy since the 2013 British Open, carding as many missed cuts this year as top-10s. That didn’t matter to Haas, who used a captain’s pick on Mickelson despite so many young guys out there falling short of qualifying. Though I defended the Mickelson choice when it was made, I did it with a single thought in the back of my head: These team events do wonders for Mickelson’s game when he’s paired with a young guy he likes.
We saw what Keegan Bradley did for Phil at the 2012 Ryder Cup, and I expect much of the same when Mickelson gets paired with Fowler. These two are buddies who spend practice rounds in the same pairing taking on Jimmy Walker or Brandt Snedeker or Dustin Johnson for amounts of money that would make my Chase Bank alert activate on my cell phone (OK, it would make my OVERDRAFT alert activate on my phone). It’s the way they prepare, and the familiar face and game has to be as good for Phil as any tip he gets from Butch Harmon.
Phil has one more big push left before Father Time will deem him unworthy of the PGA Tour, and I think this week could be huge in making that push come in 2016. If Phil can make some birdies, something he’s never been afraid to do, and lean on Rickie during the pivotal moments (remember, only Spieth has been more clutch than Fowler this year in big situations), it could be a shot of Red Bull to Mickelson moving forward.
4. No matter how bad Adam Scott putts with the short putter, he won’t have the worst putt we’ve seen this fall
Yes, the last of the long putters has decided this week is as good a time as ever to switch back to a short one, and no matter how ugly things get on the greens for Scott, he will stand no chance against what Ernie Els did in Scotland, so a big thanks to the Big Easy for letting Scott off the hook.
5. Will a star emerge for the Internationals?
It’s easy to say Jason Day will continue his great run and be the anchor for captain Nick Price. Or maybe it will be Scott, one of the best in the world when his game is clicking and the type of player who can simply lean on his talent when the swing feels good.
But to win these events, it usually takes a player you don’t expect a lot out to break out and dominate.
Though Bae, for reasons I touched on above, would be the best choice for this, it’s a name like Danny Lee or Branden Grace that seems more likely to take the reins and snag a few points for the Internationals.
If that happens, this will be a close Presidents Cup. If only the likes of Day and Scott stand up to the challenge, expect another long week for the team in the blue and gold and another American win in an event that desperately needs a 2003-like feel to it come Sunday.
6. The 18th hole is a par-5, which should be mandatory for any and all match-play events
Seriously, how much fun is it to have a par-5 that players can go for in two as the final hole of match play? It allows viewers a chance to see some eagles, some matching birdies and the occasional go-for-broke shot that ends up breaking a certain team or player.
Shane Bacon is a regular contributor to FOXSports.com’s golf coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @shanebacon.