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Five things you should know about the Presidents Cup

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Five Facts that Factor into this Week’s President’s Cup

1. A decade of U.S. dominance may not last

It is a well-known fact that the Presidents Cup, the biennial competition between teams of professional golfers from the U.S. and the world (except for Great Britain and Ireland, and Europe) has been dominated by U.S. teams since the outset. With a record of nine wins, one loss and one tie, the Presidents Cup has pretty much been an All-American show since its inception in 1994. The only deviations from the U.S. side’s winning ways have been one tie, in 2003, and an aberrant 20-½ to 11-½ blowout by the International squad in 1998—which the U.S. side made up for, with a vengeance, two years later, with an even more lopsided victory, 21-½ to 10-½.

A look at the results since 2005 shows a run of seven straight wins by the U.S. side, but a closer look, at the margin of victory, reveals a trend within the trend. From 2009 through 2015 the winning margin has been getting smaller. The American squad have won by margins of 5, 4, 3, and 1 since 2009. The question is, is this a real trend, or a coincidence?

The 2017 International squad is the first to have 12 men who are all full-time members of the PGA Tour. Looked at one way, this could be seen as an indication that this International team is stronger than ever before (a somewhat chauvinistic, PGA-Tour-centric view point), or just that more international players are opting to play a schedule that is biased toward the PGA Tour. Taken together, however, the scoring trend and the Tour status deal might be looked on as complementary conditions that point toward a change in the fortunes for the International squad in 2017.[1]

2. You can’t spell “Presidents Cup” without Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson has played the most Presidents Cup matches of any player on either side, and it’s not even close. Phil the Thrill has been on every U.S. Presidents Cup squad since the first, in 1994, maturing from callow 24-year-old up-and-comer to 47-year-old elder statesman in the ensuing years.

Phil has played 51 matches in that time, considerably more than the 40 each that have been racked up by the second-place trio of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh & Ernie Els. Despite the greater number of matches, Phil lags behind Tiger Woods’ record for matches won, 24 to 23—but after making the squad again this year as a pick by skipper Steve Stricker, Phil has a chance to tie or beat Tiger Woods’ record for overall wins (if not for winning percentage.)

Speaking of captain’s picks, his selection by Steve Stricker for the 2017 squad makes it three times that Phil has squeaked in on his reputation—in the inaugural year, 1994; in 2015; and this year—tying the record of the International side’s Roger Allemby. (The smart money casts him in the role of captain for his next Presidents Cup appearance.)

3. The player with the best Presidents Cup record may surprise you

Tiger Woods has a pretty darned good overall record (24-15-1: 60%) in Presidents Cup play, but the best player, by a small margin in winning percentage, may surprise you: Jim Furyk, at 20-10-3: 61%.

With the youth movement that has been dominating the PGA Tour recently (in the 2016-2017 season 17 of 32 winners were under the age of 30, nine of those were younger than 25, and only five were 40 or older) we can be forgiven for letting 47-year-old Jim Furyk slip our minds. It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that for a good 20 years beginning in the mid-’90s he was a familiar presence on the PGA Tour and a stalwart team player for the United States in international team events. His Presidents Cup record breaks down to 8-5-0 in fourballs, 7-3-3 in foursomes, and 5-2-0 in singles—not a bad record.

Furyk has 17 career PGA Tour wins—most recently the RBC Heritage in 2015; nine Ryder Cup appearances; seven Presidents Cup appearances; one major victory, in the 2003 U.S. Open, and he was the FedEx Cup champion in 2010. He averaged about one win per year from 1996 to 2010, when he won three times and took home the FedEx Cup.

4. The best record on the international side will really surprise you

The player with the best overall Presidents Cup record on the International side over the years will really surprise you: Mike Weir, 13-9-2, or 54% (next best is Ernie Els, 20-18-2, 50%.)

Weir, who hasn’t had a win on Tour since 2004, has been plagued by an elbow injury since 2010. Never a long hitter off the tee, the injury has been widely attributed to swing changes he made in an attempt to increase his distance. He has never regained the form he displayed in recording three Canadian Tour wins and eight PGA Tour wins, including the 2014 Masters.

Weir amassed his Presidents Cup record over the period from 2000 to 2009, recording winning records in fourballs (7-2-0) and singles (3-1-1), but a losing record in foursomes (3-6-1).

5. The Presidents Cup started out as a one-course event on the U.S. side

Despite being modeled on the Ryder Cup, which has always alternated between venues in the United States and Great Britain (and since 1997, continental Europe), the Presidents Cup matches were played at the same U.S. venue—the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, Virginia—twice in a row before the matches went overseas. They then stuck with the RTJ venue for two more turns in the United States.

When the U.S. venue was finally changed, in 2009, the matches came all the way across the country to TPC Harding Park, on the shores of San Francisco’s Lake Merced. The only other U.S. venue to have hosted the Cup, to date, is Muirfield Village, in Dublin. Ohio.

International venues for the competition have ranged around the globe. The Cup has been contested at Australia’s Royal Melbourne Golf Club twice; at The Links at Fancourt, in South Africa, once; at Royal Montreal Golf Club, in Canada; and most recently, at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon City, South Korea.

(It seems to be a good thing to be a Presidents Cup captain, or past captain, and a course designer. Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have each led their respective teams three times, and the event has also been played on courses they designed—Player’s Fancourt, in George, South Africa; and at Nicklaus’ Incheon City course in South Korea, and his home layout, Muirfield Village, in Ohio.)

Future events will see a return to Royal Melbourne (2019), then go to a new U.S. venue, Quail Hollow, in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2021. The 2023 international venue is TBD, but TPC Harding Park will again host the Cup in 2025.

[1] Something else to look at, when considering each team’s chances this year, is the fact that the 2017 U.S. team has three Top 5 players, four Top 10 players, seven in the Top 20, and none ranked lower than #30. The International squad has one Top 5 player, two in the Top 10, three in the Top 20, and half of the team ranked #36 and lower.

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