The Presidents Cup tees off Thursday from Quail Hollow in Charlotte. There will be five foursomes matches on Day 1, five four-ball matches on Day 2, four of each two-man format on Saturday, and then 12 singles matches on Sunday for a total of 30 points up for grabs. A loaded American roster is heavily favored against a LIV-depleted International side in a team-match play event that had already not been kind to the International side. The TFE team got together to bat around some pressing subjects related to this specific Pres Cup, and also make a few predictions.
What happens to the Presidents Cup after this week? What would you like to see happen in an ideal world?
Garrett Morrison: My guess is that, after this week, Presidents Cup will putter along as usual, not taking any chances. That’s the PGA Tour way. And in this case, I’m actually fine with that because team match play is magical. By Thursday afternoon, when we’re all locked in on the first foursomes session, we’ll have forgotten all about the event’s dubious future and lack of creativity.
In an ideal world, I’d love to see it become a mixed-gender event. This is a common suggestion but a good one. The addition of LPGA players would close the skill gap between the teams, giving the International squad an infusion of elite talent. Right now, nine of the top 10 players in the Rolex Rankings are from non-U.S., non-European countries. Nine of the top 10! Plus, it would be fascinating to watch men and women work together, especially in alternate-shot matches. Who would tee off on which holes? What ball would they play? These familiar strategic questions would take on a new urgency in a mixed-gender format.
But as Andy is probably about to explain, this kind of PGA-LPGA collaboration is highly unlikely.
Andy Johnson: They won’t ever do a mixed women’s event because they don’t want to share a dime with another organization like the LPGA (have to fuel up Citation X). So with that in mind, they should make the Presidents Cup what the Olympics should have been: a great international team competition. Allow every country that can field a reasonable three-man team to enter, have two rounds of stroke play counting the top two scores, and then have the top eight teams square off in match play to determine a winner. I think you can reasonably have 20-plus countries represented and it could become something golf doesn’t have—a true international team competition. With this format, the Presidents Cup would immediately have an identity, and not one of a lopsided exhibition.
Will Knights: The only thing I’m sure of is that the Presidents Cup is going to continue. I think there is a chance that U.S. vs. International gets blown up. Maybe two captains just draft teams of PGA Tour players and do different kinds of matches throughout a weekend. The International team is going to continue to suffer because of LIV and I just don’t see a scenario in which they put up a real fight any time soon. If the Tour wants to keep any sort of interest in this event, they need to up the competition and soon. Ideally, we don’t have to pretend to care about a team event in non Ryder Cup years and the Presidents Cup ceases to exist. However, see my first sentence.
Meg Adkins: After this week, the Presidents Cup will do what it always does: be forgotten about until its next iteration. I’m with Andy that ideally the event would switch to a mixed format. I also agree with him that the chances of that happening are slim to none. The Presidents Cup was created to make money. It’s incredibly frustrating though that the stakeholders refuse to seriously entertain the mixed event idea and fail to see how transforming the Presidents Cup from its “Ryder Cup’s little brother” persona into the premier mixed team competition in golf would be beneficial to all parties. I’m dying to see a Jin Young Ko/Sungjae Im vs. Nelly Korda/Justin Thomas foursomes matchup or an all-Canadian team of Corey Conners/Brooke Henderson or the Lee siblings Min Woo and Min Jee join forces or all the shaky putts from a Will Zalatoris/Lexi Thomspon pairing. I’ll stop there, but there’s no argument that a mixed event doesn’t provide far more intrigue than what’s being marched out this week.
Is there a specific player or pairing you’re keen to watch this week?
Meg: It feels like we’re way behind on the “Spieth-craziness” quota for the year. The majors were uneventful by his standards. A top 10 at the Open was great to see, and I’m hoping he provides some exciting moments the next few days. I don’t need to see him almost fall down a cliff or anything, but some short-game magic in a close match or finally winning that elusive point from his singles match would suffice.
Will: He may be a popular pick but I’m legitimately excited to watch Max Homa this week. Team events are an inevitability for certain top players, but he’s been gunning for this spot for a very long time. Locker room guy, ultimate team player, grit, really all the cliches apply.
America's Podcast Guest makes his Presidents Cup debut this week
Andy: In 2022, I haven’t gotten enough Xander-Cantlay friend talk, so that’s what I can’t wait for. I kid. One pairing that I am particularly interested to see on the International side is Tom Kim and Sungjae Im. Both are in their early 20s and have the game to be superstars. They are allegedly very good friends on and off the course and one of the few pairings that the Internationals can put out there that match up well in that department.
From the American side, I am interested in one: Billy Horschel. The man likes to talk a lot. This will probably be the only team competition in his career and I am hoping for him to get under some player’s skin. [Editor’s note: unclear if we’re referring to his own team here.] Ideally we would see him square off against an opponent that he can conjure up some wrongdoing or slight with, like Mito Pereira, who is reportedly headed for LIV after the event.
Garrett: Obviously we don’t know any pairings yet, but Billy Horschel and Sam Burns, who partnered at the Zurich Classic, could make a fun, potentially chippy, probably irritating team.
Should the PGA Tour have allowed LIV guys to play for this one week, leaving it up to the captains?
Will: Not this year. In the future, I don’t mind allowing captains decide but those guys knew they were opting out of the Presidents Cup by jumping to LIV. I’m fine letting them face some consequences for the time being.
Garrett: From the fan’s perspective, yes. From the Tour’s perspective, obviously no. Letting LIV guys in the Presidents Cup just gives them another reason not to regret leaving.
Andy: It doesn’t really matter what I say here because they were never going to play. But before the lawsuit, I would have said yes because the International team would presented the closest matchup in this event’s growing history. LIV pillaged that team much more than the American team and this event needs all the juice it can get. But after the lawsuit, it would never have worked—imagine the arguments at the ping-pong tables in the team room.
How will Quail Hollow stand up as a team match play venue? Anything interest or excite you there?
Andy: The Ryder Cup has proven on many occasions that a match-play event can thrive despite a mediocre golf course. The last time we saw the Presidents Cup, it showed what a spectacular venue (Royal Melbourne) can do to enhance a great competition. This year’s venue will be fine but not inspiring like at Royal Melbourne. Its strengths are proximity to Charlotte and immense space that allow for ample “monetization” opportunities. Where it falls short is it’s just not a very interesting golf course. Its main identifying factors are difficulty and conditioning. For a match-play competition, sheer difficulty isn’t really necessary. Rather than holes that punish poor shots, you would like to see holes that entice players to do something uncomfortable or offer a wide array of options, as Royal Melbourne did.
With Quail Hollow being a regular stop on Tour, there isn’t much intrigue. It’s a course that fans have already seen a bunch and unlike Augusta National or even TPC Sawgrass, aren’t dying to see more of. As we see with the Ryder Cup, venue selection is more about the ability to make money off of corporate hospitality, concessions, and merchandise than it is about the actual golf course.
Will: Quail Hollow stinks, we know that, but I’ve decided to be naïvely optimistic for this week. I like that they rerouted the course so that Nos. 14-18 will play as Nos. 11-15 and ensure almost all matches get through the only memorable stretch on the course. Maybe the rough is cut shorter to the Americans’ advantage and we see more recovery shots instead of hacks out of deep rough like at the Wells Fargo. I’m somewhat grasping at straws here but there are minor things I am looking forward to this week.
What or who is your biggest concern for the U.S. side?
Meg: Very few concerns over here. Not only is the locker room drama gone without Brooks, Bryson or DJ there, but the U.S. side hasn’t taken a step backwards with its new faces. There might be a head-scratching pairing or two from Captain Love III. His logic in regards to everything that’s happened with LIV recently has been difficult to follow, so let’s hope that doesn’t transfer over to this week.
Andy: Food poisoning. If I were Captain Love, I would be focused on making sure my team doesn’t come down with whatever plagued the Walker Cup team last year. From a pure talent perspective, this isn’t close. But as always in sports, anything is possible and hopefully come Sunday we will at least have the allure of the Internationals having a semblance of a chance.
Will: That Billy Horschel and Justin Thomas have a heated ping-pong match that goes too far and someone ends up with a minor injury. Outside of that I think the U.S. will be just fine.
Garrett: Reeeaaallly reaching here, but Trevor Immelman won’t have to work hard to get his team to buy into the tried-and-true “us vs. them,” “nobody believes in us,” and “we’ve got nothing to lose” motivational schemata. So who knows! Immelman could tap into his inner Gene Hackman and the Internationals could come bursting out of the locker room and play inspired golf. Let’s hope.
Nominee or nominees for…
Most awkward celebration
Garrett: Justin Thomas has a track record here.
Andy: Sam Burns, I have never really seen him get amped so who knows what’s coming out if he does!
Will: Whatever pre-meditated scream Justin Thomas has lined up will probably be a bit cringeworthy.
Meg: Kim and Im. I can see them winning some big points for the Internationals in tight matches. There’s gotta be a high five whiff out there at some point.
Moment of tension or less-than-perfect gentlemanliness
Will: Tom Kim. I’m hoping to manifest some Si Woo Kim shushing type behavior out of Kim’s big personality.
Andy: Billy Horschel
Meg: Billy Horschel is the only correct answer here.
Garrett: I’d be delighted to see Si Woo shush the crowd again.
Leading points earners
Garrett: Xander Schauffele, Corey Conners.
Meg: JT and Tom Kim.
Will: Tony Finau and Hideki Matsuyama.
Andy: Scottie Scheffler, Sungjae Im.
From mundane to extreme, what’s one wrinkle you’d introduce to improve this year’s Presidents Cup? And perhaps all Pres Cups going forward…
Will: I’m going extreme. Before each set of five matches, on a rotating basis, the captains should allocate how many points each match is worth. Maybe Davis Love III is very confident in Spieth/Thomas vs. Matsuyama/Im so he allocates two points to that match. Any match that doesn’t receive points allocated to it become tie breakers.
Andy: I would allow the clearly outmatched team, the Internationals, to pick every matchup and lineup order. I think it would be riveting to figure out why they picked certain players to play together and against whom. Look, this event has the decks stacked against it with Cam Smith, Joaquín Niemann, Abe Ancer, and Louis Oosthuizen missing in action. So why not let them square some of that by picking who matches up with their best teams.
Meg: The Presidents Cup plays second fiddle to the Ryder Cup in terms of competitiveness and history, so it has always confused me as to why it doesn’t differentiate itself with formats and structure. Put the singles matches out on day one, change up the draw, allow the captain with his team to tweak course setup, etc. Anything that separates it from the Ryder Cup is a win in my book.
Pick to win and why?
Garrett: The U.S. team—for all the obvious, boring reasons. Sorry.
Meg: Team USA. Losing the stars that defected is just too big of a hurdle for the Internationals to overcome.
Andy: Just to have fun and say I picked it right if it happens I will take the Internationals… how many points do we get?
Will: Billy Horschel. No one is going to enjoy their time in the spotlight and in front of a microphone more this week.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg Newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.