News & ToursNovember 19, 2011

The outcome of this Presidents Cup is a foregone conclusion

MELBOURNE, Australia - Well, the opening ceremony was pretty competitive, in any case. The International Team dressed as well as the Americans. The spouses all looked sharp, and the national anthems were a halved match. Then it all went to hell in a handbasket for the home team.

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There is about as much mystery left in the outcome of this Presidents Cup as there is in a Gilligan's Island episode. Even if the crew for the International Team almost gets rescued in Sunday's singles play, they will ultimately and inevitably remained marooned on an island of ineptitude.

Any chance the Internationals had was washed away in a rainy morning foursomes session the Americans won 4-1 to take a commanding 11-6 lead. The International side made a spirited comeback in the afternoon four-ball matches, but all it did was cut the margin to 13-9.

Captain Greg Norman simply had too many weak links to hide and not enough places to hide them. To get the 17.5 points needed to win the Presidents Cup, the home team will need to take 8.5 of the 12 points up for grabs in singles play. The fact no team has ever come from behind in singles to win the Presidents Cup makes it unlikely enough. The fact few are playing well for the losing side makes it nearly impossible.

The Internationals would have to match the biggest comeback in Ryder Cup history in order to win here. In 1999 at Brookline, the United States trailed Europe 10-6 before a stirring rally snatched away the Cup at 14.5 to 13.5. But that squad was much better than the team the Internationals have here.

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               Of course, Norman could have a Ben Crenshaw moment and utter seemingly irrational words that inspire his team to an improbable comeback, as Gentle Ben did at Brookline. But the Yanks have looked too good and too many Internationals look too shaky for that to seem plausible.

"We have our backs against the wall," Norman said. "You have to go out there tomorrow and believe you can win nine matches. I think we can."

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A loss Sunday would mean the Internationals have won only one of the nine President Cup competitions, and that was in 1998 when Bill Clinton was President, Mark O'Meara won two majors and Jim Furyk had hair. Well, maybe Furyk didn't have hair, but O'Meara did have two majors that year.

There was also that draw in 2003, but that was only because nature intervened, the sun went down and no one wanted to hang around Fancourt in South Africa until Monday. The only chance the Internationals would have had here would have been if the rain suits for the Yanks leaked. No such luck.

The Internationals came within the 1-up victory by Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa over Matt Kuchar and Bill Haas from being swept in Saturday foursomes and lost eight of the 11 points overall in that format.  The Americans were so dominate in foursomes, even Tiger Woods garnered his first point.

"I'm extremely proud of our guys," Norman said. "We won the (afternoon) session today. We can handle ourselves in four-ball, we can't in foursomes. I truly believe it is just the comfort level. We are inexperienced in that format and it showed today."

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No one outside K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel has really played especially well for the Internationals, but Robert Allenby and Jason Day have been particularly dreadful. After K.T. Kim and Y.E. Yang defeated Woods and Dustin Johnson in four-ball, Allenby was the only player without a point. But if this turns out to be an International loss, it will truly be a team effort.

Meanwhile, Furyk, goes into singles a perfect 4-0 and Phil Mickelson, who sat out the Saturday afternoon session, is 3-0. Hunter Mahan, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson have also earned three points each.

The contest has been so one-sided, the galleries really didn't start to get into it until late in the Saturday afternoon session. And that may have been related to the fact the only double session of the week allowed for more visits to the beer tent.

But, finally, they were given something to cheer about. The worse the weather got Saturday afternoon -- cold, windy, rainy -- the better the International side fared. But the hole dug in the morning was too great to escape.

Winning the four-ball session 3-2 was simply not enough. It seems the only drama on Sunday will be guessing the final margin of victory for the Americans. Well before the match between Woods and Aaron Baddeley, the penultimate match, is decided, the Americans will have begun celebrating.

*- Ron Sirak

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