By Ron Green Jr. of Global Golf Post
Modesty always has been among Steve Stricker’s great virtues.
Stricker prefers to point the finger at others more than himself and that was the approach he took as captain of the United States team’s wipeout 19-11 victory against the International team in the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club.
He took a simple approach: Put the right pairings together, make sure they were at the course on time and let the players take it from there.
“Just get out of the way,” Stricker said.
It’s a good plan when bulldozers are involved as the American team tore through the Internationals in overwhelming fashion, draining the drama out of the biennial competition before the final day arrived.
“They are just great players,” Stricker said. “I marvel at some of the shots that they are capable of hitting, and the way they conduct themselves on the golf course. The way they are so aggressive; they just take it on. They challenge everything.
“This is a great format to be that kind of player. You know you have a partner; that you can be aggressive. It was a blast. They are good kids and they are fun to be around. I was just trying to get out of their way. They were playing so well.”
Through the first three sessions, the Internationals won only one match – a foursome on Thursday when the notion of this Presidents Cup being competitive still seemed possible. That left the drama to Saturday afternoon – to see if the Americans could close out the cup before the Sunday singles.
They almost did it.
Anirban Lahiri and Si Woo Kim managed to win a four-ball match against Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, delaying the technicality of clinching the cup until Sunday and the sun glowed, the wind calmed and the Saturday chill was gone.
And the President was on site to make the trophy presentation.
It was, to adopt a popular term through the week, a perfect storm for the American runaway. The U.S. team was loaded with more talent and had the extra advantage of virtually every player being on form. By contrast, the International team’s top-ranked-player – Hideki Matsuyama, the third-ranked player in the world – didn’t play Saturday morning because his game has been a mess since his disappointing final round at the PGA Championship though he rediscovered his lost form in time for the Sunday singles.
The International tended to hang close to the Americans early in each session only to see it all fall apart on the closing nine, particularly the 12th through 18th holes, which the Americans dominated.
It didn’t demand great ingenuity on Stricker’s part to put together the winning equation. He brought back the familiar Jordan Spieth-Patrick Reed pairing, introduced the Rickie Fowler-Justin Thomas pairing that is likely to last for years and allowed himself to enjoy the scenic ferry rides back and forth from lower Manhattan each day.
The two primed pairings combined to go 5-0-2 in foursomes and four-ball, setting the tone each of the first three sessions.
“For some reason, it just works,” Reed said of the 7-1-3 record he and Spieth have together in team play. We go out, we mesh, and it seems like I always seem to get off to the hot start and he just kind of picks up the rest of the way and I usually finish pretty strong.”
And did we mention Dustin Johnson went 4-0-1?
How dominant have the Americans been in this event?
The last time the Internationals led after a session was in 2005 – before Jordan Spieth was a teenager.
“We’ve just played better golf,” Spieth said. “If this was a 24-man field, we would probably have 12 of the top 15 probably.”
Stricker delivered a simple message to his team each night: Win the next session.
Here’s how that played out:
- Thursday foursome: U.S., 3½-1½
- Friday four-ball: U.S., 4½-½
- Saturday foursome: U.S., 3½-½
- Saturday four-ball: U.S., 3-1
- Sunday singles: Int., 7½-4½
The one-sided nature of the event led to the predictable discussion about possibly tweaking the format in hopes of avoiding what happened at Liberty National. It seems unlikely that there will be major changes when the Americans show up at Royal Melbourne in Australia in two years with Ernie Els expected to be the captain in charge of changing the International team’s fortunes.
“It’s hard to beat the best players in the world when they’re playing well,” Australian Marc Leishman said.
It was as simple as that.
“These guys tried their tails off,” Price said. The Americans just had so much momentum, and every time we looked like we were going to get some momentum, they would cut us short. Kudos to them.”
Republished with permission by Global Golf Post