Charl Schwartzel of the International Team plays a shot during a practice round prior to the Presidents Cup, at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, on September 26, 2017
International team captain Nick Price believes his “hodgepodge” band have the talent, and the fire, needed to prevent the United States from winning a seventh straight Presidents Cup this week.
The biennial match play event between the USA and a team drawn from around the world tees off on Thursday at Liberty National Golf Club.
The United States have won nine of 11 prior editions of the event, with one tie and just one International victory, in 1998 in Melbourne.
But Price said the one-point defeat two years ago in Incheon, South Korea, was “a shot in the arm” for players like Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, and Jason Day.
“Even though we’re a hodgepodge of a team from all around the world, we are all competitors,” Price said of a team that this year draws from eight nations. “We like to compete, and we don’t like to get beaten.”
Phil Mickelson (L) and Justin Thomas of the US Team walk down the seventh hole during a practice round prior to the Presidents Cup, at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, on September 26, 2017
In addition to veterans like Australia’s Scott and Day and South Africa’s Oostuizen, the Internationals have four debutants in Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo, Canadian Adam Hadwin, Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas and South Korean Kim Si-Woo.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is the highest ranked International at number three in the world. At 25, he’s making a third Presidents Cup appearance.
“This team is made up of a lot of young guys who probably have another four or five Presidents Cups in them,” Price said. “I think they have realized how important this event is now, and they want to take it to the next level.”
It will be a daunting task against a US side featuring world number one Dustin Johnson and second-ranked Jordan Spieth.
World number four Justin Thomas has five wins this season, including his first major at the PGA Championship, and locked up the $10 million FedEx Cup playoff bonus.
Nick Price, captain of the Presidents Cup International team, speaks to the media at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, New Jersey, on September 26, 2017
World number eight Rickie Fowler boasts a tour win this year, and Brooks Koepka broke through for his first major title at the US Open.
Still, Fowler said, “we’ve got our work cut out for us”.
“We’ve had a lot of success this year top to bottom. But it all comes down to this week,” Fowler said. “As a team we’ve got a lot of wins. That doesn’t matter when you tee it up on Thursday. Everyone starts even.”
– ‘Strong and deep’ –
While Price has four Presidents Cup rookies on his team, Stricker has six.
Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, the only player to compete in every Presidents Cup, lends a veteran presence, and said the Americans need to keep the pressure on.
“If you look at the talent on the international team, it is strong and it is deep,” he said. “If we open the door and give them an opportunity, it will bite us.”
Price and his players say it will be crucial to get off to a quick start in Thursday’s five foursomes matches.
They’ll play fourball matches on Friday, and four more matches in each format on Saturday before playing 12 singles matches on Sunday.
The Statue of Liberty and the skyline of nearby Manhattan provide a spectacular backdrop to the New Jersey course that could enhance the match play drama.
“I think the course is a great match play course,” Price said. “There’s a lot of risk/reward golf out there, and I think we’re going to see a lot of holes changing hands rapidly. I think there’s going to be a lot of birdies made.”
A vocal big-city crowd will only add to the atmosphere.
“Of all the cities you want to play in for the Internationals, this is the best one because it’s the most cosmopolitan city in America,” Price said. “We are hoping we get a lot of support out here.”
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