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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Round 5 Singles Pairings

Team USA didn't pull off the big comeback they would have liked -- that fact gave the Internationals something to hold onto -- but they did win three of the four points and cut their deficit to a more manageable two points. Since it takes 15.5 points to win the Cup, Team USA will need 7.5 while the Internationals need only 5.5.

Here is the singles line-up for the final round today.
  • Match 19: Abraham Ancer VS Tiger Woods
  • Match 20: Hideki Matsuyama VS Tony Finau
  • Match 21: C.T. Pan VS Patrick Reed
  • Match 22: Haotong Li VS Dustin Johnson
  • Match 23: Adam Hadwin VS Bryson DeChambeau
  • Match 24: Sungjae Im VS Gary Woodland
  • Match 25: Joaquin Niemann VS Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 26: Adam Scott VS Xander Schauffele
  • Match 27: Byeong Hun An VS Webb Simpson
  • Match 28: Cameron Smith Vs Justin Thomas
  • Match 29: Louis Oosthuizen VS Matt Kuchar
  • Match 30: Marc Leishman VS Rickie Fowler
The thing that stands out to me is that the captains seem to have chosen their players less for their current form and more for their skillsets. Long hitters are pitted against long hitters, accuracy players against accuracy players, strong short games and/or weak putters against the same. This is a bit different from the norm, but it makes sense given each captain's leaning toward statistics.

Bear in mind that traditionally -- at least, when we talk about Ryder Cups -- the winning point most often comes from match 26 or 27, occasionally 28. Both teams have followed this traditional bit of wisdom, placing strong players in these matches as well.

Finally, a number of speculations concern Tiger putting himself up against Abraham Ancer, but I think it's pretty simple to understand. While Tiger probably wants to be available to supervise late matches himself if they're super close, and while he possibly heard that, way back in November, Ancer said he wanted to play him, I think the primary reason is that Abraham Ancer is arguably the International Team's top player this week and Tiger has been the American Team's best. What other choice would you expect from Tiger?

GC's coverage of the singles starts at 6pm ET today, just a little over an hour from now (that is, as I post this). I expect nothing less than a Ryder Cup-esque finish to this one!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Round 4 Foursome Pairings

The US team must feel like they've been kicked in the gut, being down 5-9. They need to run the tables this afternoon to get back even as they head into the singles. A split isn't good enough. Unless they do something spectacular in this session, they are in SERIOUS trouble!

In case you've forgotten, foursomes is the Americans' strong suit.
  • Match 15: Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott VS
    Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland
  • Match 16: Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer VS
    Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler
  • Match 17: Sungjae Im/Cameron Smith VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 18: Byeong-Hun An/Joaquin Niemann VS
    Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau
Some of these pairings are the same as yesterday's foursomes -- Oosthuizen/Scott, Leishman/Ancer and Im/Smith for the Internationals, and Schauffele/Cantlay for the US (they've played together all four sessions now).

Kuchar/Finau and Thomas/Fowler are Round 3 pairings who played well earlier today.

Interestingly, Johnson/Woodland was a fourball pairing in the first round. And An/Niemann is probably a product of Hadwin being under the weather and Matsuyama getting a rest for the singles.

While I was surprised yesterday when Tiger left himself out of the pairings, after seeing how cold the weather has turned I'm not surprised he's also skipping this session. He'll need to be rested if it's cold for the singles tomorrow.

Since I have to get an early start tomorrow morning, I won't be seeing the finish of this session or the matchups for tomorrow until the afternoon. So Saturday's post will be going up late afternoon.

And of course, GC's coverage of this session is going on right now!

Round 3 Fourball Pairings

Both teams left Round 2 with something to hold onto. At one point Team USA was staring at the potential of finishing the day in a 1-9 deficit. Having finished down only 3.5-6.5, they certainly leave with some momentum.

But while the Internationals didn't gain the ground they had hoped, they still have that three-point lead... and the Americans have five fewer matches to make them up. They may feel a bit deflated, but that's still a win for them.

In Round 3 we're back to the Internationals' strong suit, fourballs.
  • Match 11: Marc Leishman/Haotong Li VS
    Justin Thomas/Rickie Fowler
  • Match 12: Sungjae Im/Abraham Ancer VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 13: Hideki Matsuyama/C.T. Pan VS
    Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
  • Match 14: Byeong-Hun An/Adam Scott VS
    Matt Kuchar/Tony Finau
Everyone on both teams has now played.

I think this round is the big one for the Americans. This is their weakest format and they lost a lot of ground in the Round 1 fourballs. They HAVE to find some way to at least halve this session. If they lose another two or three points, they're going to be in deep trouble.

One last thing: I was a bit shocked, both that Tiger is sitting out this round and that he left the team of Reed/Simpson together. Tiger and JT are responsible for two of the team's 3.5 points, as well as being the only team to get a point in the earlier fourball session, so I thought he'd play fourballs again. But after checking their scores in more detail, the Reed/Simpson pairing did play fourballs much better than foursomes so he may think this is the best place to rest other players.

GC's coverage starts today at 3pm ET and runs until 2am ET. This could be a long one for Team USA.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Round 2 Foursome Pairings

The Internationals got their Presidents Cup off to a great start. (I told you not to underestimate them!) But today is the Americans' strong suit, foursomes (or alternate shot).
  • Match 6: Louis Oosthuizen/Adam Scott VS
    Dustin Johnson/Matt Kuchar
  • Match 7: Adam Hadwin/Joaquin Niemann VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 8: Marc Leishman/Abraham Ancer VS
    Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
  • Match 9: Byeong-Hun An/Hideki Matsuyama VS
    Justin Thomas/Tiger Woods
  • Match 10: Sungjae Im/Cameron Smith VS
    Gary Woodland/Rickie Fowler
Everyone on Team USA has now played, and only Haotong Li has not played for the Internationals.

I still believe Tiger had no intention of playing the foursomes before the team's poor showing in Round 1 sort of forced his hand. However, with only one session each day and the nice weather, I don't see this causing any problems for his back. (Assuming he gets up feeling good for Round 2, that is. He may have put himself later in the day as a precaution.)

Round 2 is the critical round for the Internationals. As I said, this is traditionally the strongest format for Team USA. If Ernie's team can stretch their lead or even just tie this round, you have to toss out all the underdog talk and seriously consider their chances to win the Cup.

GC's coverage begins tonight at 7pm ET.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Round 1 Fourball Pairings

An interesting group of pairings for the first matches at the Presidents Cup.
  • Match 1: Marc Leishman/Joaquin Niemann VS
    Justin Thomas/Tiger Woods
  • Match 2: Adam Hadwin/Sungjae Im VS
    Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
  • Match 3: Adam Scott/Byeong-Hun An VS
    Bryson DeChambeau/Tony Finau
  • Match 4: Hideki Matsuyama/C.T. Pan VS
    Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
  • Match 5: Abraham Ancer/Louis Oosthuizen VS
    Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland
The four players sitting it out are Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler for the US, and Haotong Li and Cameron Smith for the Internationals.

No big surprises as far as I can see, although some of the pairings -- unlike Tiger and JT -- may seem counter-intuitive. Here are a few of my random thoughts:
  • An and Im are both South Korean but also rookies; Hadwin has played once before and I suspect the Hadwin/Im pairing has a lot to do with them knowing each other from the PGA Tour. As the most veteran member of the team, Scott makes sense as An's partner.
  • Finau and DeChambeau are both rookies but Tiger knows both well... and let's face it, the US probably doesn't worry about throwing two rookies together because the team has been historically strong. (Same for Schauffele and Cantlay.) Ernie is going to be much more cautious in his initial pairings because one unproductive pairing could put them behind the eight-ball early.
  • Perhaps the most unexpected pairing is Reed and Simpson, but Reed can get a bit wild at times and Simpson should be able to keep them in the hole should that happen.
If I'm surprised by anything, it's the decision to sit Li for the first match. I would really like him as a fourball partner, but I suppose somebody had to sit.

GC's live coverage starts at 5:30pm ET this afternoon. I'll reiterate what I said in yesterday's post -- I think it's a mistake to underestimate the Internationals this time around. Although I expect the US to win, I won't be surprised if we see an upset.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Twofer Tuesday? The Presidents Cup

Who am I kidding? You pick one team or the other this week. So what else is there to talk about?

Tiger and Ernie with the Cup

Let me just pass on a few thoughts.

First, concerning Patrick Reed: Despite how damning the video appears, I think people are missing one very important point in this discussion... and that's the fact that the video exists at all. Why do I think that's a big deal?

Simply, Patrick had been in or near the lead all day and KNEW there was a camera following him. Look at that video again -- there isn't anything between the camera and Patrick to keep him from seeing it. The real question isn't whether Patrick was trying to cheat or not. The real question is whether Patrick is stupid enough to try and cheat when he KNOWS he's on camera. Do you really think a player THAT stupid can play as well -- and win as much -- as Patrick has?

My money is on a brain fart, plain and simple. People may think Patrick is impervious to pressure but, given that his lead was slipping away and the field was playing so well, I could see his hands losing some of their sensitivity. Add a little bit of mental fog and I can see him totally zoning out over the shot.

So regardless of what anybody says, I think Captain America is human and just blacked out for a few moments. The alternative simply makes no sense to me at all.

On the International Team's chances: I know the history, I know the rankings, I know the likelihood of repeating the past. Frankly, I think the US Team will win once again.

But I think the International Team is being terribly underestimated. Their rookies are playing well and -- yes, I think this is an advantage -- Jason Day isn't playing. I believe that's an advantage only because I don't think the current state of Jason's game can handle the pressure of having the team on his back. (Back problems have been hurting his game all season.) The rookies and normal support players HAVE to step up and I believe they will, simply because there is no one other than Adam Scott with a huge record... and nobody expects Adam to win it all by himself. Without Jason there, I expect new leaders will emerge.

As I said, the rookies are playing well. They don't have the jet lag of the US Team but they DO have some serious credentials on tours around the world. I think Ernie's team is primed to field some breakout stars this time around.

And the Internationals have won in Australia before. I think that carries more weight than they're getting credit for. They know they can do it there because they HAVE done it there.

So while I think the US will win, I won't be surprised if the Internationals manage an upset.

Finally, about Tiger: How many times will Tiger try to play? I don't think there's any mystery at all.

I forget which news conference it was, but in the last week Tiger specifically said he was "responsible for two points" at this event. Of course he is -- all team members are required to play once before the singles and then in the singles. I think that's all Tiger plans to play unless he's needed for a third match... or he just finds he's on a hot streak.

But I don't think he's willing to risk a singles loss just to play more than one pairs match. He wants a win, and risking a back problem makes no sense at all.

So that's my "Twofer Tuesday" for this week. Just one takeaway: Don't sleep on those International rookies; I think they're going to surprise some viewers.

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 Hero World Challenge

Winner: Henrik Stenson

Around the wider world of golf: Jason and Bernhard Langer picked up their second PNC Father/Son Challenge victory; Matt Jones won his second Emirates Australian Open on the Australasian Tour; Rasmus Højgaard won the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open on the ET; Ryo Ishikawa won the Golf Nippon Series JT Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Esther Henseleit won the inaugural Magical Kenya Ladies Open on the LET.

Henrik Stenson with his very own Tiger

Finally! My Twofer Tuesday picks stepped up. I had Jon Rahm (2) to win and Tiger Woods (4) to Top10. Tiger knocked the rust off just like I hoped and Jon... well, it don't get much closer than losing by one!
  • Winners: 3 for 49
  • Place well (Top10): 21 for 49 (13 Top5s, 8 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 39 of 98 (24 Top5s, 15 more Top10s)
With all the debate over Tiger's choices to replace injured players in the Presidents Cup, it's pretty clear his exemptions for the Hero turned out pretty well. Chez Reavie came in 13th in his first appearance -- not bad given the tricky conditions at Albany.

And then there was Henrik...

The only player to post four rounds in the 60s walked off with the prize and then some. After all, Henrik had to be a sponsor's invite because he hadn't won this year (since the 2017 Wyndham, in fact) nor was he high enough in the OWGR (40) to make it on his own. And when you consider that the Swede had to replace his beloved 3-wood recently, perhaps the best weapon in his bag, it would seem that he was in no position to beat a field this strong.

Surprise! After playing solidly all week, he nailed a 259-yard 5-wood to 8 inches on the par-5 15th for a tap-in eagle... and the lead. He never looked back after that.

Looks like the Stensons will be having a nice Christmas. Henrik not only got the victory (and associated swag) but also a big bump in the OWGR. Sunday night his new position had already been posted, up from 40 to 26. And he got a new Limerick Summary, just to make it official.
The Swede got an invite from Tiger
‘Cause he lacked the world ranking required
To earn his way in…
But it looks like this win
Has driven his ranking MUCH higher.
The photo came from this page at pgatour.com.