America’s dominance of the Presidents Cup has robbed the matchplay showdown of Ryder Cup-like drama, but the International team hopes to remedy that this week.
”We need to win one of these pretty soon,” said Australian Geoff Ogilvy, a former US Open champion who is playing in his second Presidents Cup.
”Animosity creates interest and makes the Ryder Cup what it is. We have to make the matches start going both ways more often. If the Internationals can win a few more, make the matches closer, you can get that sense of animosity.”
The Presidents Cup, which tees off on Thursday at Harding Park, pits a 12-strong US team against a dozen of the best from the rest of the world apart from Europe.
In seven previous editions, Americans have lost just once, in 1998 at Australia’s Royal Melbourne. The only draw came in 2003 at Fancourt in South Africa.
When the competition begins with Thursday’s six foursomes matches, it won’t be with the same tension that marks the US vs Europe Ryder Cup — in which European triumphs in five of the past seven editions has fuelled the rivalry.
”It’s a more traditional rivalry, Europe and the US,” Ogilvy said. ”The International team, it probably taken a few years to develop an identity because a bunch of the guys haven’t played together before, Australians and South Africans.”
Adding to the air of friendly competition is the fact that many of this week’s foes play together week-in and week-out on the US PGA Tour.
”This event seems to be a touch friendlier,” said American Jim Furyk. ”You don’t hear about the animosity and you don’t hear about the friction that you’ve heard about the Ryder Cup.
”The guys that play on the International team, a good percentage of them live in the United States. I see Vijay [Singh] on a weekly basis at home. I realise he’s on the other team, but he lives in my back yard.”
This year’s International line-up, captained by Australian great Greg Norman, includes Aussies Ogilvy, Robert Allenby and Adam Scott, South Africans Tim Clark, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, Fiji’s Vijay Singh, Japanese phenom Ryo Ishikawa, South Korean YE Yang, Colombia’s Camilo Villegas, Argentinian Angel Cabrera and Canadian Mike Weir.
Cabrera said the diverse backgrounds of the players was no hindrance to team bonding.
”I think it’s great that it’s a very international team, about different countries and cultural differences and all those kind of things,” he said. ”It’s great to put them together.”
But the Internationals will be hard pressed to hand a first home defeat to a US team led by superstar Tiger Woods.
The Americans won 19Â½-14Â½ in Canada in 2007, and along with Woods their line-up boasts world number two Phil Mickelson and number three Steve Stricker.
Woods, Stricker and Mickelson won the last three events in the US tour’s prestigious FedEx Cup play-off series.
Norman said it would be crucial to get off to a good start in Thursday’s foursomes.
On Friday there will be six fourball matches, with five foursomes and five fourball matches on Saturday. The event concludes on Sunday with 12 singles matches.
”When I look back over the history of the Presidents Cup, where we as a team have got beaten … is in the foursomes … America has been very, very dominating in that department,” Norman said. ”I think from a player’s perspective, you really want to get out there and you want to win.
”They have the ability to do it,” Norman added of his team. ”I like the spirit. I really like what I’m hearing and seeing in the locker room right now.” — AFP