Jersey City (United States) (AFP) – US Presidents Cup captain Steve Stricker says his players can’t afford to be complacent if they want to extend their dominance over the International team in the match play showdown teeing off on Thursday.
Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton will be in attendance when play gets underway at 1:05 pm (1705 GMT) at Liberty National Golf Club, where the US launch their defense of the title they won two years ago in Incheon, South Korea by just one point.
The Americans have won nine of 11 prior editions, with one draw in 2003 and the lone International victory coming back in 1998.
“My message to my players is that I don’t really care what’s happened the last 11 Cups or how many we’ve played,” Stricker said. “We’re here for what’s going on this week and to take care of business this week and not worry about that.”
On paper, however, the Americans are heavy favorites. Led by top-ranked Dustin Johnson and world number two Jordan Spieth, the Americans have an average world ranking of 15 and have combined for 17 US PGA Tour titles this year — including the three most recent major championships.
The International team captained by Zimbabwe’s Nick Price, drawn from eight nations on five continents, has an average rank of 32, with eight tournament titles among them this year.
Nevertheless, there’s a feeling of optimism among the Internationals, who this year are all regulars on the US PGA Tour.
“We are pretty sick and tired of it,” South African Charl Schwartzel admitted of the string of defeats. “There’s no hiding about it, the American team is just super strong. But 18-hole match play and in the formats we’re playing, it really is anyone’s game.”
The first five of the tournament’s 30 points will be on offer on Thursday with five foursomes matches. Five fourball matches follow on Friday, with four of each on Saturday before the tournament concludes with 12 singles matches on Sunday.
It takes 15.5 points to win the cup, and if the teams finished tied they’ll share the trophy.