Ryder Cup 2014: What we learned from the Presidents Cup
The 2013 Presidents Cup will go down as an 18 1/2-15 1/2 victory for the U.S., and the narrow margin was perhaps a little deceiving
The U.S., led by captain Fred Couples, entered Sunday's singles competition with a remarkable six-point advantage at 14-8 and needed just 3 1/2 points in singles to secure the victory.
The International squad, with captain Nick Price, went down swinging. They won the singles session, 7 1/2-4 1/2, but the damage had already been done.
With a 1-up victory over South Africa's Richard Sterne, Tiger Woods claimed the clinching point for the Americans in the third consecutive Presidents Cup.
Since the Presidents Cup's inception in 1994, the U.S. is now an astonishing 8-1-1.
So what have we learned from the Presidents Cup that could help the U.S. at the 2014 Ryder Cup next September at Gleneagles in Perthshire Scotland? What else will we remember from this past week?
Let's take a closer look.
TIGER'S GOT A NEW PARTNER: One great challenge for U.S. captains in team competitions over the years has been finding a playing partner for Tiger Woods. While Woods -- you'd think -- can play with anyone, not just anyone can play with him.
In recent years, the fit seemed to be Steve Stricker or Jim Furyk. Those two players have matched up the most with Woods. Stricker has compiled a 6-5-0 combined record with Woods in Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup pairings, while the Woods/Furyk team has gone 5-3-1.
Furyk missed out on the Presidents Cup team this year -- the first time since 1996 he hasn't been on a Presidents Cup team (he's been on every Ryder Cup team since 1997). While Stricker seemed like the obvious candidate to join Woods again, it was hard to get past the 0-3-0 record the pair compiled in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Some speculated that Woods would perhaps match up with rookie Jordan Spieth or even PGA Champion Jason Dufner. Instead, it was Woods and Matt Kuchar. And after a brilliant 3-1-0 effort at Muirfield Village, you can be sure the Woods/Kuchar pairing got the attention of 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson.
Woods and Kuchar put on a clinic. In the fourball format, if one player was off on a hole, the other was on. In foursomes, if one player hit a wayward shot, the other would bail him out. It was the perfect "ham-and-egg" partnership.
And, not only that, but rare for any Woods duo in team competition, it looked like the two were actually having fun.
This video in particular from Day One -- the Fresh Prince/DJ Jazzy Jeff handshake got a lot of play:
Bottom line: Woods/Kuchar is a pairing you'd better get used to.
ROOKIES RISE UP: The U.S. team included four rookies this year -- sensation Jordan Spieth, Brandt Snedeker and PGA Champions Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley. Spieth was the only "true" rookie from a team competition standpoint, as Snedeker, Dufner and Bradley were all a part of the last Ryder Cup team.
All told, the foursome accounted for nine of the 18 1/2 points the Americans put on the board. This was a great introduction to team competition for Spieth, who projects to be a stalwart for years to come.
In his latest Ryder Cup Captain's blog just before the Presidents Cup, Watson had this to say about Spieth:
"It will be fun to watch Jordan Spieth too. What a wonderful story he is. He's the type of player I've talked about wanting to have on the team -- he's passionate and he excels when the pressure is on. I hope he plays well in the Presidents Cup. There are young players, like Jordan, who add a welcome dimension to the Ryder Cup. You want them to play well and experience that added pressure that comes in a team event. It can only help if he qualifies for the Ryder Cup."
Spieth went 2-2-0 in his Presidents Cup debut. He played alongside Stricker in fourballs twice (1-1), foursomes once (1-0) and lost his singles match to Canadian Graham DeLaet, 1 up.
Snedeker went 2-2 in team play, winning and losing two matches apiece with playing partners Hunter Mahan and Webb Simpson. Snedeker was dominated, 6 and 4, by Jason Day in singles.
Dufner went 2-1 with Zach Johnson and won his singles match.
Finally, there was Bradley, who went 2-2 with Phil Mickelson in team play and lost 2 and 1 to Charl Schwartzel in singles. Like the Woods/Kuchar pairing, Bradley/Mickelson is another to look for at Gleneagles in 2014 at the Ryder Cup. The duo also paired up for a perfect 3-0-0 team record together at the 2012 Ryder Cup.
DON'T SLEEP ON ZACH JOHNSON: He's certainly not the longest hitter and far from the most intimidating, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger bulldog than Zach Johnson. An argument could be made that he's the most gritty grinder on the PGA Tour today.
And, with a wedge in his hands, few in the world are better than Johnson. Need proof? How about this shot from 117 yards on No. 15 in foursomes on Saturday evening that closed out the match for Johnson and Dufner over Richard Sterne and Marc Leishman:
Again, Johnson is far from the flashiest player in the world. However, he always plays to his strengths and plays within himself. Steady and smart is a great combination in team play.
Furthermore, if you can pump up a flatliner like Dufner... need we say more?
BEST POST-PRESIDENTS CUP TWEETS: We loved this adorable picture Hunter Mahan tweeted out of his infant daughter shortly after the win:
And, of course, what would a victory be these days without a #Dufnering pose? Here, Johnson and the man himself do the honors: