JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- It was apparent going in that the American team at the Presidents Cup would be very good. But no one expected this.
Steve Stricker’s dirty dozen has laid a beating on the International side that’s never been seen before in any sort of team competition. They’ve been nearly flawless so far, not just winning, but in many cases doing it by wide margins, with late comebacks and with key shots. Their veterans are winning. Their rookies are winning. The rookies and veterans combined are winning.
So far, their only win came when the wives and girlfriends won a cooking competition earlier in the week.
Through the first 18 matches, Nick Price’s side has managed just two victories and the U.S. finds itself needing just a single point in the 12 Sunday singles matches to clinch things.
“We've just come up against a juggernaut of an American team that has not put a foot wrong, it seems like, in three days,” said Price. “They have had all the momentum and we've had nothing.”
On Saturday, the Americans took three and a half points in the morning foursomes session and then came back in the afternoon fourball with three points.
The only loss came when Anirban Lahiri and Si Woo Kim knocked off Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman. So rare have the wins been this week for the Internationals that Lahiri and Kim were given a standing ovation when they walked into the team room after their victory.
The lopsided lead once again points that some changes to the program are necessary to its survival. This will be the seventh consecutive win for the Yanks and in 12 outings, they’ve lost just once and tied another time.
It’s just not a fair fight any more and with the foundation of Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Daniel Berger to build on in the future, it doesn’t appear to be getting any easier for the Internationals.
It’s unlikely a different format would have kept this American squad from winning, but there are ways to keep this from being the biennial beat down it has become.
After his first go-around as International captain in 2013, Price realized that his squad simply didn’t have the depth to compete against the Americans. He asked then-commissioner Tim Finchem to change the point system to more closely resemble the Ryder Cup. Finchem refused but did throw Price a bone – he would drop the matches from 34 to 30.
While happy there was some movement, Price was frustrated and disappointed the commissioner couldn’t see the problem that was expanding and understand that a change was needed.
He probably would have continued his lobbying effort last year but, as he said earlier this week, it’s hard to ask for more after a one-point loss as his team did in South Korea.
Price will be done wearing the captain’s hat after this year but maybe his parting gift would be a sit-down with new commissioner Jay Monahan who might be a little more open to some alterations.
What should he ask for aside from fewer matches? For starters, it would help to remove the two-session minimum for every player. While it’s tough to sit golfers who make the team, sometimes, they simply aren’t playing well enough. Being forced to have each make two starts before the singles handcuffs the captains.
Same thing with the open pairings. Being the trailing team, as the Internationals always seem to be, it’s next to impossible to build a strategy around pairings, especially in singles. It’s tough to front-load or back-load when your opponent can match you at every step.
And if you really want to get creative – yes, this is a long shot -- make it a mixed event. Perhaps six men and six women on each team. Imagine how the International team would look with So Yeon Ryu, Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn and Brooke Henderson in the lineup? Maybe play some mixed sessions?
That’s likely not going to happen but clearly something needs to change if sponsors and television viewers are going to continue to show interest in an event that is this one-sided.
The Americans will lift the cup for the seventh consecutive time on Sunday and shortly after that, the discussion should start about what to do with a good idea that’s gone bad.