Save for two years in Presidents Cup history, it’s been total domination for the American Team.
Entering the 12th edition of the USA vs. The Rest Of The World (not including Europe), the Americans lead the overall ledger 9.5 to 1.5. The International Team won the 1998 tournament in Melbourne, Australia 20.5-11.5 and sawed the 2003 edition in South Africa 17-17.
The defending champion USA narrowly clipped the International Team at the last tourney, 15.5.-14.5 at the Jack Nicklaus Club in Inchon, South Korea.
This year, the world’s best, headed by captain Nick Price, will tangle with Steve Stricker helmed Team USA at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City starting on Thursday.
Team USA features world no. 1 Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler (no. 7), Jordan Spieth (no. 2) and FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas (no. 4). The International Team sports world no. 6 Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama (no. 3) and Adam Scott (no. 23).
This Ryder Cup style event has had some great moments since the first one in 1994. Here are 10 very memorable ones, in chronological order.
10. Fred Couples Clips Nick Price In Team USA Rout – 1994
In the first ever Presidents Cup in Gainesville, VA in 1994, the highest rated player on the American side, Fred Couples (sixth in the world rankings) would put an exclamation mark on a Team USA dominated tourney by beating then world no. 1 Nick Price in the Sunday Singles matches. Boom Boom Couples entered the proceedings with a 2-0 record, while Price was 0-1-2. The tournament (which ended 20-12 for the Americans) was already well in hand by the time the two highest rated players got to the 18th tee all square. With laser like precision, though, Couples put his approach to within two feet and then sank the tap-in for a 1-up victory over Sir Nick. It was the icing on a big ol’ American golf cake, to be sure.
9. Fred Couples Trumps Vijay Singh – 1996
After the US Team trounced the International side in the first tournament in 1994 (20-12) it was more of a nip-tuck affair back at the Robert Trent Jones course in Gainesville, Virginia in ’96. The U.S. continued the dominance early, taking a 7.5 to 2.5 lead after Friday four-ball and foursomes matches. However, the Internationals reeled in their American counterparts in Saturday matches, narrowing the gap to 10.5 to 9.5 in favor of the Americans entering Sunday singles matches. Through 11 singles matches, the International team was up 6-5 and looking to pull off an upset in an all-square tournament, with only the Vijay Singh vs. Fred Couples match left to be determined. The two hit the par-4 17th with “Boom Boom” Couples up one. They both got on the green in two, with Couples facing a 30-foot birdie putt and Singh a 15-footer. Undaunted, Couples calmly drained his putt to win it for Team USA, setting off a wild celebration.
8. Greg Norman And Tiger Woods Stage Match For The Ages – 1998
The International Team in 1998, captained by Peter Thomson, finally got a tournament outside of the U.S. and made the most of it (more on that later). They cruised into the Saturday singles matches owning a 14.5 to 5.5 lead and in the second last group were former world no. 1 Greg Norman and then hot newcomer and 1998 world no. 1 Woods, playing in his first Presidents Cup. It was already decided by that point, but with raucous home crowd behind him in Melbourne, Norman was eager to beat the kid who was causing such a stir on the PGA Tour. He was down two at the par-4 17th tee, but proceeded to smoke a drive that went 25 feet past Woods’ effort, then stuck his approach to within five feet. He sunk his birdie putt to cut the lead, but couldn’t solve Woods to get it to all-square on 18. It was the stuff of golf dreams and a day that saw the torch passed.
7. International Team Crushes Team USA For First Victory – 1998
Even though Tiger Woods beat homeboy Greg Norman in the Sunday singles matches, the International Team put the first two frustrating Presidents Cup tournament behind them with a resounding win at Royal Melbourne in Australia. It was so one-sided, that when Nick Price beat American David Duval in the second singles match 2&1, it was already over. The Americans were so top-heavy with great golfers, including a young Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Fred Couples and Jim Furyk. A gaggle of golfers that International captain Peter Thomson called “the greatest collection of golfers in the world” prior to the first tee shots. However, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and Norman would have something to say about that each going 3-1-1, while a perfect Shigeki Maruyama (5-0) all contributed to the 20.5 to 11.5 slaughter. It’s been their only Presidents Cup triumph to date.
6. Tiger Woods And Vijay Singh Fire Up Fierce Rivalry- 2000
The Americans, trounced in 1998, got the Presidents Cup back on home soil in 2000, for a third go around at the Robert Trent Jones in Gainesville, VA. The two groups, again, were fairly solid. Old hands for the International side included Ernie Els (6-2-2 entering the 2000 event), followed by Steve Elkington (8-4-3), Greg Norman (6-3-1) and Vijay Singh (8-5-2). The Americans featured more rookies, with only Phil Mickelson (3-5-5) and Davis Love (8-5-2) having played all three cups previous. Tiger Woods, who was still the world no. 1 at that point, entered with a record of 2-3-0. Team USA, despite being more raw, made up for the humiliation of 1998 by taking a commanding 14-6 lead into Saturday’s singles tilts. It was all over by the Woods-Singh match-up, which got plenty of attention when Singh’s caddie Paul Tesori showed up wearing a hat that said “Tiger Who?” on it. Woods, who was not at all amused by that slight, beat Singh 2&1 in an incident that fueled their burgeoning rivalry.
5. Nick Price Fails On Five-Foot Putt To Lose To Kenny Perry – 2003
The 2003 event in South Africa ebbed and flowed, with both sides taking — and then giving up — leads until the Internationals entered Sunday’s singles matches up 12.5 to 9.5. Some matches were close, one was halved and six were total dominations, with the Americans going 3-4 in matches that were over early. The one player who could have tipped the balance in what would eventually be a 17-17 draw was Nick Price against Kenny Perry. Price a veteran of every event leading up to 2003 at Fancourt, South Africa, was 2-1 in the tournament before facing Perry, who was in his second Presidents’ Cup and owned an overall mark of 5-3. The two reached the 18th green all square and Price faced a five-foot birdie putt to halve the match. Amazingly, the normally assured Price missed it, walked off the green and broke his putter over his knee.
4. Ernie Els and Tiger Woods Battle Into Darkness For A Draw – 2003
Talk about a battle to the bitter end. In 2003 the Presidents Cup at Fancourt in South Africa was the most hotly contested of the 11 events staged heading into this year’s tilt in New Jersey. Each team sported five rookies, with the most accomplished being Vijay Singh for the Internationals at 9-9-2 and Davis Love for Team USA at 12-5-2. By Friday’s morning four-ball matches it was all square at 5.5 to 5.5. After the afternoon foursomes, the U.S. was up 9.5 to 6.5 with a furious charge, only to be completely reeled in when the Internationals won all of Saturday’s four ball matches (6-0) to head into the singles 12.5 to 9.5. Tiger Woods, who by then was all-world, beat Ernie Els in his singles match 4&3, but when things ended in a 17-17 draw, it was determined that Woods and Els would play a one-on-one sudden death playoff. The halved the first two holes with pars and then on the third one, with daylight fading quickly both faced par putts again, Woods from 15 feet and Els from eight. Woods dropped his putt, putting the pressure on Els. Playing in front of a partisan crowd, Els admitted to wobbly knees for the first time in his career, but drained to maintain the tie. The tournament ended in a gentleman’s agreement for a tie.
3. Chris DiMarco Drains 15-Footer To Cap American Victory – 2005
Chris DiMarco was in just his second Presidents Cup in 2005 at Robert Trent Jones and with the tournament still in doubt had the tough task of taking down veteran Stuart Appleby in the last match on Sunday. Appleby was 0-3-1 before the start of a day that saw the teams tied at 11-11. DiMarco was a sterling 3-0-1 entering singles play. The two were all square at the 18th tee and when they hit the green, DiMarco, who had all of three PGA Tour victories to his credit, was staring down a tough 15-foot birdie putt. He sent the ball to the hole and when it went in to hand Team USA the victory with his 1-up triumph, he screamed and pumped his fist and then ran across the green into the arms of equally elated team captain Jack Nicklaus.
2. Mike Weir Takes Down The Tiger In Montreal – 2007
Mike Weir was a captain’s pick in 2007 when the Presidents Cup was staged in Montreal, Quebec for the first and only visit to Canada in the tournament’s history. Ranked 46th in the world and sporting a 10-7-1 overall record heading into the Sunday singles matches and the Americans up 14.5 to 7.5, Weir drew Tiger Woods in his singles match. Thus, in front of thousands of partisan fans, Weir was down one at the 17th, when he made birdie on the hole to square the match. On the final hole, Woods plunked his tee shot right into a water hazard, ironically in front of a pair of fans holding a Canadian Flag and would lose to Weir. While the Americans would win the whole tournament, Weir beating Woods was a defining moment.
1. Woody Austin Becomes “Aqua Man” – 2007
Our trip down Presidents Cup memory lane ends with one of the tournament’s greatest guffaws and a player who just went with it. Known as a character, Woody Austin was playing with Phil Mickelson during the morning foursomes on Day 3 in 2007, when he attempted to hit a shot from the bank of a pond on the 14th hole. He misfired horribly, stumbling backwards and the falling face first into the water. For the rest of the match, fans yelled out “Marco” and “Polo” in jest and before singles play on the Sunday he was announced to the crowd by captain Jack Nicklaus as “Jacques Cousteau.” Austin, who was 1-1-3 in the tournament, played right along like a good sport, even donning snorkeling gear at the first tee on Sunday.