Photo: Pre event promotion on the banks of the Yarra – PGA Tour
Australia has been waiting eight years for the return of the Presidents Cup to its shores and if the pent-up interest in this week’s event is anything to go by then, irrespective of the result on Sunday, Royal Melbourne is set to be at bursting point this week.
Royal Melbourne is the scene of the only victory by the Internationals although that was 21 years ago at a time when the world of professional golf was somewhat different than is the case now. The changing nature of the professional game has changed since 1998, the Americans now much more adept at playing on a wider range of golf courses and they will start the hot favourites to retain the Cup.
The Americans not only have history on their side, having won the event outright on 10 of the 12 previous stagings of the event, but their relative strength in terms of world rankings adds further to their likelihood of taking the title.
Of the 12 players representing the US, all but two are inside the top twenty in the world ranking and their highest ranked player is Matt Kuchar at 24 in the world
The Internationals, however, have only two (Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama) inside the world’s top twenty, the balance of their team stretching out to the world number 64 Li Hao Tong.
Not that this ranking disparity is unique to this year’s Presidents Cup, the contrast in the respective ‘on paper’ strength of the field always having been the case although perhaps more so in 2019 and in many of the other years the event has been held.
Admittedly, the event is being played on a venue that was the scene of such a dramatic victory by the Internationals led by Peter Thomson in 1998 but there is little doubting the Americans, for whatever reason were asleep that year.
The greater preparedness of the Americans to be exposed to golf internationally in the years since ensures that they have a greater understanding and experience of the style of golf they will face this week.
Also working in the favour of the Americans is that they will field just five Presidents Cup rookies compared to eight for the Internationals. Importantly when assessing that statistic however is that two of the five Americans who make their Presidents Cup debut this week were part of the US side at the Ryder Cup last year so have already been exposed at this style of event.
The American’s preparation has been disrupted to some extent by the withdrawal of world number one Brooks Koepka but the Internationals suffered a similar blow when Jason Day was forced from the event with back injury.
The odds therefore are stacked heavily in the favour of the Americans who start the event as $1.35 favourites to take the title compared to the $3.65 generally available for the Internationals and $14 for the tie.
For the sake of the ongoing future of the event however it is important that the Internationals at least make a race of things. Admittedly the Ryder Cup took more than 50 years before it became a genuine contest but that happened when the Great Britain and UK side became the European side with the inclusion of players from Continental Europe.
The Internationals will not have such luxury and must therefore step up to the plate with a performance this week which at least makes this a contest for as long as possible.
While many of the fans who will flock to Royal Melbourne this week would dearly love a shock victory by the Internationals, that they are getting the opportunity to see twelve of the world’s top twenty at the one venue is a rare opportunity for Australian golf fans and that alone might well make this week one of their most memorable golfing experiences.