A mixture of final preparations was on display at Liberty National Golf Club ahead of tomorrow’s opening day of the 12th edition of the Presidents Cup.
Warm, muggy conditions in the New York area kept many of the players off the golf course or limited their sessions to a handful of holes or hitting balls on the range frame by the Manhattan skyline in the distance.
The convivial atmosphere was extended to the members of the Junior Presidents Cup teams, who could get inside the ropes to chat with a number of players, including Jason Day and Marc Leishman, as they worked.
The casual air from both squads belies the pressure building ahead of tomorrow’s opening day Foursomes matches, arguably the most important day in The International’s bid to break their frustrating run of outs dating back to 1998.
To put it into perspective, current team member Si Woo Kim was just 3-years old at the time of the 1998 victory – the only triumph by the International team in the Cup’s history.
Team veteran Adam Scott is about to make his record-tying 8th appearance for the Internationals, debuting 5 years after the 1998 matches.
Scott is the only player in his team to have tasted anything other than ‘loss’, having been part of Gary Player’s team that shared the Cup with Jack Nicklaus’ United States outfit in 2003.
“The good news is the guys who haven't been here, they haven't felt that (losing) as well.” Scott said on Tuesday. “They're coming in as winners. Anyone who is here is probably a winner, they've won something.”
“They're the best golfers from around the world, and that's the attitude they've got to take, and it's important that any of the past disappointments that myself or Nick or anyone else, doesn't rub off on them.”
It was clear from the generous crowds that attended Wednesday’s practice day that the underdogs will not be without a substantial level of support in New York this week.
There was a noticeable South American contingent in the crowd, on the back of the debut appearances of Jhonattan Vegas and Emiliano Grillo, but the crowds certainly swarmed when the American squad appeared for photographs and range warm ups.
Some of that attraction is naturally centred on their squad of 12 which feature the No.1 ranked player in the world, the FedEx Cup champion and three of the four major champions from 2017.
However, the reappearance of Tiger Woods in the public arena as an assistant captain has also added an additional ‘wow factor’ for both spectators and members of the media at a venue that screams ‘Wow’ from every view towards Manhattan and the omnipresent Statue of Liberty just off shore.
The attention Woods fields does not detract from the Presidents Cup but he has certainly been forced to field many more questions about his health and the future of his game than he would care to on the eve of an event he’s not competing in.
Captains Steve Stricker and Nick Price have completed their pairings for Thursday’s Foursomes with Price selecting Australians Jason Day and Marc Leishman to headline the charge against Phil Mickelson and Kevin Kisner, while Scott will pair with Vegas against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar.
“Jason and Leish, for me, were a shoe-in. That was a normal, that was just an easy pick for all of us. You know, they are both very good friends, and I think we've got a great pairing in those two.” Price said.
“Jhonny Vegas and Adam hit it off yesterday. I mean, it was great. They played phenomenally well yesterday together, and Adam being the senior member of the team, certainly I needed him to have one of the rookies.”
While there is, an undeniable sense is that the American line up have the distinct edge, Price and his assistants are confident in the strong team they have at their disposal as they strive to maintain a continuation of the momentum shown over the past few matches.
That was particularly evident in Korea in 2015 where they had a chance right up until the final hole in the final match to win the Cup.
It will take either side 15.5 points to take out the Presidents Cup this week but those won on Thursday may be the most important of all in the context of the contest.
This is especially so for The Internationals who need not only the points, but the injection of confidence and self-belief that they would provide.
“We have been on the back foot for the longest time in the alternate-shot or foursomes," Price said,
“I'm hoping that we're going to change that tomorrow.”
DAY ONE FOURSOMES
3.05am Justin Thomas & Rickie Fowler V Charl Schwartzel & Hideki Matsuyama
3.17am Matt Kuchar & Dustin Johnson V Jhonattan Vegas & Adam Scott
3.29am Patrick Reed & Jordan Spieth V Emiliano Grillo & Si Woo Kim
3.41am Daniel Berger & Brooks Koepka V Branden Grace & Louis Oosthuizen
3.53am Phil Mickelson & Kevin Kisner V Marc Leishman & Jason Day