The Presidents Cup 12th - 15th December 2019

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Australia is the host of the 2019 version of the Presidents Cup, at the iconic Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, as the team event tees off today with the first of the four-ball matches.

This edition of the event has generated more than the usual amount of pre-event discussions and a number of ‘firsts’.

Tiger Woods has picked himself in the US team, the first captain in the event’s history to do so – and why not after his stellar year.

It will be the first time the world’s #1 ranked player (eligible to play) will not be participating – Brooks Koepka being unavailable through injury.

Royal Melbourne Golf Club, in reprising its host role for a third time, will become the first venue to have this honour.

Royal Melbourne was also the venue for the International Team’s first and, as it turns out, only victory back in 1998.

So, perhaps the biggest question is - will Royal prove to be a happy hunting ground again and provide a first win for the Internationals this century?

Local interest centres on Ernie Els’ captaincy of the International Team and Louis Oosthuizen’s involvement, as the only South African in a ‘combat role’ at this year’s event.

The use of a word like ‘combat’ might at first look out of place in a golf context.

However Adam Scott’s remarks about not wanting local supporters to ‘cheer’ Tiger Woods, would suggest that adding an edge to the contest, conspicuously missing in previous editions – even during the famous draw at the Fancourt - might be on the minds of the International Team.

In truth, the event has been somewhat like a genteel garden party in comparison to the Ryder Cup of recent years.

Having 4 ‘Aussies’ in the team might help to ramp up the temperature with some vocal support from the locals, and help give a sense of real unity to the International Team.

On paper, and in terms of the player rankings, team USA is streets ahead.

However Team Europe’s results in recent years at the Ryder Cup, has consistently made a mockery of these rankings.

Sport is notoriously unpredictable (which is why we love and watch it!) and one can only suppose that the ‘togetherness’ of Team Europe and the fire showed by the Europeans, on an individual level, and which has now become a feature of the Ryder Cup, might be the underlying cause for their success.

Ernie must be hoping that he can replicate some of this, and get one over on his old rival Tiger, in a team comprised of individuals from all over the globe.

They all ‘know’ each other, as they compete together regularly on the world’s tours, but this is different.

Golf is a game of considerable tradition, but it is not a team sport.

What makes the Presidents Cup particularly intriguing is that only pride is now on the line, especially as the players receive neither prize-money, nor appearance fees, but nominate beneficiaries to which the event’s profits are distributed.

The other departure from the weekly grind of the tour is the match play format.

Match play is rarely used in professional tournaments and harks back to the roots of the game’s history, making for man-to-man contests, which can quickly become intensely personal.

OK, so now for the other BIG question – who will win?

Ernie is the only one present from the victorious team of 1998, which curiously enough, especially if you believe in good omens, also contained four Australians in the line-up!

Perhaps Ernie needs to be a little less ‘easy’ over the next four day and grit his teeth, find the right pairings and imbue his players with a sense of belief that they can win, especially over 18 holes.

He might want to remind his players that this is the type of contest, which turns on a single shot or moment, and where the unpredictability of match play, can see lofty reputations brought quickly to their knees.

He will need to inspire his troops; perhaps by reminding his team to keep ‘grinding’ to stay in the fight, whatever the state of the match and that anyone is beatable. As an example he may even use the late Brian Barnes who, as the complete underdog, beat the then #1 player in the world, Jack Nicklaus, at match play not once, but twice on the same day!

The final ingredient will be the need for some good and timely bounces.

Gary Player is fond of saying ‘the more I practice the luckier I get' and Lady Luck, as any amateur who has struggled through a round of 18 holes will tell you, is sure to show her hand by the end of the contest.

The tricky question is on which side will the good Lady choose to be?

Whatever the outcome, the golf is sure to be superb – and dare we hope that finally and after so many years, the Internationals will step out of the long shadow cast by the USA, break with all the other ‘firsts’ and triumph for a second time.

The Business of Golf…..Putting Together the Pieces.

John Cockayne: Mobile +27 (0) 73 8967931 & Email cathco@mweb.co.za

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