International underdogs prepare for Presidents Cup battle in Incheon

September 28, 2015
Bae Sang-moon, of South Korea, waves after making a birdie on the ninth hole during the second round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Bae Sang-moon, of South Korea, waves after making a birdie on the ninth hole during the second round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Friday, April 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea will serve as the first Asian host of the Presidents Cup next month, as the underdogs will once again face an uphill battle at the biennial international golf competition.

Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in the western metropolitan city of Incheon will be the venue for the 2015 Presidents Cup, where the Americans will take on a team of non-European, international players over four days of match play starting Oct. 8.

The Presidents Cup, organized by the PGA Tour, was inaugurated in 1994. It is held alternately in the United States and in countries represented by the International Team. Australia, South Africa and Canada have been previous international hosts.

The Presidents Cup used to be held in even-numbered years, but since the Sept. 11 attacks forced the cancellation of the 2001 Ryder Cup — the much older competition between the U.S. and Europe — the Presidents Cup was moved to odd-numbered years.

There are 12 players per team. The U.S. Team, captained by nine-time PGA Tour winner Jay Haas, was selected based on FedEx Cup points on the PGA Tour. The International Team, with Hall of Famer Nick Price as captain, was put together based on world ranking positions.

For both sides, the top 10 players in their respective standings automatically qualified for the Presidents Cup. The two captains each made two additional picks.

There are two South Korean-born players on the International Team this year. Danny Lee is now a New Zealander but he was born in Incheon and still has relatives in the host city. He qualified at No. 10 in the International Team standings.

Price then reached down further in the rankings to make Bae Sang-moon one of his two captain’s picks. Though Bae finished 19th in the standings, he won a Korean tour event held at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in 2013 and 2014, a track record that Price believes will work in the International Team’s favor.

Given the competition’s history, Price’s players will need all the advantages they can find against the Americans.

In 10 Presidents Cups so far, the U.S. Team has won eight and lost one. The two sides ended in a tie in 2003.

The combined score in the Americans’ eight victories is 153-113. They’ve won the last five Cups by 95-75, with a victory margin of at least three points each time.

On paper, the U.S. Team should cruise to another breezy victory thanks to a stacked squad that features five of the world’s top-10 players. Jordan Spieth, the world No. 3 who captured the Masters and the U.S. Open this year, led the way in the Presidents Cup standings. He is joined by two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and 2015 Open champ Zach Johnson.

The seventh-ranked Jim Furyk, who has played in seven Presidents Cups, is questionable after withdrawing from his past two tournaments with a wrist injury. If Furyk can’t play, Haas must name his replacement by Oct. 7.

Phil Mickelson, a five-time major champ who has competed at every Presidents Cup, was one of Haas’ picks, despite finishing 30th in the standings. Haas said he is counting on Mickelson to be the team leader.

The International Team features new world No. 1 Jason Day of Australia, the hottest golfer in the second half of the season with four victories in his last six starts.

Day, however, is the only member of the International Team among the top 10 in the world rankings.

South African Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion who tied for second at the U.S. Open and the Open Championship this year, and Adam Scott, former world No. 1 and 2013 Masters champion, have also made the team.

Oosthuizen, however, is now a question mark for the Presidents Cup, after withdrawing on Thursday, local time, from the first round of the season-ending Tour Championship with a strained right hamstring.

The South African, who said he struggled to walk around his house on Monday, played 13 holes before taking a premature exit.

Oosthuizen is also scheduled to play next week’s Dunhill Links Championship, which will take place on three courses in Scotland, before competing at the Presidents Cup. He said he will call Price next Wednesday or Thursday to keep the captain posted on his health.

Price will be carrying five Presidents Cup rookies, compared to four first-timers for the United States. The four American neophytes — Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Chris Kirk — have combined for six professional victories in 2015, all on the PGA Tour. The International Team’s Anirban Lahiri, Thongchai Jaidee, Danny Lee, Steven Bowditch and Bae Sang-moon have four professional victories among them this year, both on the PGA Tour and the European Tour.

The International Team features players from seven countries. Lahiri of India and Jaidee of Thailand are the first representatives for their respective nations.

The competition will open on Oct. 8 with foursome matches, followed by four-ball matches the next day. On Oct. 10, the teams will play both foursomes and four-balls.

On the final day, the 24 players will go up against each other in the singles.