CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The International Presidents Cup team has the next four days to change the narrative, but if history is any guide, their fate will likely be decided on Thursday during the opening foursomes session.
Over the history of the matches, which spans 13 meetings, the U.S. team has dominated the alternate-shot format with an 83½-49½ advantage, and the International side has managed to win just five foursomes sessions outright, including a clean sweep in 1998.
The correlation is clear: That ’98 team was the only International team to win the Presidents Cup.
In 2019 at Royal Melbourne, the International team managed a 2½-2½ split during the Day 2 foursomes session, and that match came down to an American surge during Sunday singles for a two-point U.S. victory. Conversely, the U.S. side cruised on Day 1 at the 2017 matches and went on to a commanding 19-11 win.
A team could certainly recover from a poor performance on Day 1 of alternate shot, but it’s not likely. It’s a reality the International side has spent the last three years workshopping.
“It’s hard to pinpoint, it really is. I think we have a solution. I think we have a strategy in place. You’ll see,” said Mike Weir, a vice captain for this year’s International team.
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At least part of Immelman’s foursomes strategy appears to be familiarity, with the likes of Corey Conners and Sungjae Im bound for a Day 1 bout with American anchors Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, while Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama, the Rest of the World’s most veteran players, will play Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay. Im, Scott and Matsuyama are the Internationals’ only returners from 2019.
Immelman also leaned into his team’s relative inexperience in alternate shot, sending out rookies Cam Davis and Si Woo Kim against the U.S. team of Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns in an attempt to break the cycle.
“It’s certainly not a format that we’re very used to. Only played sort of the alternate shot foursomes format a couple times, and I think our team is young, we’re all really hungry,” Conners said. “We haven’t been a part of those teams that have struggled, and I certainly like our chances.”