CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There’s no denying the Americans have the advantage on paper at the 2022 Presidents Cup.
All 12 players on Davis Love III’s U.S. squad rank inside the top 25 in the world, with five inside the top 10. Only five International players rank inside the top 30. The Americans have five rookies, but two have played in the Ryder Cup.
The Americans aren’t afraid to tell you just how good they are, too.
“I mean, they don’t miss many shots, and they have a good time doing it,” said assistant captain Fred Couples, “and they like to show off a little bit and chirp.”
If anyone knows about chirping and jabbing players, it’s Couples, the three-time Presidents Cup captain who’s now in his fourth stint as a captain’s assistant.
“So he’s a great guy to have in the team room. He’s very calm, relaxed, rubs off on everybody,” Steve Stricker said of Couples. “And he’s not afraid to jab people, have fun with people, but when it comes time to be serious, he’s right there to be serious and, like I said, to provide that knowledge and that insight that he has.”
“Inside the team room, it may seem like he’s got this really easygoing, simplistic view, but it’s extremely cerebral. There’s a lot of thought, and he puts a lot into it. He’s invested. You just want to be around that,” added Zach Johnson, a two-time captain’s assistant who’s preparing for his Ryder Cup captaincy in 2023. “Then I like that he chirps. He gets on these kids. He’s not going to let them get on him or get complacent. He’s going to get after ’em, and that’s what you want in a leader.
“He’s been one of my favorite guys that I’ve ever had to play for, period.”
The love for Boom Boom Couples wasn’t the only thing discussed on the last day of practice rounds before Thursday’s foursomes matches. From the International challenge ahead to some fun players to watch, here are some highlights from a busy day of press conferences ahead of the 2022 Presidents Cup.
The International challenge
“The challenge is, I don’t know, we’ve got to win 15 ½ points against a really good team,” said assistant captain Geoff Ogilvy. “(Ernie Els) did an unbelievable job last time. I think we got a little bit of momentum out of it. We’ve got eight new players, maybe more, this week coming out here.
“It’s a perfect year, I think, for a really sort of fresh young team. Everyone is super excited.”
Let’s not glance over the, “maybe more” than eight new players comment. The rosters are set, but don’t be surprised to see some guys come out and support their respective teams this week. Immelman said on an episode of the No Laying Up podcast that Mackenzie Hughes, who lives in Charlotte, has been calling him and asking for tickets so he can come watch and spend time with the team. Will Zalatoris, who would have played for the U.S. team if he wasn’t injured, was seen on the grounds during Wednesday’s practice round.
While this event still somewhat lives in the shadow of the Ryder Cup and has struggled to find its identity, it still clearly means a lot to the players.
Speaking of identity … what steps forward have the Internationals taken since 2019?
“Look, I think the shield, I think, is pretty important. I think it was often hard for us to sort of have an identity,” Ogilvy explained, “bringing so many different cultures together in the same place.”
“The first year (2019) was great. This is the second time. It’s more and more recognizable. People are starting to buy the merch. Kids growing up in the world look at that and think, ‘I want that on my shirt one day,’ and that’s really powerful,” he added. “You might underestimate that, but that’s a really powerful thing. We represent the rest of the world. That’s a lot of people.”
“More than anything, he’s given this team an identity and given international kids something to aspire to.”
Simpson’s Quail Hollow knowledge doesn’t go as far as you think
“I don’t have a whole lot to offer to these guys in terms of course knowledge,” said Webb Simpson, an assistant captain for the U.S. and member at Quail Hollow. “One, most of the guys have been here and know it. And I’m telling you, these caddies, they know what they’re doing. We get to greens, they’re putting the holes down exactly where I would have put them, and they’re telling players to hit this putt and this chip.”
Team USA poses for a team photo with US soccer jerseys during a Wednesday practice day for the 2022 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
“More than anything, I’ve been a flag holder and a raker the last few days. But whatever they need from me, I’ll give it to them. I won’t hold back.”
Kim is stealing the show behind the scenes
Everybody has something nice to say about International rookie Tom Kim. The 20-year-old South Korean is coming off a breakout season on the PGA Tour that featured 10 made cuts in 11 starts with six top-25 finishes and a win at last month’s Wyndham Championship. Off the course, his sense of humor and youthful exuberance has been the catalyst for the good vibes in the International team room.
“We’re on 12 today, and (Tom) makes a mistake doing simple math there,” explained assistant captain Camilo Villegas. “So I look at the kid and said, ‘Tom, is that a college math?’ He looks at me and goes, ‘Dude, I didn’t even graduate from high school.’”
Keep an eye on Pendrith
“I think people are going to come to know Taylor Pendrith this week and going forward. Very impressed with his game,” said Canadian golf legend and assistant captain Mike Weir. “I think you guys all know how long he is, and that’s what’s talked about. He has a good, well-rounded game. Watching him hit iron shots, pitching, putting, he’s a very good player.
“You could put him on the range against anybody, and you would be like, ‘Is that guy the No. 1 player in the world or going to be?’ It’s that impressive. So excited that he’s on the team.”