Team dynamics, emerging stars and what’s next for the U.S. team: Takeaways from the 2022 Presidents Cup
The U.S. team captured the Presidents Cup again, taking down the International team 17½ to 12½ at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday. It was the Americans’ ninth straight victory and 12th in 14 editions of the event.
Over four days, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas emerged as the face of American team golf, now that Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed are competing on the LIV Golf circuit. South Korea’s Tom Kim became a household name, and the International team showed a lot of heart in competing better than expected.
Here are five things we learned this week at Quail Hollow:
These guys like each other
Everyone needs someone to love them like JT loves Jordan, and vice versa.
There’s no question the International team has inherent hurdles the Americans don’t have to deal with, starting with language barriers, cultural differences and unfamiliarity with each other.
International team captain Trevor Immelman wasn’t exaggerating (that much) when he called this U.S. team the greatest ever assembled. The 12-man U.S. squad included five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. Each of them was in the top 25.
And when U.S. team captain Davis Love III can roll out the tandems of Thomas-Spieth and Xander Schauffele-Patrick Cantlay each session, it’s like having Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander in a five-game series.
Spieth and Thomas, who have known each other since they were kids, went 4-0 in foursomes and four-ball matches. Cantlay and Schauffele, who are friends, both hail from California and won the PGA Tour team event in New Orleans this past season, went 2-1. The players went a combined 3-1 in singles.
“It’s really fun, right?” Spieth said earlier this week. “He’s my best friend in the whole world. We’ve played a lot of golf together. We’ve played a lot of golf against each other. Now we’ve played quite a bit with each other. There’s nothing more fun than these team events, playing alongside JT.”
When it looked like the Presidents Cup might turn into another rout on Friday, one of the most exciting things to watch was Spieth and Thomas feeding off each other, fist bumping, chest bumping and screaming at each other along the way.
“Having the opportunity to not only win a point for your team but win a point with one of your best friends, it’s just one of those things,” Thomas said. “We know each other’s games. We know how to feed off each other. We know how to help each other. We know how to stay out of each other’s way.”
And that’s what makes the core of U.S. stars so dangerous in team events going forward. LIV Golf might have actually done the Americans a favor by luring away Reed, who was popularly known as “Captain America” by fans but wasn’t so popular in the team locker room. Reed infamously complained of captain Jim Furyk’s “buddy system” in choosing pairings at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris, which the Americans lost, 17½ to 10½.
The 12 players who competed for the U.S. this week genuinely seemed to like each other. There wasn’t an elephant in the room because of Bryson DeChambeau’s ongoing beef with Brooks Koepka, or because Reed was unhappy about having to play with Tiger Woods instead of Spieth.
A few times this past week, Presidents Cup rookie Max Homa, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, mentioned that he wasn’t particularly close to anyone else on the U.S. team. But when Homa said it again during a news conference after Sunday’s victory, Sam Burns quipped, “Love you, Max.”
“Love you, Sam,” Homa replied.
“Sam’s a perfect example of somebody I’ve always gotten along with great and somebody I was looking forward to getting to spend real time with,” Homa said.
Tom Kim is a superstar
The South Korean phenom’s name is Joohyung Kim, but he prefers Tom, a childhood nickname given to him because of his fondness for Thomas the Tank Engine. These days the 20-year-old has as much steam building as his namesake.
After winning the Wyndham Championship for his first PGA Tour victory a month ago, Kim’s pro debut in a team event was a coming-out party. He was the youngest player on either team and the third youngest to ever compete in the Presidents Cup, behind only Ryo Ishikawa and Jordan Spieth.
Kim went 2-3 in matches this week, and he was the pulse of the International Team and a crowd favorite at Quail Hollow Club because of his exuberant celebrations. On Sunday, Kim showed up at the first tee wearing sunglasses and egging the crowd to cheer. He was a rock star.
After losing his first two matches, Kim and his partners at least gave the International Team a glimmer of hope on Saturday.
In the Saturday morning foursomes, Kim paired with South Korea’s K.H. Lee to take down world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns. That afternoon, Kim and Si Woo Kim stunned the seemingly unbeatable tandem of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele in four-ball competition. Kim had an eagle on the par-4 11th hole and then made a 10-footer for birdie on the 18th to defeat Cantlay and Schauffele.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” said Kim’s caddie, Joe Skovron, who was on Rickie Fowler’s bag until recently. “When you’re 20 years old and you’ve already won as much as he has around the world and to respond in this environment like he did, you know, and he seems to have a work ethic to go with it and a plan. ”
Homa isn’t bad, either
It’s difficult to imagine that not long ago Homa didn’t have much confidence in his game. He was one of the funniest pro golfers on Twitter (and still is), but he didn’t have much to show for his work in terms of results. At the end of the 2020 season, he was 70th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Since February 2021, however, Homa has won four times on tour. He won the Genesis Invitational in 2021, the Fortinet Championship and Wells Fargo Championship this past season and then defended his Fortinet Championship title in Napa, California, last week. He didn’t arrive in Charlotte for his Presidents Cup debut until early Monday morning.
Homa, 31, delivered a signature moment of the Presidents Cup on Friday. Playing with Billy Horschel, their match against Canada’s Taylor Pendrith and Corey Conners was tied after 16 holes. Homa made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to go 1 up. Then, after Pendrith made a clutch 15-footer for birdie on the 18th, Homa made another 12-footer to win the match.
After defeating Tom Kim on Sunday, Homa improved to 4-0 in his Presidents Cup debut. He is only the fourth Presidents Cup rookie to go 4-0-0 or better in his debut.
“I’ve said it a million times, but last year, at Kiawah [Island], doing the fitting for the Ryder Cup, knowing I didn’t really have much of a chance anymore was tough,” Homa said. “Looking at yourself in the mirror and all the USA gear, it was hard. But I’ve got a thing seared into my brain, and my main focus this season was to make this team, to play with these guys.
“A lot went into that. And to be here was one thing, and then to come out and play some great golf was another. And this week has been beyond special, validating, meaningful, all of the above. It meant a lot.”
The PGA Tour needs more superstars, especially after so many big names like Dustin Johnson, DeChambeau, Cameron Smith and others defected to LIV Golf. The tour should embrace Homa’s personality more than ever before.
Read More: [SOURCE: ESPN.com]