DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - Not much has gone right for the Internationals at the Presidents Cup over the last decade but their new captain Nick Price is aiming to change that after winning a valuable concession for the first day of competition.
For the first time since the 1996 edition of the biennial team competition, the opening session will feature fourball matches instead of the alternate-shot format, which has so often been an Achilles heel for the Internationals.
Price, a veteran of five Presidents Cups as a player, knows how significant it is for teams to make a fast start as the Internationals seek to beat the United States for only the second time since the Cup was launched in 1994.
“The start is really important, obviously,” Zimbabwean Price told reporters after he and his opposite number Fred Couples had announced their pairings for Thursday’s opening fourball matches at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
“There are six points out (to win) tomorrow, and in the past, it’s been alternate-shot, foursomes, on the first day, which I think is the hardest format by far.
“And because of the dynamics of our team and where they all come from, it’s very difficult to put a great foursomes pairing together right from the get-go. It’s wonderful that they changed to the better ball tomorrow.”
Price has seven Presidents Cup rookies from five different countries in his 12-man lineup, including 21-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama who speaks very little English and is a newcomer to team play in golf.
“I don’t think Hideki Matsuyama has ever played golf with a partner before, so this is new ground for him,” said Price, who represented the Internationals in Melbourne in 1998 when the U.S. were beaten and in South Africa in 2003 when the trophy was shared.
“That’s why I put him with Adam (Scott), because I think Adam will give him a lot of confidence and also be a great support for him.”
Masters champion Scott of Australia, the world number two, and Matsuyama will take on Americans Bill Haas and Webb Simpson in the second match out on Thursday.
In the top match, Price will send out Australian Jason Day and Canada’s Graham DeLaet against Hunter Mahan and Brandt Snedeker in a bid to set a triumphant tone for the Internationals.
“Jason Day and Graham DeLaet played really well together yesterday ... and those two guys are very keen to get going,” Price said. “For all of us, it was an obvious choice who we were going to put out first.”
Price explained how he got the opening session for this week changed from the foursomes format to fourballs after a meeting set up with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem to discuss a possible change of the Presidents Cup points structure.
“When Ernie (Els) and I went to see the Commissioner last year, just to talk about it ... that was one of the concessions that he made,” Price said.
“Both Ernie and I felt it was very important just to change it from the hardest format, the alternate-shot foursomes, to the better ball, so that was a positive move. Certainly for us it was.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Simon Evans