September 25, 2017 / 9:31 AM / a year ago

Internationals facing underdog role at Presidents Cup

(Reuters) - The International team has little choice but to embrace the role of underdog as it takes on a formidable United States side at the Presidents Cup starting on Thursday.

Sep 25, 2017; Jersey City, NJ, USA; General view of the first tee box before The Presidents Cup golf tournament at Liberty National Golf Course. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On paper, the Americans should be far too strong at Liberty National in New Jersey for a global team lacking the depth of its opponent.

The American players have an average world ranking of 15.5, compared to 31.5 for the Internationals, a team comprised of players from outside of Europe and the United States.

All 12 American players are ranked in the top 30 globally, led by world number one and two Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth.

The International team, an eclectic mix of players, has only two ranked in the top 10, Japanese number three Hideki Matsuyama and Australian number seven Jason Day.

“I think the International side needs a spark,” said former PGA Tour player Brandel Chamblee, now a Golf Channel analyst.

“They need to find something that makes them collectively better than they are individually.

“On paper the U.S. side is so demonstrably better in every single facet. The world ranking, they’re more than twice as good. They’re twice the ball-strikers the International side is, and by far more than twice the putters.

“So they (the Internationals) have a lot of hurdles.”

Add the U.S. advantage of being the host country and one can make the case for a potential blowout.

The Americans are 9-1-1 since the event was created in 1994, including a perfect 6-0-0 at home.

Only two of those six competitions were close, the Americans holding a cumulative 31-point advantage — 114 1/2 - 83 1/2.

So what can the Internationals do?

Captain Nick Price, who returns this year for his third time at the helm, made one step in the right direction when he successfully lobbied the PGA Tour two years ago to reduce the number of matches from 34 to 30 for the event in South Korea.

This allowed the International team to hide its weaker bench, and the move almost worked, with the Americans squeaking home by one point.

“If I were Nick Price I’d be talking about what a year this has been in terms of upsets,” said Chamblee, citing Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election, Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and South Korean Kim Si-woo’s victory at the Players Championship.

“Marc Leishman could be the spark this International side needs,” continued Chamblee, referring to the Australian who won the BMW Championship a week ago.

Australian and South Africans have traditionally comprised the backbone of the team, and this year will be no exception, with the two countries having three players each in the 12-man line-up, along with one player from Japan, South Korea, India, Canada, Argentina and Venezuela.

But the Internationals have not been able to post the victories that the Europeans routinely have over their American rivals in the Ryder Cup.

“The freedom with which the U.S. team has played the Presidents Cup compared to the Ryder Cup has been glaring to me,” said former world number one David Duval, who played on three U.S. Presidents Cup teams.

Added Chamblee: “On paper, this might be one of the best teams ever assembled in terms of talent.”

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Gene Cherry

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