No Problems for US in Presidents Cup

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Every two years, the United States fields a team of 12 players who produce some of their best golf.
 
In one of the most nervous moments of his career, Tiger Woods showed why he is the best clutch putter of his generation. Chris DiMarco, after an unlikely escape from an awkward stance in the bunker, holed a 15-foot putt that set off a celebration of raw emotion. Jim Furyk has never lost in singles.
 
Young or old, rookies or veterans, they come together as one and usually hoist the gold trophy.
 
Now if they can only figure out how to do that in the Ryder Cup.
 
The Presidents Cup clearly doesn't pose that much of a problem. The Americans will try to build on their 4-1-1 lead in the series starting Thursday when the matches are held at Royal Montreal in what is expected to be the biggest golfing event in Canada.
 
Never mind that the International team, comprised of players from every continent except Europe, boasts six major champions and appears to be a more daunting opponent than Europe.
 
Recent results in these cup competitions are hard to fathom:
 
  • In 2003, the International team had four of the top 10 players in the world, and eight of the top 20. Woods was changing his swing, Phil Mickelson went 0-5 in the Presidents Cup, and it still ended in a tie.
     
  • In 2004, Europe had only three players among the top 20 in the world at Oakland Hills, yet handed the United States its worst Ryder Cup loss, 18-9.
     
  • In 2005, the United States faced an International team with an average world ranking of 22 and won, 18-15.
     
  • In 2006, Woods and Mickelson had won three of the four majors. Europe again won by a record margin in Ireland, 18-9.
     
    'The teams are the same as far as on the U.S. side,' Mickelson said. 'We enjoy playing together. We have a lot of fun. We bring out our best golf at the Presidents Cup, and we seem to not do that in the Ryder Cup. I don't know why that is.'
     
    Equally perplexed was Furyk, although he might have hit on one possibility when he said of the Presidents Cup, 'I think our team probably is a little more relaxed.'
     
    And it helps to be trying to win for an iconic leader.
     
    Jack Nicklaus returns as U.S. captain for the fourth time, sporting a 1-1-1 record. Many thought his victory in 2005 at the Robert Trent Jones Club was a perfect way to end his career, but he agreed to be captain again as a way of staying close to the game.
     
    He needles his players, respects them, and makes sure they have a good time.
     
    'I've tried to make the matches fun for them,' Nicklaus said. 'I've tried to let them be themselves. I like to let them be part of the process and part of the solution to everything. '
     
    Gary Player returns as International captain, still looking for his first victory. He and Nicklaus agreed to the tie in South Africa when darkness interrupted a riveting playoff between Woods and Ernie Els, and he lost in 2005.
     
    His most significant decision was taking Mike Weir as a captain's pick, even though Weir was No. 20 in the standings. But he is the most popular player in Canada, a former Masters champion whose game has shown signs of turning around.
     
    'If we didn't have a Canadian in the team and playing in Canada, I can assure you, in my opinion only, the series would be quite flat among the Canadian people,' Player said. 'Mike is a hero in his country, deservedly so.'
     
    Also back for the International team is Els, who missed in '05 recovering from knee surgery. Els hasn't won on the PGA TOUR in three years, although he contended in the final two majors of the year.
     
    Both sides might be battling exhaustion at Royal Montreal.
     
    The Presidents Cup will be played one week after the four-week grind of the FedExCup, which ended at the TOUR Championship. Seven players from the U.S. team and five players from the International team played all four playoff events.
     
    Woods, who has won four of his last five tournaments, skipped the first playoff event in New York. Even so, he will have played six out of nine weeks when he gets done with the Presidents Cup.
     
    He doesn't expect that to be a problem in a team event. Four sets of matches played over the first three days (two sessions on Saturday) will be either foursomes or fourballs, with the 12 singles matches on Sunday.
     
    'Any time you go to team events, if you notice, being in a team atmosphere ... guys pull off shots that they normally don't by themselves,' Woods said. 'I think that's the beauty of having a teammate there. We don't play with teammates week after week, and then we finally do. You can be more aggressive. You can do things that you normally don't get a chance to do because you're always playing pretty conservative out here.'
     
    Still, that doesn't explain why the Americans seem to tighten up in the Ryder Cup.
     
    One possibility is that Europe has an easier time rallying under one flag, the European Union. The International team is a fabricated flag, created in 1994 to give the growing roster of international stars a chance to take part in a Ryder Cup format.
     
    This team hails from six countries ' Argentina, Australia, Canada, Fiji, South Africa and South Korea ' but all of them were PGA TOUR members this year, and most have homes in the United States. The Presidents Cup used to be referred to jokingly as a match between players from the United States and Orlando.
     
    Europe, even though it has captured the Ryder Cup eight of the last 11 times, still rallies around underdog status because of perceptions its players belong to a second-class tour. The International team has a harder time rallying against the Americans since it spends most of the year as their neighbors.
     
    Whatever the case, the Presidents Cup again should be close.
     
    Woods is playing some of the best golf of his career, coming off a 2007 season in which he won seven times and tied his PGA TOUR record with a 67.79 scoring average. Mickelson won three weeks ago in Boston for his third victory of the year, and while this U.S. team has three players who have never played in any cup ' Hunter Mahan, Lucas Glover and Woody Austin ' all are playing well.
     
    Nine Americans have combined for 18 victories this year.
     
    The International team counters with the last two U.S. Open champions, Angel Cabrera and Geoff Ogilvy, along with Rory Sabbatini and K.J. Choi, who finished in the top five in the FedExCup.
     
    'The Americans obviously have had a lot of satisfaction in victories from the Presidents Cup, but haven't managed to find that with the Ryder Cup,' said Stuart Appleby of Australia. 'We've got our own troubles with us trying to get our version of the victory.'
     
    Related Links:
  • United States Report Card
  • International Report Card
  • Full Coverage - Presidents Cup