Busy end of year advantage for US

Updated: 28 September 2007 07:04 IST

Tiger Woods, who plays fewer golf tournaments than any other star, will be competing for the sixth time in nine weeks.

Busy end of  year advantage for US


One cup is over. Another cup is about to begin.

The question is whether a world-class collection of players at Royal Montreal have enough left to fill the Presidents Cup with the kind of golf that has made these matches so compelling over the last few years.

Tiger Woods, who plays fewer golf tournaments than any other star, will be competing for the sixth time in nine weeks.

Likewise Phil Mickelson, who usually doesn't play of this time of year. Even someone like Vijay Singh has spent an awful lot of time on the course, skipping only two weeks since August.

Blame that on the FedEx Cup, the US PGA Tour's season-ending four-week "playoffs" that ended only nine days ago for 16 players in the Presidents Cup.

It only figures to get tougher next year, with the Ryder Cup scheduled for the week after the US Tour Championship.

As much as players are cursing the schedule, it could turn out to be a blessing.

"You would think that you're pretty prepared to be here, maybe more so than years past, because of playing so much golf recently," David Toms said Tuesday.

"I think that's something they need to take a look in the future, how much golf is being played at this particular time. For us this year, I know we have a lot of guys who are coming in and playing well, and it should be an advantage for us."

Indeed, the FedEx Cup could be a good barometer for these matches when they get under way on Thursday.

Woods is playing a lot of golf, but playing well. He has won four of the five tournaments he has played dating to the Bridgestone Invitational, including his last two to easily win the FedEx Cup.

The other two-playoff events were won by Phil Mickelson (Deutsche Bank) and Steve Stricker (Barclays).

Since all 24 players from the United States and International teams are US PGA Tour members, an even better barometer might be the 30-man field at the US Tour Championship.

Ten Americans were at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, the exceptions being Toms (No 32) and Lucas Glover (No 35).

The International team had only six players in the US Tour Championship, and two of the players - Mike Weir and Retief Goosen - didn't even qualify for the 70-man field the previous week at the BMW Championship.

"Our team has been really playing well," US captain Jack Nicklaus said. "I think they are well prepared."

Nicklaus tried to make the case the International team is stronger on paper, which is usually the norm. Comprised of players from all but European countries, the team has an average world ranking of 18.5, with Weir the lowest at No 46.

The United States has an average ranking of 21.9, with Glover the lowest at No 61.

International captain Gary Player, however, was quick to point out the United States was top-heavy in the world ranking with Woods, Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Stricker.

Top four spots

It is believed to be the first time in the 21-year history of the world ranking Americans have occupied the top four spots.

While the International team looks good on paper, it hasn't looked good in competition lately. The most recent winner is KJ Choi at the AT&T National in July.

Angel Cabrera hasn't done much since his US Open victory in June, and Singh played five consecutive tournaments over par until finishing 10 under at easy East Lake.

Even so, Player had reason to believe "the stage is set for another great match."

The last two have been so close they essentially were decided by one shot - Chris DiMarco's 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole of the final match in 2005 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. The matches ended in a tie in South Africa in 2003.

"I think that the whole 'on paper' is kind of a farce," Furyk said. "If we have a tour that's deep enough where 100 guys can go out on any week and win a tournament, then 12 of the best players from any side can go out and win that week. A lot of it is momentum. Obviously, you don't want to get behind early."

Appleby is one of only three players on the International team who have known the feeling of winning the Presidents Cup.

The others are Ernie Els and Singh, the three of them on the 1998 that whipped the United States in Australia.

Appleby looks at that '98 team and wonders how it did so well. It featured Frank Nobilo, who was nearing the end of his career, and Carlos Franco, who was making his way through Q-school.

Topics : Golf
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