Presidents Cup 2013: Strengths and Weaknesses of US Team

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2013

Presidents Cup 2013: Strengths and Weaknesses of US Team

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    The Presidents Cup may not have the prestige of the Ryder Cup, but it is still an event that brings out the competitive juices in those selected to play for the two teams.

    A team of 12 American golfers will face a team of 12 non-Americans—who don't come from Europe—in match play golf. They will compete in fourball, foursome and individual matches.

    While Europe has certainly had an edge on the United States in the Ryder Cup, the American golfers have dominated in the Presidents Cup, recording a 7-1-1 mark.

    The American team will be favored in this competition at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio. Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the players on the American team.

Tiger Woods

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    Presidents Cup Experience: Seven times (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011), 20W-14L-1T

    Strengths: Tiger Woods is the top-ranked player in the world, and he has won five tournaments this year. When he is on his game, he hits his irons better than any player and is an exceptional putter. He plays with fierce determination, and his greatest desire is to prove he is the best in the world.

    Weaknesses: His mental and emotional games used to be his greatest strengths, but those areas seem to be weaknesses right now. He has struggled in the weekend rounds of the biggest tournaments, and the fact that he hasn't won a major since 2008 weighs on his psyche.

    Additionally, Tiger wears his heart on his sleeve in nearly every tournament he plays. He emotes after his bad shots, and that can have a negative impact on team chemistry.

Brandt Snedeker

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First appearance

    Strengths: Brandt Snedeker has enjoyed a sensational year, and his hallmark has been consistency. Snedeker has an excellent all-around game, and that's why he has been able to win twice, come in second twice and also record one third-place finish.

    Snedeker is not a big hitter, but he is accurate and an expert when he is on the green. He ranks fourth this year in strokes gained while putting.

    Weaknesses: There is a feeling that Snedeker feels the pressure in the biggest events. During non-majors, Snedeker excels at leaving his bad shots and mistakes behind him and moving on to his next stroke. That does not seem to be the case in the biggest tournaments. He has a hard time moving on, and that could be an issue in this team competition.

Phil Mickelson

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    Presidents Cup Experience: Nine times (1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011), 18W-14L-1T

    Strengths: Phil Mickelson had perhaps the signature moment of his career when he won the British Open earlier this year. He played flawless golf in the final round when the tournament was on the line.

    Mickelson is probably the most versatile shotmaker on the tour, and he has remarkable confidence in himself. He has enjoyed an excellent year and is motivated to top Woods and become the No. 1 golfer in the world.

    Weaknesses: Mickelson has no fear on the golf course. He will not hesitate to go for a difficult or near-impossible shot because he has so much confidence. He is not always successful, and those mistakes could cost him valuable holes in the match play format used in international competition.

Matt Kuchar

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    Presidents Cup Experience: One (2011), 1W-3L-1T

    Strengths: Matt Kuchar has all the tools needed to be successful in the Presidents Cup. As you would expect from a player who is second on the money earned list and fourth on the FedEx Cup points list, Kuchar possesses all the elements of the game to win consistently.

    He is accurate, excels with his short and medium irons and is clearly very comfortable around the greens. His sense of calm under pressure should serve him well. While he has not won a major, he does not seem to get overwhelmed by the big moments.

    Weaknesses: Kuchar is not a long hitter, as he ranks 114th in driving distance. While his demeanor will be great for team chemistry, and he's not going to go into a funk if he has a bad shot or a poor hole, you wonder if he is going to be able to rise to the occasion if he gets down in a match and has to rally.

Jason Dufner

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First appearance

    Strengths: Jason Dufner raised his profile significantly this year when he played the best golf of his career at a major and won the PGA Championship. Dufner never seems to change his expression when he plays, but that is not indicative of his playful personality, as he is one of the most popular players on the tour.

    On the course, Dufner's best asset is his accuracy off the tee and his ability to put the ball on the green in regulation. He does that 67.79 percent of the time, and that ranks 23rd on the tour.

    Weaknesses: Dufner is not always going to putt the ball the way he needs to. While he was on his game in the PGA, he ranks 146th in strokes gained putting. That could be a big issue in the match play format that is so reliant on excellent putting.

Keegan Bradley

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First appearance

    Strengths: Keegan Bradley made a huge impression last year in the Ryder Cup with his football-like enthusiasm while playing for the U.S. team. There was nothing golf-like about his demeanor on the course as he high-fived playing partner Mickelson and fans in the pro-U.S. crowd. That certainly adds to the excitement level of the event and is likely to continue at Muirfield.

    Bradley is a huge hitter with the sophisticated game to dominate a match. His length makes him very dangerous on the longest holes.

    Weaknesses: Bradley has not won on the tour this year, and he can be questioned for his inability to finish out a tournament. While he is a big hitter, Bradley will occasionally get wild off the tee, and he ranks 66th in accuracy off the tee.

Steve Stricker

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    Presidents Cup Experience: Four (1996, 2007, 2009, 2011), 11W-8L-0T

    Strengths: Steve Stricker is one of the most respected players on the tour. The 46-year-old always appears to be calm and in control, and he has the accuracy off the tee and from the fairway to play consistent golf against the best international competitors.

    Stricker has earned his reputation as one of the true gurus of putting, and he will share his thoughts with his competitors throughout the year, including Woods. Stricker takes advantage of his opportunities as he ranks fourth with an average of 4.05 birdies per round.

    Weaknesses: Stricker has not always fared well in the international competition. He was teamed with Woods in last year's Ryder Cup, and the two struggled against the European competition. That has not been the case in the Presidents Cup, but last year's memories could linger.

Bill Haas

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    Presidents Cup Experience: One (2011), 1W-3L-1T

    Strengths: Bill Haas seems like the perfect player to have in a team golf event because he is so steady. He often seems impervious to pressure, and that shows in in his FedEx Cup points ranking (fifth) and money earned (10th). Haas is accurate off the tee and gets more accurate as he gets closer to the green. He finds the green in regulation 68.20 percent of the time, a figure that ranks 15th on the tour.

    Weaknesses: Is international competition with its match play format the best thing for Haas? The record would indicate it is not since he had a losing record in 2011. Haas is not a big hitter, and he will struggle at times when he hits the ball in the bunker. He ranks 86th in sand save percentage.

Hunter Mahan

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    Presidents Cup Experience: Three (2007, 2009, 2011), 8W-5L-1T

    Strengths: Hunter Mahan has been quite consistent in his ball-striking this year, and that's an indicator that he could be very productive in this international competition. He has thrived in that area in the past, and he seems to get worked up for the competition.

    He is very accurate off the tee, and he gets good distance as well. He also will get the ball to the green in regulation, as he ranks 32nd in that area. He is a solid but not spectacular putter.

    Weaknesses: Mahan may feel the pressure when the money is on the table. While he is one of the better scorers on the tour in the first two rounds, he struggles on moving day and Sunday. He ranks 124th in third-round scoring, and that figure sinks to 150th in the final round.

Zach Johnson

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    Presidents Cup Experience: Two (2007, 2009), 4W-5L-0T

    Strengths: Zach Johnson is one of the steadiest golfers on the tour. He had six top-10 finishes in 2012, and he also has six top-10 finishes this year. That's due to his accuracy. While he is not a huge hitter, he almost always hits his drives in the fairway as he ranks 10th in that category.

    When Johnson is on his game, he is an artist with his short game. He ranks sixth in approach shots from 125-150 yards, and that should help in this international competition.

    Weaknesses: While he is consistent, he has not won an event on the tour this season, and that could play havoc with his confidence. He can have a problem when he finds the bunker. He ranks 149th in sand saves this season.

Jordan Spieth

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First appearance

    Strengths: Jordan Spieth is a young phenom who was selected to the U.S. Presidents Cup team by captain Fred Couples. Spieth is a phenomenal player who has not only won a tournament as a rookie, but he also has eight top-10 finishes and more than $3 million in earnings.

    Spieth is a very accurate golfer who ranks 15th in driving accuracy and is a respectable 44th in greens in regulation.

    Weaknesses: The only deficiency Spieth is likely to face is inexperience. He has never played with the best golfers in the world in a team setting, and he could feel a bit out of place. However, he deserves to be in the mix, and if he feels nervous, that's likely to dissipate by the time he tees off.

Webb Simpson

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    Presidents Cup Experience: One (2011), 3W-2L-0T

    Strengths: Webb Simpson was Couples' pet pick. He had been in the top 10 prior to the Deutsche Bank Championship, and when he was edged out by Johnson, Couples was not going to let him go. Simpson is a tremendous short-game player, as he is a master on approach shots and a strong putter.

    Weaknesses: Simpson has had a good, but not great, year. He has four top-10 finishes in 23 events, but he has not been in the top 10 in any event since finishing fifth in the Travelers Championship in June. Simpson told Golf Channel that he has not been hitting his irons the way he likes, and that's an area that could improve.