Presidents Cup 2013: Strengths and Weaknesses of International Team

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2013

Presidents Cup 2013: Strengths and Weaknesses of International Team

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    Golf fans are very familiar with the struggles of the American team in the Ryder Cup competition.

    The same does not hold in the Presidents Cup. In fact, the opposite is true. In this event, it's the international team that is left crying in its beer. The U.S. holds a 7-1-1 edge all-time in this event.

    The international team, which features the best golfers in the world who do not come from European countries, features Masters champion Adam Scott (Australia), respected tour veteran Ernie Els (South Africa) and Masters runner-up Angel Cabrera (Argentina).

    Here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the 12-man international team

Adam Scott (Australia)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: 5 (2003-05-07-09-11) 9W-13L-2T

    Strengths: Adam Scott has become one of the most respected players on the tour this year, and that is largely the result of his win in the Masters. That victory seemed to take a ton of pressure off of Scott's shoulders since he had blown an opportunity to win his first major at the 2012 British Open. The playoff victory at Augusta showed Scott to be one of the best ball strikers on the tour. He hits the ball for distance and accuracy, and he has risen to the occasion at big moments this year.

    Weaknesses: Not only has Scott emerged as one of the best players on the tour, he appears to be the best player for the International team. That creates significant pressure and Scott will once again have to prove that he can handle it. If things go wrong for Scott, it's usually his putting that's the problem and that could be very costly in this competition.

Jason Day (Australia)

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    Presidents Cup Experience:1 (2011) 1-2-1

    Strengths: Jason Day has become one of the most feared golfers on the tour in 2013. He has competed well in all the majors—including third in the Masters and second in the U.S. Open—and he has the ball-striking ability to take over an event and dominate. Day combines big hitting—299.5 yards per drive—and a fine touch around the green. That's a going to make him difficult to beat in international competition.

    Weaknesses: There are not a lot of problems with Day's game as he tends to rise to the occasion in big events. However, when things go wrong for him, he can get wild off the tee and he will also have a problem with hitting greens in regulation. Day ranks 136th in driving accuracy.

Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: 1 (2011) 3-1-1

    Strengths: The South African native is rather quiet and unobtrusive, but he can rise to the occasion when it's not expected. The former Masters champion is one of the rare international players who has a winning record in this event because he does not seem to feel pressure very often. Schwartzel is a big hitter who finds a way to score well. His 69.52 average ranks seventh on the tour.

    Weaknesses: While Schwartzel can hit the ball a long way, he is not always the most accurate off the tee and that could cost him at Muirfield. He ranks 111th in driving accuracy, finding the fairway with his drives 60.24 percent of the time.

Ernie Els (South Africa)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: 7 (1996-98-00-03-07-09-11) 17W-16L-2T

    Strengths: Ernie Els is by far the most experienced player on the international team, and at the age of 43, his peak playing days appear to be behind him. However, Els still has the beautiful swing that has allowed him to win both the U.S. Open and British Open twice. His experience and sense of calm when the lights get brightest could allow him to serve as an example to the rest of the international team

    Weaknesses: Els has struggled quite a bit by his own standards this year. He made it into the BMW Championship with the 70th and last qualifying spot. His accuracy off the tee is down quite a bit as he ranks 150th in driving accuracy and 165th in greens in regulation. Els has acknowledged that his game has been off quite a bit this year and his confidence is not at a peak level.

Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: When he is healthy, Louis Oosthuizen has one of the most consistent and admired swings on the tour. There is not a shot that he can't make and he can handle difficult terrain as well as anyone because his swing is so smooth. While Oosthuizen has been troubled by injuries this year, he earned more than $3.4 million last year and had five top-10 finishes in 19 events.

    Weaknesses: His health is the big issue. Oosthuizen has been out of action since July with a neck injury and other ailments. He spoke with International captain Nick Price and said he would be able to compete without issue in the Presidents Cup, so he remains on the team. However, it could be a struggle.

Hideki Matsuyama (Japan)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: Hideki Matsuyama is one of Japan's finest golfers. While he spends the majority of his time playing events on the Pacific tour, he generally makes his presence felt when he plays in the big events on this side of the Atlantic. He finished 10th in the U.S. Open and sixth in the British Open this year. When Matsuyama plays in PGA tour events, he is averaging 68.74 strokes per round. That figure ranks first among all golfers and is indicative that he can be a formidable opponent.

    Weaknesses: Matsuyama is an excellent golfer, but he is not used to the level of competition he will see in the Presidents Cup. He has never played in this international event and his infrequent appearances on the tour will not make this event any easier for him.

Branden Grace (South Africa)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: Branden Grace spends most of his time playing on the European Tour, but he did make a decent showing in the Masters when he overcame a poor first round and finished a competitive 18th at Augusta. His best showing in Europe this year was a second-place finish in the Scottish Open, in which he just fell short of winning in a playoff with Phil Mickelson.

    Weaknesses: Grace could be in for a rough go of it in the Presidents Cup. When he has played on the PGA Tour this year, he has not hit the ball for distance or accuracy. He ranks no better than 108th in all the key measurables that the PGA uses to assess competitors. His lack of experience on the international stage won't help him either.

Graham DeLaet (Canada)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: Few golfers have surged as much as Graham DeLaet has in recent weeks. To celebrate his appearance and performance in the FedEx Cup playoffs, the Canadian star has grown a "playoff beard" similar to the ones NHL players grow during the Stanley Cup playoffs. DeLaet has played as well as any golfer in the playoff events. He finished second in The Barclays and third in the Deutsche Bank Championship. DeLaet is a remarkably accurate hitter as he ranks third in greens in regulation.

    Weaknesses: While DeLaet's game is surging right now, the 31-year-old from Saskatchewan has struggled much of the time prior to this year. He may find it tough to continue to play well in the spotlight of a key international event.

Richard Sterne (South Africa)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: Richard Sterne is one of the stalwart players on the European Tour in 2013. He ranks fourth in earnings and he has won one event. He took first place in the Joburg Open in his native South Africa in February. Sterne, 32, finished second in the French Alsom Open and 21st in the British Open. When he came to the United State to play in the Bridgestone Invitational, he finished ninth. He is usually a consistent putter, averaging 29.26 putts per round.

    Weaknesses: Sterne does not have a lot of familiarity or success when playing on this side of the Atlantic. While he made a decent showing at the Bridgestone, he finished in 96th place in the PGA Championship and looked somewhat overwhelmed by the competition.

Angel Cabrera (Argentina)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: 3 (2005-07-09) 4-6-3

    Strengths: The highlight of Angel Cabrera's season was his second-place finish in the Masters, which included a gutsy putt on the 72nd hole that allowed him to tie Adam Scott and force a playoff. While he could not beat Scott, his ball striking and consistency were quite impressive. The 43-year-old Argentinian still hits the ball extremely well, averaging 295.3 yards off the tee this year.

    Weaknesses: Since his strong performance in the Masters, Cabrera has been an ordinary player. He has just one top-10 finish since then. Cabrera has been in poor form recently, as he withdrew from the PGA Championship after an opening round of 80. He failed to make the cut at The Barclays and finished 76th at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

Marc Leishman (Australia)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: Marc Leishman served notice that he is a big event player with his performance at the Masters this year. He remained in contention until the final few holes of the last round and concluded his work in Augusta in fourth place. He also finished in the top 10 the following two weeks. Nick Price said one of the reasons he selected Leishman was his ability to play in big events. Leishman has four top-10 finishes this season and that ranks 28th on the tour.

    Weaknesses: While he has come on strong this year, there are still some weaknesses in his game. He ranks 127th in driving accuracy and 135th in birdie average. That's not going to help him win many holes in his matches in the Presidents Cup.

Brendon De Jonge (Zimbabwe)

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    Presidents Cup Experience: First

    Strengths: Brendon de Jonge has four top-10 finishes this year on the PGA tour and he has played in 28 events. While that percentage is not great, he has gotten tremendous exposure and experience competing against the best players in the world. That could help him in the Presidents Cup. De Jonge has turned into an accurate player with his irons, as he is hitting 68.46 percent of his greens in regulation, a figure that ranks 13th on the tour.

    Weaknesses: One of the reasons captain Nick Price selected De Jonge was his ability to hit the ball for distance. However, the statistics don't bear this out as he ranks 101st in driving distance on the tour. De Jonge may not like the course because he failed to make the cut at the Memorial, which was played at Muirfield.