With the Presidents Cup set to begin next week from Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, golf fans across the world are speculating which players will make a major impact. While the likes of Tiger Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson are expected to play well, several under-the-radar players figure to contribute as well.
As great as the Ryder Cup is, the Presidents Cup is a fun event because it gives non-European international players a chance to shine. Since many such players don't have a ton of experience when it comes to these types of competitions, it is often unknown how they will handle the pressure. The same can be said for inexperienced Americans as well.
Here are three wild cards that will rise to the occasion and play surprisingly well for their respective teams at Muirfield Village.
There is little doubt that the biggest surprise on the PGA Tour this season has been the play of 20-year-old rookie Jordan Spieth. The University of Texas product didn't waste any time getting acclimated to the big stage as he shockingly won the John Deere Classic in July and picked up eight additional top-10 finishes. Spieth finished the year with a seventh-place finish in the FedExCup standings, and he enters the Presidents Cup with a great deal of momentum as a captain's pick.
Spieth does everything well, and his results speak for themselves. His aforementioned nine top-10 finishes tied him with Bill Haas and Brandt Snedeker for the most on tour this year. In fact, Spieth is perfect for this type of event as pressure doesn't seem to get to him. According to Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports, Spieth thrived in the final round of tournaments down the stretch this season.
That means Spieth is able to raise his game when the stakes are highest. Each and every matchup means a lot in the Presidents Cup, especially for the United States. Team USA has never lost this bi-annual event since its inception in 1994, and it is coming off a tidy 19-15 win in 2011. Spieth needs to keep playing well in order for the United States to maintain its dominance, and he will.
The top Canadian player will get a chance to show what he can do at the Presidents Cup as Graham DeLaet figures to be a very important part of the diverse International Team. While DeLaet is well-known to hardcore golf fans, casual observers have probably never heard of him. The 31-year-old veteran truly came into his own this season, though, by virtue of seven top-10 finishes, including tying for second place at The Barclays and coming in third at the Deutsche Bank Championship in consecutive weeks.
DeLaet was unable to record a victory in 2013, but he was one of the most consistent players on tour. DeLaet is especially proficient when it comes to his approach shots as evidenced by the fact that he finished third in greens in regulation percentage at 70.51 percent. DeLaet finished behind Henrik Stenson and Steve Stricker, but DeLaet played 94 rounds while Stenson and Stricker played 65 and 51, respectively.
DeLaet is also the only player on tour to hit all 18 greens in regulation in a round twice this season, according to the PGA Tour's official Twitter account.
That will go a long way toward helping the International Team pull off an upset as he will keep himself in almost every hole. It's very difficult to fall behind when hitting greens at such a high rate, so DeLaet is definitely a player who has a chance to make a name for himself at Muirfield Village.
Brendon de Jonge
Like Spieth, Brendon de Jonge was a captain's pick for this event, so he has a lot to prove. The big 33-year-old from Zimbabwe is somewhat inconsistent as he logged just four top-10 finishes, but he can be a special player when locked in. De Jonge played a lot of golf this season, and he did plenty of good things in the process. In fact, de Jonge led the PGA Tour in total birdies with 399, which was 19 more than Billy Horschel in second place.
De Jonge is the type of player that can knock down five or six birdies in a row, which is very valuable in a match-play setting. De Jonge did miss five cuts this year, but since he played in 30 events, that suggests that he normally puts himself within striking distance. The International Team can't afford any non-competitive performances, and it's unlikely that de Jonge will provide one.
There is no doubt that de Jonge is tough to get a read on, but he could potentially carry the International Team if he is on his game. All it takes is a couple red-hot players to gain some momentum at an event such as this one, and de Jonge could be one of those guys. There won't be many fans talking about de Jonge heading into the Presidents Cup, however, he may very well be the deciding factor when it's all said and done.
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