The 2013 Presidents Cup gets underway Thursday, but the singles matchups that will ultimately decide the event on the final day will be the top source of buzz at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
Both the USA and International rosters are stacked with talented players with phenomenal pedigrees. Some combination of those world-class golfers will square off in rare, head-to-head battles with the trophy on the line.
Singles matches are determined in the context of what has happened in group play. Still, it's fun to dream up some scenarios before the action gets underway.
Here is an early look at some of the best prospective showdowns these teams could produce.
Jordan Spieth (USA) vs. Branden Grace (International)
The American captain's pick is going to be the talk of the Presidents Cup.
Jordan Spieth is only 20 years old. He broke through with a victory at the John Deere Classic and backed that up with a stellar performance in the FedEx Cup playoffs, where he finished ninth.
As for his hypothetical opponent, Branden Grace is only 25 but has already done a lot of winning as a professional. His monster 2012 campaign featured four wins on the European Tour, including the recently held Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, where he carded an opening-round 60.
This would help Grace's exposure to U.S. audiences, as he's attempted to take his talents to this side of the pond without much success in 2013.
Meanwhile, it would be an intriguing clash for Spieth. He'd be taking on a respectable opponent whose rising profile could add even more to Spieth's growing legend.
Adam Scott (International) vs. Tiger Woods (USA)
Although the two have been paired together in many big tournaments, Tiger Woods' ex-caddie Stevie Williams being on Adam Scott's bag is no longer an issue.
That doesn't take away from how much fun this would be to watch, though. Woods won five times on the PGA Tour this season but didn't win a major or a FedEx Cup event. Scott accomplished both at the Masters and Barclays, respectively.
As Shane Bacon of Yahoo! Sports points out, the world No. 2 Scott is the only one on his squad to win this year:
In 2009, Scott's career had hit the skids, but International captain Greg Norman invested a captain's pick in his compatriot. Scott delivered by winning his first match and played solid throughout.
That marked a turning point for Scott, so it will be interesting to watch him alone in a competition that must have significance from a personal standpoint.
Phil Mickelson (USA) vs. Hideki Matsuyama (International)
One of the least talked-about young stars in the game today, Hideki Matsuyama was paired with Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy in the first two rounds of the Open Championship, which Mickelson went on to win.
Lost in Mickelson's magnificent, long-awaited adjustment to links golf and virtuoso final round was Matsuyama finishing tied for sixth. Prior to that, he posted a top-10 showing at the U.S. Open, and the Japanese prodigy even finished tied for 19th at the PGA Championship.
Not a bad first run at the majors, overall.
Luke Elvy ponders how Matsuyama would fare as a fellow young gun on the PGA Tour in 2014 alongside Spieth:
Pitting Mickelson and Matsuyama in Ohio's version of Muirfield, as opposed to the one they last competed in and had success at, would make for an interesting subplot to the final day.
If the 21-year-old Matsuyama could muster the gusto to top Mickelson, it would put him on the PGA map, to say the least.
It's also worth noting that Matsuyama recently won at the Japan Tour's Fujisankei Classic, so he enters international competition in fine form.
Jason Day (International) vs. Keegan Bradley (USA)
We saw Keegan Bradley's passion for winning in the name of his native country with a stupendous Ryder Cup debut last year, though he did get beat by McIlroy in singles.
Bradley's intensity juxtaposed with Jason Day's cool demeanor would be captivating to galleries.
Day has posted three runner-up finishes in majors and another third-place effort at the age of 25 but has just one professional victory under his belt.
The Aussie has taken a liking to getting to know his teammates in his second appearance:
Meanwhile, Bradley already captured his maiden major at the 2011 PGA Championship in his major debut.
Here's the point: Both of these players have the game to be winning more than they have. Neither Bradley nor Day won a tournament on tour in 2013, so a win could do wonders for either golfer's career.
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