Presidents Cup 2013: Biggest Wild Cards Capable of Swinging Competition
The USA and International teams officially begin the 10th edition of golf's Presidents Cup on Thursday.
Just before the 2013 version gets underway at Muirfield Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, it's worth looking at some of the wild-card players who could have a massive impact on the competition.
International captain Nick Price fields seven rookies on his 12-man roster, but a specific two out of the myriad of first-timers have the potential to swing things in the perpetual underdogs' favor. Never before has the International team won on American soil.
Meanwhile, a veteran-laden U.S. team consists of many in the top 10 of the world rankings, but the X-factor individual is also the event's youngest competitor.
Here is a look at the players who fit those descriptions, including a breakdown of their overall prospects on opening day and beyond.
Louis Oosthuizen, International
Neck, back and leg injuries have plagued Oosthuizen and caused him to miss out on a lot of the 2013 season, during which he made only six out of 12 cuts on the PGA Tour.
GolfWeek.com's Jim McCabe reported on all of Oosthuizen's ailments, but the South African feels that his health is no longer an issue, insisting he just needs to "get the game sharp."
Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open Championship by seven strokes and lost a Masters playoff to Bubba Watson last year, so he's clearly among the world's elite when he's on his game.
Ball-striking is never an issue when Oosthuizen is in rhythm with one of the game's most beautiful swings. What's encouraging are his thoughts about the slick Muirfield greens:
Being paired with compatriot Charl Schwartzel to start will be a joy, and both international players are capable of greatness as past major champions.
They will need to be on their respective A-games to take down the tandem of Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley, who were 3-0 together in the 2012 Ryder Cup.
Jordan Spieth, USA
Speaking of last year's international showdown at Medinah: The universal perception, no offense to the Presidents Cup, is that the Ryder Cup means just a little bit more.
Obviously, playing the Presidents Cup at the course where Jack Nicklaus hosts a prestigious tour tournament helps raise the profile, but so does the rapid rise of Spieth.
At just 20 years old, the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year didn't even have any status entering the season, then proceeded to win the John Deere Classic, finish eighth in the FedEx Cup playoffs and post nine top-10 finishes.
The emergence of a superstar is always thrilling to witness. It's even more special when it's someone like Spieth, who is already No. 21 in the world rankings.
Spieth has proven he has the big-stage chops to relish in this impassioned environment. Being paired with 2011 Memorial champion Steve Stricker against Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge gives Spieth a great chance to get a full point in his debut Presidents Cup match.
Hideki Matsuyama, International
Who will have the most Presidents Cup points?
Another far-less-talked-about prodigy emerging is the Japanese star Matsuyama, who recorded a top 10 at the U.S. Open and finished tied for sixth at the Open Championship.
What was perhaps most impressive in that latter effort was that he was paired with eventual winner Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy for the first 36 holes and held his own when he could have been reduced to an afterthought.
Talk about being an X-factor, though.
Price said he doesn't believe the 21-year-old Matsuyama has ever played golf with a partner, per CBSSports.com's Kyle Porter:
Nick Price said "I don't think Hideki Matsuyama's ever played golf with a partner before." Sounds promising.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) October 2, 2013
As far as the potential language barrier on a team consisting mostly of English-speaking Australians, South Africans and a Canadian in Graham DeLaet, world No. 2 Adam Scott dispelled that notion in a humorous manner:
Adam Scott on language issues with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama: "Good shot is the international language. Everyone understands that."— Mike McAllister (@PGATOUR_mikemc) October 2, 2013
Scott will be paired with Matsuyama in Thursday's fourball action against Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, which stands to be the International team's best chance on paper at winning a point.
If Matsuyama can pick up some momentum with solid form to start, he could diminish the hype around Spieth with his own precocious play and take some wind out of the Americans' sails.
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