The 2011 Presidents Cup is ready to start, and the first six matches have all been set up by the captains.
USA team captain Fred Couples and international team captain Greg Norman made their selections; the six matches promise to give golf fans a really good show.
The match that will garner the most attention will be the one that pits K.J.Choi and Adam Scott against Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods. This is because of all the turmoil regarding Woods and his former caddy, Steve Williams, who is carrying Scott's bag now.
The focus might be on the situation between Woods and Williams, but the actual match should be an interesting one too. Because it will be the last one played, it could result in an outright lead or a tie at the end of the opening day.
A possible matchup between Woods and Scott was expected for the singles matches. Since it came much earlier than that, one might almost think that the team captains wanted to get it out of the way.
Couples and Norman said they did not plan the pairing. In the Presidents Cup, the team captains take turns filling out the lineup for every match. Each captain had plenty of opportunities to make sure Woods was not in the same match as Scott.
Planned or not, at least we will get to move on from this and actually concentrate on the real matches (and the players in them).
The international team is favored—even though the American team has a roster with nine of the top 20 ranked players in the world. This set up what should be six matches full of fireworks.
Here are the predictions and opening pairings for tonight's foursomes (alternate shot) matches.
Match 1 (1:05 PM) - Ernie Els and Ryo Ishikawa vs. Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson
This is one very interesting match. The international team pairs experience with youth, while the USA team has two young guns who are have been playing very well.
Both teams feature players who could complement each other. But this will come down to recent play, and Els—although he is making his seventh cup appearance—has not had the best year. The Americans should take advantage of Els' situation.
Prediction: Simpson and Watson win; USA will take the lead 1-0.
Match 2 (1:17 pm) - Geoff Ogilvy and Charl Schwartzel vs. Bill Haas and Nick Watney
The Masters champ, Schwartzel, has been tearing up (T9, T4, T3) golf courses everywhere lately. Ogilvy has been playing very well; he has two top fives and a T11 in his last four outings. Both have the momentum in their favor.
The Americans will have a mini-slump before Watney puts things together at the right time. But the same cannot be said of his partner. In the last 12 weeks, Haas' only accomplishments were winning the Tour Championship and his improbable FedEx Cup trophy.
Prediction: Oglivy and Schwartzel win; international team ties 1-1.
Match 3 (1:29 pm) - Aaron Baddeley and Jason Day vs. Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar
This is a match where momentum doesn't benefit the Americans. Day is playing lights-out with a T6 and T4 in his last two, including at the Australian Open last week. Baddeley has two top 10s in his last three outings.
Since finishing first and second at The Barclays, Johnson and Kuchar seem to have run out of steam. Kuchar has a pair of T20s, and Johnson a T23, as their recent best.
Prediction: Day and Baddeley win; international team takes the lead 2-1.
Match 4 (1:41 pm) - Robert Allenby and Retief Goosen vs. Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson
This will be a fun one to watch. This match is one where experience is not an issue, as all four combine for 28 cup appearances—Mickelson is the only to have played on all editions.
That fact eliminates a possible advantage that Allenby-Goosen might have had over a younger and inexperienced pairing.
While Furyk and Mickleson's year has been up and down, their abilities and their much better recent play will earn them a victory.
Prediction: Furyk and Mickelson win; USA will tie 2-2.
Match 5 ( pm) - Kim Kyung-tae and Y.E. Yang vs. Hunter Mahan and David Toms
This might be the most contested of the six matches, and the one that might very well be the most overlooked.
There are lingering questions regarding Mahan's health condition, but he seems ready to play. He is the one with the best recent play of the foursome, and should complement Tom's play for a solid pairing.
Kyung-tae is making his first appearance at this competition; Yang is making his second. They are a great combination of youth and experience, although they have been lacking consistency lately.
Prediction: Mahan and Toms win; USA will take the lead 3-2.
Match 6 ( pm) K.J. Choi and Adam Scott vs. Steve Stricker and Tiger Woods
This match is actually pretty even. There is plenty of experience on both sides.
If Stricker stays healthy and hits the ball the way he has been doing in practice, he and Woods will have the upper hand. Woods showed a glimpse of his former self in the Australian Open last week, and he will very much need to be on the ball here.
Choi and Scott are not easy opponents, but I think that the Americans will benefit from the experience of playing together previously.
Prediction: Stricker and Woods win a close one; USA will end opening day by leading 4-2.
There you have them. USA will lead after opening day at the Presidents Cup. Watch how it finally unfolds by tuning in to the Golf Channel tonight at 9:00 pm for live coverage.
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