Top Storylines Ahead of the 2013 Presidents Cup
The Presidents Cup is a chance for redemption.
The U.S. golfers remember only too well what happened last year at the Ryder Cup. The Americans built a huge lead heading into the final day of the competition at Medinah and barely needed to show up to record a victory over their European candidates. Instead, the American team collapsed and the Europeans walked away with the title again.
The Presidents Cup does not carry the same kind of prestige as the Ryder Cup, but it is international team competition. Golfers like Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Keegan Bradley have a chance to win, and they don't want to let the competition against the International team slip through their grasp.
This time the venue is Muirfield Village in Ohio. The American golfers have a 7-1-1 record in the Presidents Cup and want to remain dominant.
Here are the top storylines going into the competition.
Can the U.S. Bounce Back from Last Year's Disaster?
A full year has gone by, so it shouldn't be any problem for the U.S. golf team to put its loss to team Europe at last year's Ryder Cup behind them, right?
That's not necessarily the case. For 11 1/2 months of the year, golf is an individual sport. For two weeks, these individual athletes band together as a team and play together.
After last year's final-day disaster at Medinah in suburban Chicago, the American players dutifully answered post-match questions from the media, said goodbyes and then left.
They haven't been back together as a team since then. They may say they have moved on, but who can forget blowing a 10-6 lead going into the final day? By the time it was over, it was 14 1/2-13 1/2, Europe.
That's a choke job of epic proportions.
If this was a standard team sport like football, baseball or hockey, team meetings would have been held and the issues that caused the final-day disaster would have been addressed.
That's not the case here and you wonder if the U.S. golfers will think about last year's results when they get into the crucial holes of the competition.
How Will Tiger Perform in This Big Event?
Tiger Woods was voted the player of the year by his peers. He won five golf tournaments and asserted his dominance at several points during the year.
However, while Tiger has every reason to feel proud of his achievements in 2013, it was not exactly the kind of year he would have laid out for himself.
Tiger is all about big events. He failed in all four major tournaments for the fifth year in a row. He has been stuck at 14 major championships since 2008. His pursuit of Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors has been stalled for a long time.
The Presidents Cup is a big event. Golf fans pay attention to international competitions and the golfers realize it is an honor to be selected. Increased scrutiny and increased pressure.
Earlier in his career, pressure brought out the best in Tiger. That's no longer the case.
Can he reverse that trend in the Presidents Cup?
Can Keegan Bradley Control His Emotions?
While the U.S. team fell apart in the Ryder Cup on the final day, it had built a sizable lead in the competition prior to the Sunday silence.
Keegan Bradley was one of those most responsible for building that big lead. Teamed with Phil Mickelson, Bradley roared like a linebacker when he made good shots or drained key putts. In many ways, it was exciting for fans to see a player react with such emotion.
On the other hand, it was also unsettling, perhaps more so for Bradley than for his opponents. It seemed the emotion was just flowing out of Bradley and he could not shut it off.
When he was winning during the early part of the competition, that was great. But when it turned around for him in the singles matches on Sunday, he couldn't turn off his emotions either.
A calmer approach may have allowed him to stop his personal collapse.
His mental makeup could have an impact on the results in the Presidents Cup.
Is Louis Oosthuizen Healthy Enough to Compete for Four Consecutive Days?
Louis Oosthuizen is one of the International team's key players.
The diminutive South African has one of the best swings in the game and he could be one of the most reliable players on the international team. If he's healthy.
Oosthuizen has had to battle significant health issues this season. He has had neck, back and hip problems, and he has not played in a competitive event since the British Open. He had to withdraw from that tournament with neck pain.
He told International captain Nick Price that he has recovered and he is good to go. However, will he say the same thing after the first day of competition? Will he have enough in the tank to play his best golf for four consecutive days?
Oosthuizen insists he is healthy, and he told Brian Wacker of PGA.com that his time away from the game has improved his motivation.
"I definitely felt it after five and six weeks," Oosthuizen said. "I definitely wanted to come back and play again and am very excited about the rest of the year for me."
Can International Team Hold Up Against Powerful U.S. Team?
The International team has several big-time players in Masters champion Adam Scott, four-time major winner Ernie Els, Jason Day and Angel Cabrera.
However, many of the international players are new to big-time competition. Players like Branden Grace, Hideki Matsuyama, Richard Sterne and Brendon de Jonge are stepping up in class.
It's fair to question if they are ready to perform at a high enough level to compete with Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar.
The international team would appear to be at a disadvantage because a large portion of their lineup lacks experience and have not played competitively at Muirfield.
Jordan Spieth Walks with the Big Boys
It has been a remarkable rookie season for Jordan Spieth.
A year ago, he was at the University of Texas and debating about whether to remain with the Longhorns or go professional.
He decided to leave college and he proved ready for the upgrade in competition. Spieth played in 23 events this year, made the cut in 19 and had 13 top-25 finishes.
It gets even better from there. He finished in the top 10 nine times, won one event and had three second-place finishes in earning nearly $3.9 million.
He was a captain's pick by Freddie Couples, taking a spot that could have gone to Jim "Mr. 59" Furyk. Spieth will be walking with the big boys on the American team.
He has the resume to hold up, based on what he did in his rookie season. However, his teammates will be counting on him and that's a new kind of pressure.
We will find out if Spieth is ready to perform under those circumstances.