It won’t quite be Alabama‘s top-ranked football team playing Akron on its home field, but the U.S. figures to be an overwhelming favorite to defeat the International team for the ninth straight time in the Presidents Cup in two weeks.
U.S. team captain Davis Love III filled out his remaining roster spots Wednesday with six of the top 26 players in the Official World Golf Ranking: Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Billy Horschel, Cameron Young, Max Homa and Kevin Kisner.
It will be the youngest U.S. team in Presidents Cup history, with an average age of 29.6 years. The Presidents Cup is scheduled for Sept. 22-25 at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Even though a stacked U.S. team will be the favorite, Love said it will have to play well under pressure.
“It’s still going to be that stadium, that first tee, American flags and ‘Go USA,'” Love said. “This is their 12-man team that has never played together before. They want to win for this team. I don’t think we’ll have to do too much messaging or motivation. Certainly, you don’t want to be on a losing team ever.”
The International team’s highest-ranked players are Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and South Korea’s Sungjae Im, who are 16th and 18th, respectively. Two of the International team’s anticipated stars, Australia’s Cameron Smith and Chile’s Joaquin Niemann, are ineligible for the team after defecting to the LIV Golf circuit.
“We understand exactly the mountain that we have in front of us: Possibly the best American team ever assembled if you look at them on paper with their accomplishments and what their world rankings are,” International team captain Trevor Immelman said Tuesday.
The average world ranking of the U.S. team is 11.8; the International team’s is 48.8. The U.S. team includes five of the top 10 players in the world and 11 of the top 20. The International team has no players in the top 10 and two in the top 20.
“Trevor is going to have a team that’s got a chip on their shoulder, that’s motivated and wants to prove that they can still be competitive,” Love said. “We have to be careful. Certainly, these guys aren’t going to take it lying down.”
Love basically followed script in making his captain’s selections, after losing Will Zalatoris, who was seventh in the Presidents Cup standings, to a back injury that caused him to miss the season-ending Tour Championship. Spieth, Morikawa, Homa, Horschel and Young were eighth to 12th in the standings, and Kisner, a veteran and match-play specialist, was 15th.
Kisner, 38, won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in 2019 and was runner-up in 2018 and this season, when he lost to Scheffler in the finals. Kisner went 2-0-2 and earned three points in his only previous Presidents Cup appearance, at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey in 2017. He is regarded as one of the best putters in the world and finished seventh at the 2017 PGA Championship held at Quail Hollow.
Scheffler, Morikawa, Burns, Horschel, Young and Homa are Presidents Cup first-timers. Scheffler and Morikawa competed on the U.S. team that blasted Europe 19-9 in the 2021 Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.
While the U.S. has traditionally struggled in the Ryder Cup, it has won 11 of the 13 past Presidents Cups, losing just once, 20 ½-11 ½ in Melbourne, Australia, in 1998. The teams tied 17-17 in George, South Africa, in 2003.
Behind captain Tiger Woods, the U.S. team won 16-14 in Melbourne in the last Presidents Cup in 2019.
“What we do in the Presidents Cup better than the Ryder Cup is we don’t have this fear of losing or this doubt in our head,” Love said. “We just go in with a lot of confidence and we have to keep that momentum going. It was a little closer than we wanted last time in Australia.”