Presidents Cup 2022: Now what? How the Internationals can salvage the week

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CHARLOTTE — The scoreboard at the 14th Presidents Cup would hardly surprise many. The Americans lead 8-2 after a session each of foursomes and fourballs, and a ninth straight loss for the International team seems a fait accompli. The only real shocker from the first two days at Quail Hollow is that World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and Sam Burns have managed only a half point from two matches together.

Predictably, International captain Trevor Immelman refused to concede the Americans have one hand on the Cup. “I wasn’t very good at math in school, [but] there’s still 20 points available to win, so we’re going to fight,” he said Friday night.

But the 42-year-old South African did admit the deficit is grim. And it’s not likely to get any prettier considering super pairings like Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, as well as Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, are undefeated for the Americans this week. “The score means we’ve got to get better and we will, plain and simple,” Immelman said.

The question, though, has to be asked: What motivates the International team to keep fighting the last two days when the outcome appears decided?

The short answer is pride. Team rookie Christiaan Bezuidenhout said playing for the International team’s shield was his inspiration. The yellow-and-black logo was created by his idol, Ernie Els, during Els’ 2019 captaincy. Els was attempting to unite the melting pot of nations which comprise the Internationals.

“All of us are from different nationalities all around the world, and all of us are playing for our country, but it’s mainly for the shield and the International team and for our team members,” Bezuidenhout, 28, said. He was cheered on by South African fans yelling supportive messages in his native language, Afrikaans, throughout the match that he and Mito Pereira halved against Cameron Young and Kevin Kisner.

Immelman, who came from humble beginnings in Cape Town and won the 2008 Masters, agreed with Bezuidenhout, one of his captain’s picks. He said he wanted his side to prove that International players like Bezuidenhout, Chile’s Pereira, Colombia’s Sebastian Munoz, and South Korea’s Sungjae Im can compete with the best American stars. All four came from behind to scrap out half points for the Internationals from their two Friday matches.

“All of us have grown up outside of the U.S., and in a lot of cases [we’ve had] to fight our way through the ranks to eventually make it to the PGA Tour,” Immelman said. “We’re absolutely playing for the [International team] shield. That really has been our goal is for young kids all over the world to grow up and fall in love with the game of golf and dream to play on this team.”

While that’s all well and good, another American victory will be a cruel blow to an event that has been heavily lopsided since its creation in 1994. The International team has won just once, at Royal Melbourne in 1998, and tied once, in 2003 in South Africa. The other 11 have gone the way of the Americans. U.S. captain Davis Love III was diplomatic when asked if another American triumph would hurt the biennial event.

“We’re thinking about protecting our flag, and they’re thinking about protecting their shield,” Love said. “It’s far from over. We both know that we both have to say something different to our teams tonight, but they’re still going to want to play the rest of the weekend.”

Added Immelman: “Absolutely. There are two days left, and we’ll be playing as hard as you can play. We promise.”

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