One way to measure the depth and strength of a team is to see how many of the pairings can hold the opposition without a lead.
You’d have to say that Fred Couples’ 2013 Presidents Cup team passed the test, because 11 times his American entry did just that.
Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar did it twice – beating Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman in four-ball, then Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel in foursomes without ever trailing.
Ditto the duo of Steve Stricker and Jordan Spieth. They edged Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge in four-ball – then Branden Grace and Richard Sterne in foursomes without ever trailing.
Oh, and Webb Simpson and Bill Haas? They, too, went two matches without ever trailing, though the first time felt like a loss. It came in Thursday’s four-ball as Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama rallied brilliantly down the stretch. Scott holed out for eagle at 15 to cut the deficit to one, then Matsuyama stuffed his approach within inches at 18 to earn a halve. Later, in a four-ball romp over Cabrera and Grace, Simpson and Haas never trailed.
The Internationals kept the Americans without a lead in just three matches, two of them authored by Els and de Jonge. They beat Haas and Hunter Mahan in a Friday foursomes, then Woods and Kuchar in a Saturday foursomes, never trailing either time.
In that 4-and-3 loss, Haas and Mahan had the dubious distinction of being the only ones to go a match without winning a hole.
But the toughest stat of the week went to Grace. He played four times, 63 holes in all, and never enjoyed a lead.
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MEASURING WORKLOADS: For the Americans, Webb Simpson played the most, while Ernie Els took that honor for the Internationals. Each played 86 holes.
At the other end, neither Jason Dufner nor Zach Johnson seemed to break much of a sweat in chalking up 3-1 records. Dufner played just 62 holes, Johnson 63. Yes, they sat out the Saturday four-ball, but when they did play, both made quick work of things.
In three of his four matches, Dufner stopped at 15. He never had to play 18, nor did Johnson.
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CURIOUS STUFF: The team stuff hasn’t been much of a problem for Matt Kuchar, who has been in two Presidents Cups and two Ryder Cups since 2010, but singles is another matter. Hard to believe, but he’s 0-4.
The winning streak in four-ball play is at four – two with Dustin Johnson at Medinah last fall, two last weekend with Tiger Woods at Muirfield Village. In all, Kuchar is 5-1-2 in four-ball competition. In foursomes, he is 2-2-1.
It’s the singles that is confounding, especially given that Kuchar is the reigning WGC-Accenture Match Play champion. But since losing to Ian Poulter at Celtic Manor in 2010, he has been beaten by Retief Goosen, Lee Westwood and now Marc Leishman.
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POTTY, NO PUTT: Not to encourage slow play, but there are times when you can understand the reasons behind it.
Take the end of Saturday’s foursomes match between Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel and Brandt Snedeker and Webb Simpson, for example. With the Internationals 3 up and the game at the 12th green, darkness was falling.
Check that, darkness had fallen.
“It was hard to see the lines on the specific putts. We figured it was pretty pointless to try and tee off on (13),” Schwartzel said, and all four players agreed that it was best to mark, then re-start the next morning on the green.
The walking official, however, thought otherwise and wanted Snedeker and Schwartzel to putt. The players decided to overrule that.
“Brandt and I all of a sudden needed the toilet,” said Schwartzel, smiling, “so we sort of wandered off in that direction. And when we came out, the game was finished (because of darkness). What a surprise.”
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FAMILY TIES: Not being around the regular tours in the U.S. and Europe all that much, Tony Johnstone, 57, might not have been current with members of the International team, but the assistant captain certainly crossed paths through the years with a good many of them, either on the Sunshine Tour or the European Tour.
His connection to Brendon de Jonge had deeper roots, however.
“I played golf against his father, Rick, when he was 15,” Johnstone said, laughing. “I’m sure he told Brendon that I was the worst-tempered golfer he ever saw. And he was right.”
Toward the tail-end of his playing days on the European Tour, Johnstone became friendly with a youngster from Australia. There was just something about Adam Scott that impressed the man from Zimbabwe, and he has remained friends. “Adam is a seriously class act,” Johnstone said.
“If I had a young son, I’d say (Adam) is who you should mold yourself after. Don’t worry about the golf. Worry about the man.”
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THEY’LL STAY WITH 2013, THANK YOU: It may be 2014 so far as the PGA Tour is concerned, but to the Latinoamerica Tour there’s still a good chunk of the 2013 season to be played.
They’ll tee it up in the Puerto Rico Classic this week. Among the competitors at Dorado Beach Resort in San Juan will be David Duval, Ted Purdy, Cliff Kresge and Frank Lickliter.
Purdy ranks seventh on the circuit’s Order of Merit. Camilo Villegas’ brother, Manuel, is fifth.