Presidents Cup: Muirfield provides distinct U.S. advantage
Thursday, September 12, 2013
They did not huddle with Brandt Snedeker before choosing the venue for the upcoming Presidents Cup. If they had, he probably wouldn’t have said OK to Muirfield Village, with all due respect to the great Jack Nicklaus. When you’ve failed to make it into weekend play at any of your six starts at The Memorial Tournament – five missed cuts, one withdrawal for Snedeker – you’ve got great cause to look unfavorably upon the course, for whatever reasons.
Neither would Jason Dufner (two starts, two missed cuts) or Keegan Bradley (three starts, two missed cuts, one under-par score in eight rounds) have made the place their first choice.
But those points aside, it’s hard to deny that the United States doesn’t have a massive home-field advantage for the upcoming competition. If you take Ernie Els out of the mix, captain Nick Price’s 11 other players have combined to play Muirfield Village 37 times, with just three top 10s and 10 missed cuts.
Not the sort of data you can wrap your arms around if you’re looking for a glimmer of hope for the visitors, eh?
Els’ visits to the Memorial – 20 in all – have yielded a victory and six top 10s. But after that, it’s tough to feel good about Price’s team at a venue that has not exactly been friendly.
Some of the painful details:
• Adam Scott has but two top 10s in eight starts and has broken 70 just once in his last 16 rounds there.
• In five appearances in the Memorial, Jason Day has missed two cuts, and his best finish is a T-27.
• Charl Schwartzel has one top 10 in six starts.
• Louis Oosthuizen’s one appearance? He went 75-80 and missed the cut.
• Hideki Matsuyama has never played there.
• Branden Grace is 12 over in his six rounds, having missed the cut once in two starts.
• Angel Cabrera routinely skipped the Memorial. In just three appearances, he has missed two cuts, played eight rounds and never broke 70.
• Graham DeLaet? Two starts, one missed cut, best score a 70.
• Richard Sterne played just once, back in 2009 when he finished T-36.
• One captain’s pick, Marc Leishman, has played five times at the Memorial and never done better than T-41, and he’s 29 over in his 18 rounds.
• The other captain’s pick, Brendon de Jonge, is 17 over in his last 11 rounds there.
Now compare that with the experience U.S. captain Fred Couples has with his American contingent at Muirfield. Tiger Woods, for instance. Five wins and eight top 10s in 14 appearances is a pretty good starting point, and 26 of his 56 rounds have been in the 60s.
Even when you factor in the less-than-stellar performances at Muirfield by Snedeker, Dufner, Bradley and Webb Simpson (three missed cuts in five starts), you have positive vibes for the Americans beyond Woods.
Matt Kuchar won there in early June, has five top 10s in eight starts and has broken par in 15 consecutive rounds. Steve Stricker is another solid entrant, having won in 2011 (in fact, the last three Memorial winners are in the U.S. lineup: Stricker, Woods, Kuchar) and having missed just one cut in 13 starts.
Phil Mickelson adds even more experience. Though he doesn’t pencil in the Memorial automatically, the left-hander has teed it up there 12 times and posted three top 10s.
Bill Haas and Zach Johnson haven’t had overwhelming success at Muirfield, though the former did finish T-4 in June and the latter once finished joint second here.
Botton line: The Americans don’t just have an overwhelming edge on paper, what with six top-10 players to the International’s one or nine top-25 players to their five. They also have a clearly superior feel for Muirfield Village and what it takes to score there.