Colleges and universities across the country are in the midst of finals, and with the 2019 Presidents Cup now in the books, it’s time for Golfweek to hand out a few grades.
Royal Melbourne: A+
The course was a treat for the eyes and provided a great setting for the Presidents Cup. Alister MacKenzie’s gem featured a blend of short par 4s, challenging par 3s and devilish greens. In other words, it was perfect for match play and it’s a pity that American fans do not see the game’s best golfers play it every year.
Ernie Els: A-
The Big Easy did a great job of taking players from nine countries and five different continents, uniting them and then getting them to play as a team. He was organized, provided leadership and used analytics to create pairings that gave the Internationals a two-point lead heading into the singles. If he wants to captain again in two years, the job should be his.
Tiger Woods: B+
You could see in his smile how much winning as a captain meant to Tiger, who certainly inspired his players. Sitting out both sessions was a risky move, but the team gained ground and saved him from tough second-guessing. Benching Bryson DeChambeau for three sessions was smart, but keeping Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson in after the pair went 0-2 Thursday and Friday was a mistake.
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Patrick Cantlay: 3-2, B+
Paired with Xander Schauffele in the first three sessions, Cantlay, playing in his first team competition since the 2011 Walker Cup, showed he’s a gamer and that we can expect him to be a fixture on United States teams for the next decade. His birdie on the 18th on Friday to beat Joaquin Niemann and Adam Hadwin was massive and his emotional response was fantastic. His singles win over Niemann was also impressive.
Bryson DeChambeau: 0-1-1, C
He may have gained about 10 pounds of muscle and 15 yards off the tee, but DeChambeau was a dud during Thursday’s opening matches and was rightly benched because Woods clearly didn’t have faith that he could turn things around. A bad shot from the fairway on 17 led to a bogey and a halved match against Adam Hadwin in a match the U.S. could have used.
Tony Finau: 0-1-3, B-
Benched after a 2-and-1 loss Thursday alongside DeChambeau, Finau redeemed himself with three halved matches to earn 1.5 points. Getting a half-point after walking to the 11th tee down by four in singles against Hideki Matsuyama showed guts.
Rickie Fowler: 1-0-3, B
The late addition to the team after Brooks Koepka was forced to withdraw due to injury, Fowler hit some solid iron shots and clutch putts to grab a half-point with Gary Woodland Friday. Paired with Justin Thomas, he earned 1.5 points, but he missed some makeable putts against Marc Leishman on Sunday and should have won his singles match.
Dustin Johnson: 2-2, C
D.J. is too good to ever follow up a 4-and-3 loss with 3-and-2 loss, regardless of the format. His putting was so off that he switched putters before his Sunday singles match against Haotong Li. He won Sunday, but Li was a deer in the headlights on the front nine, letting Johnson win three holes with pars.
Matt Kuchar: 0-1-3, B-
The veteran putted nicely in a 3-and-2 loss paired with Johnson on Friday before pairing with Finau for a pair of halves. He was winless in Australia, but battled back from 3 down against Louis Oosthuizen Sunday and made the Cup-clinching putt on 17.
Patrick Reed: 1-3, C-
For three days, Reed talked the talk but couldn’t walk the walk. His shovel antics after making a birdie putt on the 11th hole Friday were embarrassing and made worse after Leishman made birdie on top of him to halve the hole. Still, Reed’s me-against-the-world attitude helped him get a 4-up lead through four holes on C.T. Pan.
Xander Schauffele: 3-2, B+
Paired with Cantlay, Schauffele earned two points in two foursomes matches before taking on Adam Scott on his home turf Sunday. Schauffele got up early on the 2013 Masters champion and never let up, withstanding Scott’s late charge to win 2 and 1. He’s a stud in the making.
Webb Simpson: 1-3, C+
Playing in a tough environment paired with Reed, Simpson got off to a slow start at the Presidents Cup and never really got going until Sunday. His experience, and some timely approach shots, helped him earn a point against Byeong Hun An.
Justin Thomas: 3-1-1, A
The next leader of America’s cup teams, Thomas was everything captain Woods could have wanted. His putt on 18 Friday to win a big point was massive, and he paired with Fowler to take down Li and Leishman 3 and 2. In defeat Sunday against Cameron Smith, he battled. He’s 26, so the U.S. team is hoping for at least another decade of J.T.
Tiger Woods (The Player): 3-0, A+
Paired with Thomas, Tiger, who turns 44 on Dec. 30, was 2-0 before benching himself on Saturday. His performance in the opening singles match against Abraham Ancer was vintage Tiger. He knocked the ball down, made it climb and bent shots like Eric Clapton bends a chord on his Stratocaster. Bravo.
Gary Woodland: 1-2-1, C-
Woodland was a disappointment Thursday and Friday, failing to win a point when paired with Johnson, and he got blitzed by Sungjae Im in singles 4 and 3. Woodland and Johnson did get a point in Saturday’s foursomes, but you expect the defending U.S. Open to contribute more than just a point in four sessions.
Byeong Hun An: 1-2-2, B-
The 28-year-old Presidents Cup rookie played with three different partners (Scott, Matsuyama and Niemann) in foursomes and fourballs before falling 2 and 1 to Simpson on Sunday. He can play, but failed to make enough birdies under pressure.
Abraham Ancer: 3-1-1, A
The breakout star for the International team, Ancer showed a deft shortgame and lethal putter to go along with nerves of steel. He wanted Tiger in singles and put up a great fight in a losing effort. Get ready to see his birdie putt on the third hole Saturday morning in Presidents Cup highlight reels for the next 100 years. Exelente senor.
Adam Hadwin: 1-1-1, C
Paired with Im on Thursday morning, Hadwin’s foursomes win over Cantlay and Schauffele was impressive, but he was benched for both sessions Saturday and halved with DeChambeau on Sunday when the International team needed a full point.
Sungjae Im: 3-1-1, A-
Ranked No. 36 in the world coming into the Presidents Cup, Im scored one of only two singles wins for the International team on Sunday by beating Woodland 4 and 3. He showed a deft touch with his wedges and made some key putts.
Marc Leishman: 1-2-2, C
Ernie Els needed a big week from the big Aussie who was playing in his fourth consecutive Presidents Cup, but he didn’t get it. A win in foursomes with Ancer was the highlight for Leishman, whose halve with Fowler in singles Sunday came after the Americans had already clinched.
Haotong Li: 0-2, D
After sitting out the first two sessions, Li was so nervous that he played out of turn on the second hole in Saturday’s foursomes match, forcing him to re-play his shot. He’s talented but was 4 over through 15 holes when Dustin Johnson closed him out 4 and 3 in singles.
Hideki Matsuyama: 2-1-1, C+
The Japanese star teamed with C.T. Pan to beat Reed and Simpson, twice, but blowing a 4-up lead after 10 holes against Finau in singles was deflating and felt like a loss. Sure, he won 2½ points in four sessions, but the tie on Sunday is going to sting for a long time.
Joaquin Niemann: 0-3-1, C
Expectations for the 21-year-old winner at the Greenbrier this fall were high. Maybe too high. He teamed with Byeong Hun An to come back for a halve against Finau and Kuchar, but he was outclassed by Cantlay on Sunday.
Louis Oosthuizen: 2-1-1, B-
King Louis started red hot, winning two points on Thursday and Friday, but his putting was erratic and he blew a 3-up lead against Kuchar and wound up halving the match that gave the Americans the cup.
C.T. Pan: 2-1, B+
Another Presidents Cup rookie, Pan earned two points paired with Matsuyama and then ran into a buzzsaw in the form of a motivated and hot putting Patrick Reed. Down six through seven holes, he won four of the next six to get within two before falling 4 and 2.
Adam Scott: 2-2-1, B
Playing in his ninth Presidents Cup, and on home soil, it was the perfect setting for Adam Scott, and he made some great shots and a few sweet putts, but losing to Schauffele was a blow to the International team’s hopes. Scott had to carry a big load for Els and he was good, but the Aussie needed to be great.
Cameron Smith: 1-1-1, B
A thorn in the American team’s side, Smith’s boyish looks belie his competitiveness and fire. He made big putts, worked the crowd and was one of only two singles winners on Sunday, beating Justin Thomas.