In Part 1 of our 2019 Presidents Cup preview, we broke down Royal Melbourne and what challenges each team will face during all four days of match play. In Part 2, we played devil’s advocate and considered all the scenarios in which the seemingly invincible United States team can choke away the Presidents Cup and allow the Internationals to win for only the 2nd time in 13 competitions.
Will the heavily favored Americans go down in embarrassingly fashion? Or will they live up to the expectations and retain the Cup. Here are our best bets for how the competition will play out (with odds courtesy of mybookie.ag).
Top International Point Scorer
Louis Oosthuizen (5.5/1) & Marc Leishman (7/1): I expect both players to play every session of the Presidents Cup, meaning they’ll have the maximum amount of chances to score points. The other two I expect to play every day are Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama, but I like the form of Oosthuizen and Leishman a little better and how they can translate their strengths to Royal Melbourne. Both excel on firm, fast and windy golf courses like Royal Melbourne and both have shown great ball- striking and putting in several overseas events leading up to the competition.
Byeong Hun An (14/1): Ernie Els is going to have to put him in smart pairings this week because of how bad his putting can be at times. But An is one of the better ball-strikers on the International team and is a fantastic scrambler. With a good pairing, he could be a formidable force. I expect him to at least be out there on Day 1 four-ball, and if he gets off to a good start then he’ll for sure be teamed up on Day 2 in alternate shot. Alternate shot is the format I expect him to be best at, so there’s an outside chance he could be featured in all five sessions of the Presidents Cup should the first two days go well for him.
Top American Point Scorer
Patrick Reed (8/1): Whatever you may think of the cheating scandal, all at least appears to be well on the American side with the handling of it internally. Tiger Woods publicly went to bat for Reed in the press conferences this week and Justin Thomas made light of it in a practice round by joking about it while in a bunker. Most people think he’s going to be way too big of a distraction with all the ire from the fans, but I think both him and the team are going to use it as fuel and motivation, which is something they very badly needed given how big of favorites they are. Reed is playing fantastic golf the last few months and has all the tools in his arsenal to play well at Royal Melbourne. Good play from him this week might heal fresh wounds from the cheating scandal.
Gary Woodland (12/1): Woodland has transformed himself from a bomb-and-gouger to a ball-striker not afraid to dial it back off the tee to play positional golf. Woodland has also tremendously improved his scrambling and putting this year, which is what helped him win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in June. I think Woodland is going to be the rookie who shines the most on the American side this year and with good pairings stands a chance to contend as top point scorer for them.
Webb Simpson (12/1): Simpson is one of the few players in this competition who already has Royal Melbourne experience under his belt when he played there for the 2011 Presidents Cup. That week he went 3-2 while paired with Bubba Watson, and with how well his form is in ball striking, scrambling and putting he should be in for another good showing.
Internationals Win Day 1 Four-Ball (2/1): I’m concerned the Americans are going to get out to a sluggish start because of the learning curve needed to navigate Royal Melbourne and the jet lag they might still be battling after flying in from the Bahamas on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Internationals are 2-0-1 in the first four-ball session of the Presidents Cup when it is held outside the United States, and the home crowd should be fired up especially in the wake of the Patrick Reed cheating scandal. Given how presumed it is the United States is going to walk all over the Internationals, I love getting 2/1 to fade that perception. I can easily see the Internationals get out to an early lead on Day 1 and have us going to bed on Wednesday night wondering what’s wrong with the Americans.
Total Points Scored – Adam Scott -110 over Hideki Matsuyama: I’m not all that concerned that Adam Scott played poorly at the Australian Open last week in his preparation for the Presidents Cup. The Australian Golf Club is a Jack Nicklaus design, which has a distinct American flavor and has very little correlation to Royal Melbourne. Adam Scott is more than comfortable on sandbelt golf courses and knows exactly what it takes to play well at Royal Melbourne. As for Matsuyama, while he’s arguably the best ball-striker on the International team, I’m concerned that’s not going to translate as well as people think it will to Royal Melbourne. Matsuyama plays a very aerial style of golf where he prefers to launch high approach shots and spin balls close to the hole. That’s not something he’ll be able to do at Royal Melbourne. His shaky putter is also a huge concern, especially for match play format. Scott should be more of a contributor to the success of the Internationals this week.
On Monday I wrote a column outlining all the ways it could go wrong for the heavily favored Americans. I wasn’t just trying to write a shock column or put out clickbait – all those concerns I outlined in the column are completely legitimate. I’m worried that the logistics of having almost the entire team play in the Bahamas a week before the Presidents Cup and then fly across the globe is going to get them off to a slow start. I’m worried that Royal Melbourne is a golf course completely different than the normal PGA Tour setups they’re used to where they can bomb-and-gouge and stick wedges close on squishy greens. And everyone has already crowned them as winners of the 2019 Presidents Cup because we all assume they’re the more talented team.
But at the end of the day, one way or the other, the Americans are going to win anyways.
Everyone looks at the talent difference between the two teams as why the United States dominates the Internationals, but it goes deeper than that. I think one of the reasons why the Internationals are always underdogs is because it’s almost impossible to ever give them a true home game. There’s two ways this is accomplished. One is through the fans at the event willing the team to the win. It’s easy for the European players and their fans at the Ryder Cup to feed off each other because they rally around continental unity. They each share the same momentous stakes and come together to fight for Europe. Everyone can buy in and gravitate to that idea.
But in the Presidents Cup, how much invested are the International fans to members of the team from opposite sides of the globe? Do South Korean fans really care about Adam Hadwin? Do Australian fans really care about Abraham Ancer? Can all of the fans have some sort of personal stake in this idea of uniting together to win the Presidents Cup for “Planet Earth sans America and Europe”, a completely arbitrary and made up thing? And all of these questions can be asked about the members of the team – what exactly are they fighting for together other than to win some corporate created exhibition match?
The other way to create a home field advantage for the Internationals is golf course set up. This too is an almost impossible challenge to host a Presidents Cup outside the United States that will not only put the Americans at a disadvantage, but put the Internationals at a distinct advantage. The Europeans at least grew up playing a similar style of golf and their Captains can set up a venue to suit their strengths. But for the Internationals, all of them played a different style of golf growing up. The golf played in Canada is different than that played in Australia and different than that played in Japan.
While Royal Melbourne is going to make the Americans play a style of golf they’re not comfortable with, it’s going to make the Internationals uncomfortable too. Eleven of the twelve members of the International team are full-blown members of the PGA Tour. They play and prefer the same style of golf as the Americans do, where they can pound driver all day long, chip out of fluffy rough and stop balls on a dime on flat, soft greens.
There are members of the International team that can adapt to the style of play needed to play well at Royal Melbourne. I expect all the Australians, Byeong Hun An and Louis Oosthuizen to play well there. But everyone else on the team is highly questionable and won’t enjoy any sort of home field advantage or play a style they’re comfortable with. Joaquin Niemann, Sungjae Im, C.T. Pan and Adam Hadwin have probably never seen anything like Royal Melbourne in their golf careers. While Hao Tong Li plays on the European Tour, he primarily thrives on the Americanized golf courses on the schedules such as those in the Middle East or Asia. And I’m worried how Hideki’s game can translate from soft bomb-and-gouge tracks to a firm and fast Royal Melbourne.
With the Internationals having just as big of a learning curve as the Americans, it then will come down to pure talent and the Americans are just flat out better. It’s going to have to go really, really wrong for the Americans and really, really right for the Internationals to make the miracle upset possible. I don’t think either team is going to play particularly well this week, and many holes will be decided with conceded pars instead of dramatic birdie putts to ratchet up the pressure. By hook or by crook, it will be the Americans winning the 2019 Presidents Cup at -275.
There’s multiple ways to bet this. One way is to just lay the juice on -275, set it and forget it. Another way is to include them in some sort of parlay this weekend. For example, you can parlay together the Americans, the Ravens ML (vs. Jets) and 49ers ML (vs. Falcons) and get -129 odds on it. If you’re not comfortable laying all that juice on just the Americans at the Presidents Cup, string them together in whatever other parlay you like for the weekend.
Lastly, while the Americans will win the Presidents Cup, I don’t think it’s going to be a blow out. I think the Internationals are going to be within striking distance heading into Sunday Singles, and then the Americans will pull away for a close victory. I’m picturing a score somewhere between 16-14 and 17.5-12.5. Those four score combinations are all available at either 9/1 or 10/1. If you put down a unit on all of those, your payoff will end up being at least 6/1 should it hit.