DUBLIN, OHIO (AP) - The status of the Presidents Cup can be measured by one of the top goals for the International team.
It just wants it to be close.
About the only excitement the Presidents Cup has delivered in recent years was Woody Austin falling into the water, Robert Allenby accusing Anthony Kim of a big night out on the town in San Francisco (which looked even worse after Kim clobbered him in singles) and Tiger Woods having to face his old caddie in an opening match just weeks after caddie Steve Williams made a racially insensitive comment about him.
As for the golf?
The Americans have lost only once since the Presidents Cup began in 1994. They have never lost at home. They have three players _ Woods, Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar _ who have won the Memorial at Muirfield Village. And they have only one player who has never competed in a professional cup. That would be 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, who is playing as well as anyone.
That explains why the International team, which wants to win, is at least interested in making a game out of it.
The Presidents Cup gets underway Thursday with six fourballs matches, and here are five things to look for at Muirfield Village:
THE SPIETH FACTOR: Everything is going Spieth’s way this year. He started the season with no status. He had a PGA Tour card locked up in May, he won in July, he nearly won in August, he shot 62 in September to warrant a captain’s pick for the Presidents Cup, and then he contended in the Tour Championship.
How about a hole-in-one on the final day of practice?
Spieth will be paired with Stricker against Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge, and he could cap off an amazing year with an even better week.
PHIL AND KEEGAN: Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley produced the best American team in a losing cause at the Ryder Cup last year at Medinah. Mickelson brought Bradley into the fold during Bradley’s rookie season by playing money games with him in the practice round, and he loved that Bradley was willing to take on any challenge. They went 3-0 in team play at Medinah.
But while they are a good team, that doesn’t always carry over into the next year based on form. Mickelson has won three times this year, including the British Open. Bradley hasn’t won a tournament in more than a year and his form has been unpredictable. They face Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.
OOSTHUIZEN’S HEALTH: Oosthuizen’s swing is the envy of golf. Trouble is, no one has seen it lately. He has recurring back issues from a tubing incident in South Africa in 2005, and he had neck and leg issues that forced him to withdraw from two majors and not play in the PGA Championship. He returned last week at the Dunhill Links Championship, encouraged not so much by his score but that he could walk 18 holes a day with no pain.
The former British Open champion is rusty, and how quickly he gets his game sharp could be critical for the International side.