The Presidents Cup and Seve Trophy
With no regular tournaments on the two main Tours team matchplay will be the focus of golf this week and the double for home wins in the Presidents Cup and Seve Trophy pays about 11/8. The United States and Continental Europe have the form and experience in the format to land the bet but punters may be more interested in the more financially rewarding top point’s scorer markets.
The Presidents Cup is played in non-Ryder Cup years and brings together the best players from America and the rest of the world other than Europe. The Seve Trophy matches golfers from Great Britain and Ireland and the rest of Europe. Both events are being televised live but will always suffer from comparisons with the Ryder Cup.
The Seve Trophy in particular fails to attract the best players that are qualified and it’s a shame that a concept named after the charismatic Ballesteros is such a poor relation to the biannual matches from the best players from Europe and the United States. Sergio Garcia is not the only player to shun the event but gets most criticism because he is a compatriot of Ballesteros.
The Ryder Cup qualifying process has already begun and although there are no ranking points on offer this week, any player that opts to gain experience in team golf will gain some credibility as a potential qualifier. There are so few opportunities in professional golf to work as a team that any exposure to the format can only be a positive in the context of being considered as a Captain’s pick for the Ryder Cup.
This week’s renewal is the tenth Presidents Cup and the United States have yet to be beaten. The match was tied in South Africa in 2003 but the Americans have won every other time. The winning margin in the last four events has been 3,5,5 and 4 points and on current form and respective world rankings we can expect something similar this time. The American contingent includes nine members of last year’s Ryder Cup side.
The format differs from the Ryder Cup it that there are six extra matches, played over four days. All 12 players must play foursome and fourball matches on Thursday and Friday, two players sit out each session on Saturday and everybody plays a singles match on Sunday. This schedule means the team captains cannot protect the supposedly weaker players before the final day singles.
The Presidents Cup is being played at the Muirfield Village course designed by Jack Nicklaus that is the regular host of the Memorial tournament on the US PGA Tour. At about 7500 yards the course is above average in length by modern standards. However, there is a premium on accuracy over distance and the greens can be difficult to hit so scrambling will be a key skill. Nicklaus designs courses that test all aspects of a player’s game and this layout in Ohio looks a good venue for matchplay golf.
Betting on the player to score most points for his team can be tricky so anyone taking a punt should keep stakes to a minimum. Tiger Woods is the favourite to be Top American and he fits a key criteria in that he is unlikely to be rested over the four days of competition. However, the best golfer of the modern era doesn’t seem a good fit for partnership golf, despite being very bullish before every Ryder Cup.
His record in the Presidents Cup is more in keeping with his status. His partnership with Steve Stricker has been fruitful and Stricker was given a wildcard for last year’s Ryder Cup due to his compatibility with Woods. However, they failed to deliver as a pair at Medinah last year but Sticker has an ideal skill’s profile for Muirfield Village and his scrambling skills will be a strong asset in foursomes.
The Seve Trophy is being staged for the eighth time this week. Continental Europe’s only win was in the inaugural event in 2000. The matches used to be played in even years but after the rescheduling of the Ryder Cup due to the Americans refusing to travel after 9/11 it is now held in odd years when there is no Ryder Cup. The Saint-Nom La-Breteche course near Paris is the host for the third year running and at less than 7000 yards in length will favour the accurate rather than long hitters.
Since 2005 when 28 points were available for the first time Great Britain and Ireland’s margin of victory has been 5,5,5 and 3 points However, on paper Europe seems to have the strong team relative to the opposition for the first time. Fewer qualified players from the rest of the continent have swerved the contest than the British and Ireland qualifiers.
The Seve Trophy is played over four days and therefore not quite as intense as the Ryder Cup, played over one day less. The first three days involve just pair’s matches, foursomes and fourballs. All 10 members of each side play in the singles on the final day. If the teams are tied at the end of play the captains select two players to contest a sudden death greensome, with all four players hitting a tee shot on every hole.
In the absence of Garcia Miguel Angel Jimenez is the only representative from the country of the birth of the player the matches honour. The veteran from Spain has played in four Ryder Cups and seven previous Seve Trophy’s and his experience will be an important factor in the team room. Jimenez won the now ceased Lancôme Trophy in 1998 at the host French course.
Thomas Bjorn was a non-playing captain in 2009 and was one of Jose Maria Olazabal’s assistants at the Ryder Cup. He now has a playing role and on paper looks a leading contender to score most points for Continental Europe. Joost Luiten and Gregory Bourdy are other Europeans with a decent profile this week while Paul Casey has the ability to make a significant contribution to their opponents point’s tally.
The key to these matches is how individual members buy into the team ethic which is alien to them for most of the year. The rest of the world squad for the Presidents Cup has a strong South African contingent but the Americans may be more motivated to play for the flag especially after the heartache of last year’s Ryder Cup. The reverse is true for the Seve Trophy in which the mix of Europeans from eight different countries should prove too strong for their rivals from Britain and Ireland.