Who steps up at the Presidents Cup?
And what would you change about the match-play competition?
Our scribes tackle those topics and more in this week's special edition of Presidents Cup Monday Four-Ball.
1. Who will be the breakout star of this year's Presidents Cup for each team?
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Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: For the International squad, I expect people who haven't heard of Hideki Matsuyama are going to learn his name very quickly. On the U.S. side, I'm looking for Bill Haas to be the guy who has a breakout Presidents Cup and solidifies his place on future U.S. team events.
Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Jordan Spieth will continue his spirited and consistent play at Muirfield Village. He wants to prove to the world that captain Fred Couples made the right choice in selecting him to the U.S. team.
On the International side, Adam Scott, in his seventh appearance in the matches (10-13-2 record), will show why he emerged in 2013 with the Masters win and that he is a serious challenger to Tiger Woods for No. 1 in the world in the coming years.
Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: I like Jason Dufner for the U.S and Hideki Matsuyama for the International team. Dufner was quietly very good for the Americans last year at the Ryder Cup and would have gotten far more attention for it had the U.S. won. And Matsuyama has proved to be quite the player in his short time as a pro.
Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Jordan Spieth for the U.S. Straight off his PGA Tour Rookie of the Year award last week, the 20-year-old will show Fred Couples that he made the right choice with his captain's pick. You know how in these team competitions golfers always make those amazing hole-outs or crazy-long putts that completely change the momentum of the matches? Spieth owns that kind of magic in his game. In 2013, he was fourth on the PGA Tour in making putts from 15-25 feet and he often did them in clutch situations, such as draining a bomb at the Wyndham Championship that ended up extending a playoff that Patrick Reed eventually won.
For the International team, Hideki Matsuyama stands out as the guy most American golf fans probably never heard of, but who could come away from this Presidents Cup with 2-3 victories. He's just 21 but isn't afraid of the big stage. The Japanese sensation already has played in five majors and he reached the weekend each time. That includes a T-10 at this year's U.S. Open and a T-6 in July's Open Championship.
2. What do you expect out of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson this week?
Michael Collins: I expect them both to lose once, but not in singles. I see Phil losing a four-ball match and Tiger losing a foursomes (alternate shot) match. They'll play very well because the pressure isn't like the Ryder Cup.
Farrell Evans: Couples could do both Tiger and Phil a favor by putting them with players they like. Tiger is comfortable with Steve Stricker and Phil played really well last year in the Ryder Cup with Keegan Bradley. Yet it's got to be hard for them at this point in their careers to get excited about these team competitions, especially the Presidents Cup. Still, I think their experience should help them both to winning records.
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Bob Harig: It seems that one of them but not both seem do well in these competitions. Phil was great last year at the Ryder Cup, Tiger not so much. Phil also had a very good Presidents Cup in Australia. Tiger went 5-0 at the Presidents Cup in San Francisco while Phil was so-so. Neither seem to put it together at the same time. Which one has it this time is another question.
Kevin Maguire: With Woods and Mickelson, you know they want to win and keep that American dominance going -- the U.S. leads 7-1-1 overall -- but I wonder how much energy those guys have in the tank after playing nearly every week for the past two months. That's not a schedule they're used to, so I suspect energy level might be an issue.
3. What's your favorite part of the Presidents Cup?
Michael Collins: Sunday's singles matches. Even though most of the time the Cup is all but decided, I still like the one-on-one battles that take place between these super competitors.
Farrell Evans: I like that these matches give some of the great players from Australia and South Africa a chance to compete in an international match play competition against the U.S. During the 1980s, it was a shame that Greg Norman, arguably the best player of that era, couldn't be a part of some big match-play competitions against the best Americans and Europeans, such as Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo.
Bob Harig: I like the way the pairings are done, with the captain's alternating selections, which allows them to match up their pairings with what the other side is doing. It is a unique departure from the Ryder Cup and basically assures some good singles matchups.
Kevin Maguire: The pairings, because there isn't that stuffiness that happens at the Ryder Cup. Want that Tiger Woods-Adam Scott match in the Sunday singles? It can easily happen because unlike the Ryder Cup, the captains at the Presidents Cup go back and forth selecting who will play against whom. It was fantasy golf before there was fantasy golf.
4. What would you change about the Presidents Cup?
Michael Collins: Everything. It's not a fair fight. There's a reason flyweight boxers don't fight heavyweights. Individually these guys can compete with one another, but the way the International team is formed gives them no chance at cohesion. Because of the schedule these guys play, I don't see how you can get all these guys to hang out playing together for a week because that's what it would take. Call it the International team's "preseason."
Farrell Evans: The Presidents Cup should be cut down from four days to two. A reduced format would make it more exciting by putting more pressure on every match. Right now, it's just too drawn out.
Bob Harig: The Thursday start is great, which spreads out the competition, but then for some reason they try to cram too much into Saturday, with five four-ball matches and then five foursomes matches. I'd eliminate one of each, going four and four -- just like the Ryder Cup, meaning four players sit out each session. It's still plenty of golf, but means a little less congestion on Saturday, with 32 points -- instead of 34 -- then at stake.
Kevin Maguire: I love Fred Couples as a captain, and I know many -- if not all -- the U.S. players enjoy him leading Team USA, but three straight Presidents Cups at the helm is two too many. I wouldn't use the Ryder Cup as the measuring stick for every situation in match-play competitions, but in terms of captains, they've got it right.
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