Presidents Cup, there could be Tiger Woods

The U.S. Team rallied on the final day of the previous Presidents Cup to avoid an upset on a Royal Melbourne layout that was a mystery to most of its roster. Now the biennial competition between the U.S. and International teams returns to more familiar territory. Next year’s Presidents Cup will be held at Charlotte’s Quail Hollow Club, the annual venue for the Wells Fargo Championship (the 2022 Wells Fargo will be played at TPC Potomac in Avenel, Maryland, to allow Quail Hollow to prepare for the Presidents Cup).

Presidents Cup, the list

Davis Love III, a University of North Carolina alum, will helm the U.S. Team after leading two Ryder Cup squads. His 2012 team rolled through the opening two days before Europe staged an historic upset in Singles, known as the Miracle at Medinah, to score a road victory. Love’s 2016 team ensured that history didn’t repeat itself, winning 17-11 at Minnesota’s Hazeltine Golf Club.

Love also was a vice captain at this year’s Ryder Cup, giving him a front-row seat to watch the young talent that will undoubtedly form the core of his squad. He’s obviously excited to lead a team coming off a record Ryder Cup win.

Love’s team will be comprised of the top six players in the U.S. points standings after the 2022 BMW Championship. Players have been accumulating points in the Presidents Cup standings since the opening event of the 2020 season. Every FedExCup point earned during that campaign is worth a half-point in the Presidents Cup standings. FedExCup points earned in 2020-21 are worth one point, and each FedExCup point earned this season is worth three. (For the Presidents Cup standings, FedExCup Playoffs events are weighted the same as World Golf Championships.)

Love also will have six captain’s picks to round out the squad, giving him plenty of roster flexibility. To help you prepare for the upcoming Presidents Cup, Pga Tour wrote a dozen names to consider for the next U.S. squad. This is supposed to be a fun exercise so don’t yell and scream because your favorite player wasn’t included (players are listed in alphabetical order).

Sam Burns

Age: 25
Previous Presidents Cups: 0
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 2

Burns narrowly missed out on a spot on this year’s Ryder Cup team after a breakout season that included his first win, at the Valspar Championship, and his first TOUR Championship appearance.

How’d Burns respond to his Ryder Cup near-miss? By winning his next start, the Sanderson Farms Championship, and contending in his next two events. Burns’ worst finish in four starts this fall is T14; he finished seventh or better in three of those events.

Injuries earlier in his TOUR career slowed his progress, but he’s fulfilling the lofty expectations that came after he was college golf’s player of the year in 2017, finished in the top-10 of a TOUR event while still an amateur and beat Tiger Woods while playing alongside the legend in the final round of the 2018 Honda Classic.

Patrick Cantlay
Age: 29
Previous Presidents Cups: 1 (2019)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 8

Coming off a four-win season, it seems assured that the reigning FedExCup champion will be on the roster at Quail Hollow. His well-rounded game – he ranked in the top 30 of all four Strokes Gained categories last season – makes him an ideal partner in any format.

He went 3-0-1 at Whistling Straits this year – extending his individual record in international team events to 6-2-1 — and his bromance with Xander Schauffele guarantees he already has a partner queued up for Quail Hollow.

Bryson DeChambeau
Age: 28
Previous Presidents Cups: 1 (2019)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 7

His driver produced some of the most memorable shots from this most recent Ryder Cup. There was the 417-yard blast that left him just a wedge into one par-5 and he drove the first green in his Singles win over Sergio Garcia.

He’s been driving for show (and dough) since his radical transformation before the previous Presidents Cup, leading the PGA TOUR in driving distance and Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in each of the past two seasons while also ranking in the top 20 of Strokes Gained: Putting each season.

Quail Hollow can reward the big bomber. Look at Rory McIlroy’s success there. DeChambeau finished T9 in this year’s Wells Fargo Championship despite flying home to Dallas after thinking he missed the cut. A pair of 68s on the weekend moved him from the cut line and into the top 10.

Dustin Johnson
Age: 37
Previous Presidents Cups: 4 (2011, 2015, 2017, 2019)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 13

This year’s Ryder Cup was the first since 1993 in which neither Phil Mickelson or Woods competed, leaving Johnson as the elder statesman of the American squad. It’s a quiet leadership, but one that his teammates respect. His record speaks for itself: Twenty-four PGA TOUR wins, including two majors and a FedExCup. And his best performance in one of these intercontinental tussles came in the most recent one.

He was the oldest member of this year’s Ryder Cup team (by a decent margin) but also the only one to go 5-0-0. He formed a strong partnership with a player more than a decade younger than him, Collin Morikawa. “He’s the oldest guy on our team, and it’s a very quiet leadership, but he makes his presence known,” Morikawa said. It’s hard to imagine an American team without Johnson, especially after what he did this year at Whistling Straits.

Phil Mickelson
Age: 51
Previous Presidents Cups: 12 (1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017)
Current President Cup ranking: 59

Look, it’s a longshot. We know it. Phil knows it. But it’s a thought worth entertaining. He readily admits that he needs to play better. But outside Augusta National and Pebble Beach, there may not be another course that elicits more excitement from Mickelson. He has 10 top-10s in 16 starts in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. Even this year, he shot a first-round 64 that provided a glimpse of what was to come in his next start, his record-setting win at the PGA Championship.

Dominant PGA TOUR Champions seasons from both Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer led some to call for inclusion on their respective Ryder Cup teams. Mickelson could do something similar, having won four of six starts on that circuit. He relished being a vice captain in this year’s Ryder Cup – his banter on the radios was reportedly legendary – but his tenure as a playing member of the U.S. teams came to an unceremonious end in the United States’ loss at the 2018 Ryder Cup, where Mickelson went 0-2. Playing on this team could allow him to end on a winning note.

Collin Morikawa
Age: 24
Previous Presidents Cups: 0
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 1

He’s 24 years old and already owns two major championships. In an era obsessed with distance, Morikawa gets it done with the best iron play on TOUR. He acquitted himself nicely in this year’s Ryder Cup, his first time representing the U.S. in an international team competition as a pro.

He went 3-0 with Dustin Johnson – winning twice in Foursomes and once in Four-balls – before securing the clinching point by doing what he does best, hitting his 221-yard tee shot to 3 feet on the par-3 17th. After Morikawa snatched the Claret Jug, Ryder Cup and Race to Dubai trophy in 2021, Europe may want to lock up the Champions League trophy and perhaps even the Magna Carta, lest he run off with those prizes as well.

Scottie Scheffler
Age: 25
Previous Presidents Cups: 0
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 6

Beating the World No. 1 in Singles automatically earns you an exemption onto the next U.S. Team, right? Scheffler was DeChambeau’s right-hand man in this year’s Ryder Cup before blitzing Jon Rahm in Singles. Scheffler, the 2020 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, is still seeking his first win but the way he handled Rahm definitely counts for something. Scheffler birdied the first four holes en route to a 4-and-3 victory.

This season is off to a strong start, with a fourth-place finish at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and a T2 at the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open. The fact that he’s finished in the top 20 in his last six majors – including four finishes of eighth or better – show that his game is suited for the biggest stages.

Webb Simpson
Age: 37
Previous Presidents Cups: 3 (2011, 2013, 2019)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 19

Charlotte’s favorite son  — Simpson lives on Quail Hollow – is a good bet to get a captain’s pick if he’s on the bubble for this team. He almost earned one for this year’s Ryder Cup team despite seeing a streak of four consecutive TOUR Championship berths come to an end. It was a difficult season for Simpson, who’d become a top-10 player in the world during his career resurgence. There was a COVID diagnosis and a neck injury that forced him to withdraw from the Wells Fargo. He finished the fall with a T8 at The RSM Classic that showed positive signs. He gained nearly 10 strokes with his approach play, more than three strokes ahead of Talor Gooch, who won the event and finished second to Simpson in that stat.

Simpson is a model teammate who’s respected by his peers, which is why he was on the short list of potential captain’s picks for this year’s Ryder Cup. Morikawa said at this year’s Olympics that tries to emulate Simpson’s balance of on- and off-course responsibilities, and he’s not alone in expressing that sentiment. Simpson still is one of the best players on TOUR from the approach shot in. Pair him with a long hitter and you have a formidable Foursomes pairing. And Simpson’s ability to make birdies in bunches pays off in Four-balls.

Jordan Spieth
Age: 28
Previous Presidents Cups: 3 (2013, 2015, 2017)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 18

It’s the smallest of samples – just four rounds – but Spieth’s performance in his lone start of the fall could portend a successful season. He gained more than four strokes off the tee on the wide-open fairways of Summit Club, where he finished T18 in THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT. He was off the rest of the fall as he awaited the birth of his first child. The driver is the one club that still needs work. It’s trending in the right direction, though. Last year, he was just a tick below average in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, his best performance in that stat since 2018. As we know, Spieth doesn’t need to drive it on a string to succeed. He just needs to keep it on the planet. Spieth is a stalwart of these U.S. teams, and the plug-and-play partnership with Thomas adds a boost to his candidacy should he need a captain’s pick.

Justin Thomas
Age: 29
Previous Presidents Cups: 2 (2017, 2019)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 3

This Presidents Cup gives Thomas an opportunity to return to the site of his 2017 PGA Championship win, and a chance to play for the captain he’s known since college. Thomas was teammates at Alabama with Love’s son, Dru. Thomas is 6-2-2 in his two Presidents Cup appearances and has become the United States’ biggest on-course catalyst, doubling as one of its best players and its most vocal competitor. He and Spieth have proven to be more than good friends, as well. They’ve formed a formidable pairing, going 4-2-0 together in Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup play. Having one of the best iron players in the game on your team is always an asset, as well. The reigning PLAYERS champion has ranked no worse than sixth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green in each of the last five seasons.

Matthew Wolff
Age: 23
Previous Presidents Cups: 0
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 11

Matthew Wolff has become the poster child for mental health awareness after his leave of absence last season. He’s started an important conversation, but let’s not also forget that he’s also one of the most promising prospects in the game. Stepping away helped him learn how to cope with the pressures of stardom, and a late-night adjustment to his setup before the Sanderson Farms Championship has unleashed his unique, powerful action once again.

Wolff had the best resume when he turned pro alongside Morikawa and Viktor Hovland and was the first to win, becoming the just the third player to win an NCAA individual title and PGA TOUR event in the same year (Tiger Woods and Ben Crenshaw are the others). He finished in the top 4 in his first two majors and reached as high as 12th in the world ranking. The pressure got to Wolff last season, but he showed wisdom in deciding to step away. His enthusiasm for the game has returned and it showed with back-to-back top-5 finishes this fall. That run started at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he was thinking about his swing while in bed and realized that his setup was off. “From that point on I’ve just been rolling,” he said.

Tiger Woods
Age: 45
Previous Presidents Cups: 9 (1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2019)
Current Presidents Cup ranking: 118

What will Tiger Woods’ role be at next year’s Presidents Cup? That’s for Tiger Woods to decide. Love said he’d even step aside as captain if Woods requested to lead the team for a second consecutive Cup. According to Love, Woods was in consideration to return as captain but turned down the role to focus on his playing career. If Woods can walk 18 holes, there’s a chance he’ll be on this team. Perhaps as a playing vice captain. It’s been a difficult road to recovery and Woods loves the camaraderie of these team events. Even if he can only play one Foursomes match and Singles, his appearance on the roster would mean so much to Tiger, his teammates and the event.

Look to 2011 as something of a precedent for Tiger making a team as a part-time player. Woods was inconsistent during just nine starts in that injury-interrupted year. He didn’t have a top-10 after the Masters but was still picked for the team and scored the clinching point for the U.S. Team at Royal Melbourne. And if he can’t play? Woods has shown his passion for playing any role he can in these team events, so it would be no surprise to see him assisting Love, just as he did at the Ryder Cup five years ago.