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With Els Out, Expect Tiger to Lead U.S. to Victory in Presidents Cup

By Yong-yi Zhu

What’s on the line this weekend when the U.S. team plays the International team at the Robert Trent Jones golf course for the sixth installment of the Presidents Cup? Bragging rights from the last two years come with this year’s trophy. At the last Presidents Cup, captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player decided to end the matches in a tie because play was suspended, and nobody wanted to come back Monday to finish.

This is perhaps one of the best lineups in recent memory. The U.S. team, led by Captain Jack Nicklaus, includes Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Chris DiMarco, Jim Furyk, Fred Funk, Stewart Cink, Davis Love III, Scott Verplank, Justin Leonard, and Fred Couples. The International team, captained by the great Gary Player, boasts Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Angel Cabrera, Tim Clark, Michael Campbell, Stuart Appleby, Mike Weir, Nick O’Hern, Mark Hensby, Peter Lonard and Trevor Immelman. With only Ernie Els and Sergia Garcia missing from the big names, this is one of the strongest groups of golfers ever assembled. Because the Presidents Cup is a team event, little attention has been drawn to it; it will be unfortunate if people miss such high quality competition.

So who is going to come out on top? The U.S. players usually do much better in man on man Sunday showdowns than in foursome or four-ball matches. But this year’s matches have more on the line; I think Captain Nicklaus will communicate that to the players.

The International team will suffer tremendously without Ernie Els. Last year, he was the one to tie Tiger Woods in extra holes. Can Vijay lead the Internationals the same way Els did? Probably not. He just doesn’t have the same character. But when it comes to duels with El Tigre, Vijay has not done too badly. Remember, he wrestled the top spot in the world golf rankings from Tiger right in front of Woods’ eyes.

The U.S. team will still have too much for the International team to handle. They simply have more experienced players like Davis Love III and Justin Leonard. The Europeans have to go with newer players like Nick O’Hern.

I think the U.S. team can take advantage of the Europeans’ weaknesses on Sunday. It won’t be easy, but hopefully darkness, Monday and the captains’ arbitrary decisions won’t be as big a factor this time.