Breaking down every player on both Presidents Cup rosters

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The U.S. Presidents Cup team, led by playing captain Tiger Woods, heads to Australia as the heavy favorite against an International team led by Ernie Els.

The U.S. team is loaded with experience; the International side has new faces competing in the event for the first time.

Here’s a look at both rosters and what to expect from each of the 24 players set to take part in the event:

U.S. breakdowns by Bob Harig | International breakdowns by Sam Bruce

U.S. team

Dustin Johnson

Presidents Cup appearances: 8-4-2 in three appearances. He has also played in four Ryder Cups.

What to expect: Johnson is also on the mend. He was supposed to play the Hero World Challenge but opted to skip it to prepare for this event. He has been out since the Tour Championship because of knee surgery. That means the U.S. team is without injured Brooks Koepka and with Johnson at less than full strength. Like many American players, Johnson has been strong at the Presidents Cup, not so much at the Ryder Cup, where he went 1-4 in France. But he’s a big hitter who can make a lot of birdies and how much he is able to play remains one of the questions for captain Tiger Woods.

Presidents Cup times and format

Day Time Format
Wednesday 5:30 p.m.-midnight Best-ball format
Thursday 7 p.m.-midnight Alternate-shot format
Friday 3 p.m.-2.am. Double session
Saturday 6 p.m.-midnight Singles
All times ET in the U.S.

Justin Thomas

Presidents Cup appearances: 3-1-1 in one appearance. He was also the Americans’ best player at the 2018 Ryder Cup going 4-1.

What to expect: Quite likely to be the Americans’ strongest player, Thomas could make an excellent partner for Woods, especially in four-ball. But expect Woods to lean heavily on Thomas regardless of who he gets as a partner.

With 11 PGA Tour victories, it is hard to believe that Thomas has played in only one Ryder Cup and that this will be only his second Presidents Cup. Expect him to be a big factor for the U.S. and one the team counts on in these team competitions going forward.

Patrick Cantlay

Presidents Cup appearances: This is Cantlay’s first appearance in either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.

What to expect: Cantlay has emerged as one of America’s steadiest players, as was clear by the number of times he contended in 2019. He had eight top-10 finishes, including a win at the Memorial for his second PGA Tour victory. And he has climbed to No. 6 in the world.

How he will be used is the interesting part. Cantlay could perhaps be paired with multiple players to get a sense of what works for him going forward. He would seem to be a big part of the U.S. team’s future.

Xander Schauffele

Presidents Cup appearances: This is Schauffele’s first appearance in either the Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup.

What to expect: Schauffele is a rookie but sure doesn’t seem like one, given the amount of experience he has contending in tournaments over the past few seasons. How much match-play prowess he has is to be determined, which is why, like Cantlay, he could be ripe for several partnerships.

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Bryson DeChambeau

Presidents Cup appearances: This is DeChambeau’s first Presidents Cup appearance. He went 0-3 at the 2018 Ryder Cup.

What to expect: DeChambeau is another mystery for the United States, as he has not played since early October and declared he was going on a weight-gaining, muscle-building program over a six-week period. His only prep was the Hero World Challenge.

Adding to the dilemma is whom to pair with DeChambeau. His eccentricities make that a challenging proposition, one that Woods is fully aware of — they were waxed 5 and 4 in a foursomes match against Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in Paris.

Webb Simpson

Presidents Cup appearances: 5-3-2 in two appearances, the last in 2013. Has played in three Ryder Cups and went 2-1 last year in Paris.

What to expect: Although Simpson didn’t win in 2019, he missed one cut in 21 starts and had three runner-up finishes as well as a tie for fifth at the Masters. Playing the RSM Classic as well as the Hero World Challenge gave Simpson plenty of reps prior to the start of the competition.

Here’s the problem: no Bubba Watson, who was Simpson’s only partner during the past two team competitions.

Matt Kuchar

Presidents Cup appearances: 6-8-2 in four appearances. He also has played on four Ryder Cup teams (6-7-2) and was a vice captain to Jim Furyk in Paris.

What to expect: Kuchar is coming off a strong season that saw him win twice and post numerous high finishes. He was also in contention at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and is a veteran of team competition with plenty of experience.

The problem is that experience isn’t great. His record is so-so; not as bad as other U.S. players in the Ryder Cup, not as good as others in the Presidents Cup. Kuchar paired twice with Johnson at the 2016 Ryder Cup.

Tony Finau

Presidents Cup appearances: This is Finau’s first Presidents Cup. He went 2-1 at the 2018 Ryder Cup.

What to expect: Finau has been regarded as one of the top rising U.S. players for several years but still has only a single PGA Tour victory — and in an opposite event. And yet, he contends often and is ranked 17th in the world — although he was ninth to begin the year.

Finau finished ninth in the final points standings, just missing out on an automatic spot. So it seemed a pretty obvious choice for Woods, who could do way worse than to pair himself with the long-hitting Finau.

Gary Woodland

Presidents Cup appearances: This is Woodland’s first appearance in either the Presidents Cup or the Ryder Cup.

What to expect: Woodland is stoked to play in his first U.S. team competition. The U.S. Open champion joked that he has been fitted for so many team uniforms over the years but unable to make the team or earn a pick. Two strong tournaments in South Korea and Japan solidified him as a pick.

Woodland said he’d play with anybody, and it’s clear that nobody would have a problem playing with one of the game’s best ball strikers.

Patrick Reed

Presidents Cup appearances: 4-3-2 in two Presidents Cup appearances. Has also played in three Ryder Cups.

What to expect: Captain America is looking for a big bounce back after the disaster that was last year’s Ryder Cup, where Reed looked bad in two losses with Woods and then blew up the entire system by throwing captain Jim Furyk under the bus for not pairing him with Jordan Spieth.

While Reed — in defeat — might ultimately have had a point, it was a bad look and enough to make many wonder if Woods would pick him. By doing so, Woods has helped the U.S. move away from that controversy, and provided the Americans with one of its toughest competitors.

Tiger Woods

Presidents Cup appearances: 24-15-1 in eight appearances. He also has played in eight Ryder Cups, and went 0-4 at the 2018 Ryder Cup.

What to expect: There’s so much to unpack here. How much will Woods, as a playing captain, actually play? Does the long trip to Australia after playing in the Bahamas have any impact? The fact that Saturday is the only day with two sessions provides some cover.

Woods could elect to simply just play four-ball (best ball), which would mean playing Thursday and Saturday, skipping Friday. Or he could play the Thursday and Friday sessions and skip Saturday’s marathon and be ready to go for Sunday singles. And he’s actually required to play only once prior to Sunday. It would be fun to see him paired with Thomas.

Rickie Fowler

Presidents Cup appearances: 4-3-1 in two appearances. He has also played in four Ryder Cups.

What to expect: Fowler, who is subbing for Koepka, is another unknown after not playing following the Tour Championship until the Hero World Challenge. He contracted a bacterial virus while on his honeymoon, which knocked him out of the Mayakoba Classic, which was to be his lone start of the fall. And since winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Fowler has slipped from No. 8 in the world to No. 21.

But Fowler is a safe choice for Woods, who said it was his hardest choice to leave him off when the original picks were made. He has plenty of experience, having played in six team competitions. And he can play with pretty much everyone and gets along with everyone.

The U.S. team enters this Presidents Cup with a big advantage in terms of experience compared to the International side. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

International team

Marc Leishman

Presidents Cup appearances: 3-7-3 in three appearances.

What to expect: Leishman topped the International team standings and will head to Royal Melbourne excited by the chance to play the Presidents Cup on home soil for the first time. The affable Australian had yet another solid year on tour in 2019, while he returns to the Melbourne sandbelt after last year’s second-place finish in the World Cup of Golf.

Look for Leishman to reprise that pairing with compatriot Cameron Smith and boast perhaps more support than any other player on course; Leishman’s home town of Warrnambool is just three hours from Melbourne.

Hideki Matsuyama

Presidents Cup appearances: 4-6-3 in three appearances.

What to expect: The only Japanese player on the team, Matsuyama can still serve as one of the senior players on the International lineup given this is his fourth straight appearance. The five-time PGA winner is enjoying a hot run, putting up a T-3, second and an 11th in his three most recent starts.

The Internationals need Matsuyama to fire if they’re to be any chance of winning and will hope he locks in on what will be some gettable pins at the Royal Melbourne composite layout. Just whom captain Ernie Els pairs him with could prove pivotal.

Louis Oosthuizen

Presidents Cup appearances: 7-5-3 in three appearances.

What to expect: The only player on the International team with a positive playing record, Oosthuizen is flying the South African flag on his own this time around after Els opted not to throw Branden Grace — with whom Oosthuizen has enjoyed success — a captain’s pick.

Oosthuizen’s 2019 stats were solid without being anything eye-catching. Look for Els to use him as both a senior player alongside one of the team’s seven debutants or as a statement pairing with potentially Leishman or Matsuyama.

Adam Scott

Presidents Cup appearances: 14-20-5 in eight appearances.

What to expect: The old hand of the International team, in experience and age, another Presidents Cup on home soil will be particularly special for Scott. And there are few things he craves more — major triumphs aside — than a victory in the biennial team event.

Scott’s 2019 season was highlighted by huge improvement on the greens, which saw him climb from 165th to 31st in strokes gained, putting. The Australian’s swing remains as pure as ever; it’s just a matter of him bringing it altogether and nailing birdies in front of the home crowd.

Abraham Ancer

Presidents Cup appearances: First appearance.

What to expect: The first Mexican player to qualify for the Presidents Cup, Ancer returns to the country where he secured his breakthrough victory: the 2018 Australian Open. While that win came in Sydney, Ancer did pair with countryman Roberto Diaz for a T-2 finish at the World Cup of Golf, at Melbourne’s Metropolitan Golf Club, a week later.

Ancer is the first of seven International players making their debut at the Presidents Cup; Els will be hoping that his Australian success from 2018 — and not the nerves of a rookie — bubbles up to the surface once more.

Haotong Li

Presidents Cup appearances: First appearance.

What to expect: It seems a little curious that this is Li’s first Presidents Cup, such has been his steady progress since turning professional in 2011.

Li can go low and does have the experience of last year’s World Cup of Golf to call on; though Els will be banking on the kind of play that saw him shoot 64 in the opening round of the recent HSBC Champions — and not the 72, 74, 72 that followed.

C.T. Pan

Presidents Cup appearances: First appearance.

What to expect: Hailing from another nation that has never previously provided a Presidents Cup competitor, Pan will fly the flag for Chinese Taipei after a breakthrough PGA Tour season that saw him win the RBC Heritage.

Pan tailed off toward the end of the season and Els will certainly demand greater accuracy into the green — he was ranked 162nd on the PGA Tour for greens in regulation — if Els is to use him across multiple pairings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The 28-year-old does, however, have experience at Royal Melbourne from the 2014 Asia Pacific Amateur Championship.

Cameron Smith

Presidents Cup appearances: First appearance.

What to expect: The third of the Australians to automatically qualify for the event, Smith was desperate to make Els’ squad after falling just short of selection for the 2017 event at Liberty National. The Aussie laid down his claims for Royal Melbourne with a 12th-place FedEx Cup finish in 2018 before slipping to 82nd this season.

Though Smith’s 2019 season didn’t quite hit the heights of his 2018 return, a T-13 and T-3 to start the 2019-20 wrap-around run suggest the tide might be turning. Look for Smith to combine with Leishman on multiple occasions in the foursomes and four-ball.

Joaquin Niemann

Presidents Cup appearances: First appearance.

What to expect: Captain’s picks can often be about timing. That was certainly the case for Niemann who took out the Military Tribute at the Greenbrier in September to grab Els’ attention. The Chilean completes the trio of International participants representing their country for the first time in the event.

Niemann could prove a natural, if bold, pairing alongside Ancer, given the duo’s Spanish-language connection. The Chilean’s numbers are strong from tee to green, but putting remains an issue, particularly from a range of 3-5 feet.

Sung-jae Im

Presidents Cup appearances: First appearance.

What to expect: The PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year, Im enjoyed a stellar debut season that warranted seven top-10s and a further nine top-25 results. The Korean averaged a tick over four birdies for 2019 season, too, which hopefully translates over to the greens of Royal Melbourne.

Will he be awed by the occasion? It’s a question relevant for all six of Els’ rookies, though steadiness off the tee and around the green suggest Im might be OK; a lack of experience in major-type atmospheres does not.

Adam Hadwin

Presidents Cup appearances: 0-2-1 in one appearance.

What to expect: Still in search of his first full Presidents Cup point, Hadwin clearly made an impact on Els two years ago. The International captain lauded the Canadian’s presence around the team room in naming Hadwin among his captain’s picks this time around.

Hadwin featured in only two pairings last time around, but Els has already hinted he probably will use the Canadian more often this time around given his experience of two years ago. A member of the 59 club, Hadwin will be embraced by the parochial Aussie fans if he can produce similar play at Royal Melbourne.

Byeong-Hun (Ben) An

Presidents Cup record: First appearance.

What to expect: Perhaps a tad unlucky to miss a captain’s pick initially, An gets his chance after Jason Day was forced to withdraw just two weeks out from the Presidents Cup. Given he has put together two top-10s in his past three starts through Asia, and a further T-14 at WGC Champions, An was the natural choice for Els.

An’s inclusion brings the International rookies to seven, but it does give Els the ability to select an all-Korean pairing alongside Sung-jae Im. An’s putting from inside 10 feet could be a concern, though, as his 2019 stats from that range were poor.



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