Presidents Cup swings into action

Mickelson, who has an 18-14-10 Presidents Cup record, says he has grown fond of the team clashes.

US golfer Phil Mickelson in action at the 2013 British Open Golf Championship in July. Picture: AFP/GLYN KIRK

CAPE TOWN - The Presidents Cup is underway and on average the US team is a bit older than other teams, but a little bit more experienced, with 12 more Presidents Cup appearances. The Internationals have two elder statesmen in Ernie Els and Angel Cabrera at 43-years old each, while the Americans have Phil Mickelson (43) and Steve Stricker (46).

Mickelson has achieved plenty of success in his career but on Wednesday the five-time major winner said his status as the only golfer to play in every Presidents Cup is among the accomplishments in which he takes great pride.

Mickelson said he was a captain's pick in 1994 but earned his spot on the team ever since based on his place in the Cup standings.

Mickelson and Bradley will take part in what is arguably the marquee contest of the opening day against South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Age may not be an advantage, but these men will no doubt have leadership roles within the teams. As for the players on the other end of the spectrum, the US has a virtual rookie in 20-year old wonderkind Jordan Speith, while the Internationals have 21-year old Japanese sensation Hideki Matsuyama.

Scoring averages per round this year are negligible, but the US players have made more birdies per round on average this year. For the US, two players' averages are above 70 strokes per round, while Tiger Woods is the only player with an average under 69.

The Internationals scoring leader on average is the young Matsuyama, who's average is similar to Woods's, while seven players are above 70 strokes per round. South African Branden Grace has the highest scoring average, just shy of par.

More importantly for match-play situations, the US has three players who average over 4 birdies per round in Woods, Mickelson and Stricker. South Africa's Schwartzel is the only International to match that.

The Internationals are noticeably longer off the tee and what's remarkable is that Tim Clark missed out on selection primarily because he is a shorter hitter. Internationals captain Nick Price is expecting distance to be a factor with soft fairways not expected to offer much at Muirfield Village.

However the US has the longest driver in Keegan Bradley, who is the only player in both groups who averages over 300 yards. The 'shortest' hitter off the tee is Zach Johnson and not far behind is Brandt Snedeker, but he still managed a very high birdie average of 3.97, which is a testament to his superior putting stroke.

Otherwise the US also hit more fairways off the tee and have better iron play, finding the green more often than the Internationals. So all in all the statistics speak in favour of the US in almost all departments. The fact that the Internationals are a bit longer is negated by the fact that they are more wayward off the tee and have a bit more trouble finding the greens.

The Americans are also significantly more experienced when it comes to the Presidents Cup tournaments and are, in my book, the clear and undisputed favourites to win on home soil.

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