The 2017 U.S. Presidents Cup team has been hailed as perhaps the strongest and most perfect squad of players. Led by Captain Steve Stricker, the Americans dominated from the start to finish — which wasn’t exactly a huge surprise given the lopsided (and relatively short) history of these biennial matches, with the U.S. winning 10 of the 12 times its been staged.
There were fleeting moments that were thrilling because, well, two words: Match play. But it was pretty much over after Friday with the Americans . In fact, the Americans nearly clinched the Cup on Saturday, but Anirban Lahiri and Si Woo Kim managed to fend off Charley Hoffmann and Kevin Chappell to win 1-up — it was the only full point clinched by the International Team during both sessions on Saturday.
Still. Sunday didn’t matter. Don’t take it from me — several American players voiced that in the boozy, extremely entertaining winning presser.
*Where to start? Easy. The very beginning. Or perhaps before it officially started? Members of the U.S. team strolled into the interview room in two waves. The first group of players took their seats and Matt Kuchar seized the moment and assumed the role of the moderator. Kuchar doesn’t get enough credit for his improv skills, which are tremendous.
MATT KUCHAR: I’d like to welcome everyone to the 2017 post-Presidents Cup press conference. If we can start this off by —
JUSTIN THOMAS: Tiger Woods is a sh —
MATT KUCHAR: Daniel Berger, tell us, how old are you. 24? What is it like as a 24-year-old to get the final point for TEAM USA, the clinching point for Team USA?
DANIEL BERGER: It was extremely satisfying. I knew it was going to be tough out there. And just happy to be a part of it.
MATT KUCHAR: What’s been your highlight this week?
DANIEL BERGER: I can’t say that. I can’t answer that.
Tiger, what’s been the highlight of your week?
TIGER WOODS: Just being able to hang around you.
DANIEL BERGER: There we go.
MATT KUCHAR: Justin —
*Hold up! — it was like unfiltered, open mic night for DJ. I was all for just handing him the microphone despite a couple guys trying to silence his mic. At last year’s Ryder Cup presser, DJ was also in fine form, but the grown-ups or semi-sober guys… errrr… Well, let’s put it this way, the Ryder Cup is held in higher esteem and it was a big deal that the Americans finally beat the Europeans this year.
Basically, the Americans are the Internationals and the Europeans are the Americans in the biennial matches, and the Ryder Cup means way more because of its history, etc. I love match play, but I am not the biggest fan of trying to compare the Presidents Cup to the Ryder Cup because, well, how do I say this… the players see the Ryder Cup as more prestigious.
But I digress. DJ took on the role of the reporter with a playful jab at Spieth.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Hold on. I’ve got a question for Jordan. I’ve got a question for Jordan. How does it feel to be 0-5 in singles?
JORDAN SPIETH: I’ve won four of five of those team events, so it is what it is, bud (high-fiving.)
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I’ve just got to give him, you know, have to give him a little jab. Golden Child here, Golden Child here needs a little jab every once in a while, just to bring him back down to reality.
*Back to you, Kooch:
MATT KUCHAR: Justin, we know you just missed out on The Ryder Cup. This is your first Cup. Any lasting memories, friendships, thoughts on what it was like to be on your first Cup team?
DANIEL BERGER: I’ll go ahead and take that one for him.
MATT KUCHAR: Any thoughts on your first cup team?
JUSTIN THOMAS: I had a blast.
DANIEL BERGER: I’ll go ahead and take that one for him.
MATT KUCHAR: Well, if there are no further questions, I think we’re done (laughter).
Let’s hear it for Captain Stricker.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: It was an absolute honor to play for Captain Stricker this week.
MATT KUCHAR: At this point, we will open it up for questions (laughter).
KEVIN KISNER: No questions? Time to roll.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: We were all asking questions before you got here.
MATT KUCHAR: No questions? Five, four, three — there we go. We have one. On microphone No. 1.
*Buzzer beater! A question from the media!
Q. For Steve, Jordan, whoever else wants to jump in, congratulations, guys. An amazing five days, but you got beat pretty bad today, 6-3. Talk about the resiliency of this International Team?
DANIEL BERGER: Let me take that one for him —
JUSTIN THOMAS: Stop.
Q. A lot of guys counted these guys out today and they fought back hard and made it a pretty interesting day.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: Honestly, it was really weird being out there today, like knowing there was no chance of losing. It really was, like even in my match, we both played really well.
We ended up halving the match but it was just, I don’t know how to explain it but it was like we were out playing all — I was playing golf with my buddies or something. It was weird. I don’t even know how to explain it but it really was, it was kind of unusual being out there knowing that it really didn’t matter. We were going to win no matter what.
PATRICK REED: It was definitely a different challenge, being as far ahead as we were, only needing one point to clinch, and being kind of the middle of the pack of the groups going out, you knew that probably by the time you make the turn, it’s already going to be done.
We only needed one point, and so I think it just kind of took out a lot of the — a lot of the adrenaline, a lot of the excitement that normally comes with the team events because normally they are a lot closer.
It was different but at the same time, I mean, it was kind of satisfying because how well we played leading into today. I mean, really, today, we could have sent three guys out there and figured out a way to get one point.
JORDAN SPIETH: Not if I was one of them.
PATRICK REED: Yeah, anyone besides him on Sunday.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: If we only had to send three out, Jordan wouldn’t have been one of them.
I highly recommend watching the first 5-7 minutes of the live stream on Periscope. I happened to be there in person, and it was just as funny watching the replay — I’m still laughing.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 1, 2017
You may recall the winning presser last year at the Ryder Cup (not to mention the losing presser in 2014, which was at the time awesome in a messed-up surreal kind of way). That was definitely one of the better U.S. team pressers (and I’ve been to quite a few at this point), but it’s not even close to the same level as this evening’s performance. Man, it’s crazy what happens when you throw in a “few” celebratory drinks.
As you heard (or read) above from several players, the singles matches didn’t matter, so the booze started flowing relatively early. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if the guys were still drunk from last night! I mean, not that they would do that during such a serious exhibition, but Saturday night in Manhattan…
*Even when the PGA Tour moderator finally managed to take control of the presser, the answer to the first attempt at a “serious” question was answered with a few jabs at Phil’s expense:
Q. To you, Steve and to the assistant captains and to Phil, do you envision any format changes —
JORDAN SPIETH: Phil is an assistant captain. You can address him as an assistant captain.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: He’s old enough to be one, though.
*Speaking of comparing the Ryder Cup to the Presidents Cup…
Q. Jim Furyk, what did you see this week that makes you feel good about the 2018 Ryder Cup?
JIM FURYK: Well, they are two different events, but I saw a great team. Really proud of and happy for these guys. Obviously we’ve known there’s a lot of camaraderie. We had five young players, or five new players to international competition, so it’s great to see them not only compete and get experience, but play really, really well.
Hopefully I’d love to have these 12 on our team next year. But I’ll be rooting and cheering for them. I became a lot closer friends with each and every one of them but you know, I really would like them to enjoy what they did this week, soak it all in, have fun with it. A month from now we’ll get to work and we’ll start getting ready for Paris.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I feel like there was 11 young players and just one old one (laughter) (looking at Phil).
PHIL MICKELSON: It’s all right. We won.
KEVIN KISNER: Turn DJ’s mic off.
*Spieth handled this really well. And the transcript doesn’t include that after the question there was sort of an awkward silence for a split second before Jordan, a natural leader, took control.
Q. What was it like sharing the stage with President Trump, for anyone that would like to answer.
JORDAN SPIETH: Strick?
KEVIN KISNER: He called you. You’re captain.
STEVE STRICKER: You said anybody.
DUSTIN JOHNSON: I thought it was awesome.
JORDAN SPIETH: No, Steve speaks for all of us.
STEVE STRICKER: I thought it was a great thrill. A lot of us have either met and played with The Presidents Cup, or I know some of these guys live down in the same area that he comes down and plays with.
I thought it was a great opportunity for us to be with him. And this tournament is about respecting the Office, respecting the President of the United States, and whether your views may be one way versus another, that wasn’t what it was about there on the green. It was about us getting together as a team, playing for one another, playing for the USA and it was a great thrill for all of us to get the trophy handed to us from him.
*Berger’s turn to take a shot at Chappell:
Q. Out of the five — first five, six players out before you guys, was there one guy that really wanted to go out and get that clinching point more than anyone, and how does it feel that you were that guy?
DANIEL BERGER: Yeah, I think everyone wanted to get that clinching point but it was going to probably be one of those first guys. I thought after I looked up at the board and Chappy was 2-up with, you know, some holes to play, I thought he would have done it. But it was a team effort.
KEVIN KISNER: Called you out.
DANIEL BERGER: You were 1-down? I thought you were winning.
KEVIN CHAPPELL: I was winning early, but then I wasn’t.
*Kuch roasts Phil. This was epic.
MATT KUCHAR: This team was just an amazing bunch of guys, amazing performance. Everybody was on great form. For us to have — we had 11 guys in THE TOUR Championship; everybody except Phil Mickelson was at East Lake (laughter).
It was like, how many times does it happen that you get 11 out of 12. If it was only for Phil, we would have had 12 of 12, but Phil was not there. So if we just — we were one guy short of having an entire team there (laughter) and if Phil was there, that would have been the whole team. Like how many times does a team ever have that many guys play that well to make the TOUR champion?
PHIL MICKELSON: Gave me a chance to go home and work on my game in case it did come down to my singles match, you know.
MATT KUCHAR: Justin, tell him how great East Lake was.
*Question for any player on their favorite song on the first tee Sunday: Jordan Spieth volunteered. And it was epic.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 2, 2017
JORDAN SPIETH: I was so embarrassed every time they sang it. It was incredible.
*Kisner chimed in:
KEVIN KISNER: I liked, “Nine Cups, you’ve got one, we’ve got nine Cups.”
JUSTIN THOMAS: You can make that ten, Kiz.
KEVIN KISNER: I think we add one — did y’all learn that at Alabama?
*Then DJ got involved and couldn’t stop “shaking that ass.”
DUSTIN JOHNSON: “Si-Woo shaking that ass.” (Laughter) best song, ever, ever, by any side.
DJ shaking that ass. pic.twitter.com/lIffzIHmOY
— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) October 1, 2017
A+, Team USA. Well done and congrats!!! I have a feeling they’re celebrating in style and they deserve it. And I know it’s Sunday, but trust me, there’s never a night where you can’t find a good party in NYC.
Finally, I just loved seeing Tiger Woods on the golf course having fun and just being one of the guys. On Friday evening when the player ferry rolled up a few seconds after the VIP/Media ferry, it was pretty surreal to catch Tiger wearing an all-white rain suit and a backpack strolling down the street in Manhattan. But I was just happy to see him. I know we’d all love to see him playing golf again, but I don’t want to watch him struggle and in pain. He has alluded or outright said that he doesn’t know or will never know what it’s like for his body to feel “normal” again, which is a difficult thing to accept and come to terms with. I can empathize and went outside my comfort zone and wrote about my own experience somewhat recently.
Thank you for everything, Tiger — he deserves credit for inspiring generations of sports fans, including the majority of the players on the American team. Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, etc. might not have been sitting up there and hoisting the trophy Sunday if Tiger Woods hadn’t set such a high standard and performed the heroics that have forever changed the game.
Golf still has a long ways to go, but I can’t imagine where it would be without Tiger Woods.