Up for the Cup: A brief history of the Presidents Cup

The U.S. team celebrates its win over the Internationals in 2019.

The U.S. team celebrates its win over the Internationals in 2019.

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The Presidents Cup — aka Not the Ryder Cup — is the men’s professional team competition without those pesky Europeans (and, this year at least, without LIV golfers). Started in 1994 by the PGA Tour, these biennial matches between the U.S. and the International team have, collectively, proven one-sided for the Americans — though, individually, they’re sometimes thrilling. They’re also hugely successful at spreading the gospel of golf globally, raising money for charities worldwide, introducing young stars to a wide audience and, yes, keeping golf in the public eye during the NFL season. Here’s a highlight reel.


Robert Trent Jones GC, in Virginia, hosted the first four Presidents Cups on U.S. soil. And in the first-ever Presidents Cup session, the U.S. set the tone for the competition with a 5-0 sweep of the Friday morning four-ball, including the dogged Corey Pavin/Jeff Maggert duo edging International stars Vijay Singh and Steve Elkington 2 and 1. Final tally: U.S. 20, Internationals 12.


Fred Couples capped his Cup-clinching 2 and 1 singles win over Singh with a dramatic putt — which he feted by flinging a hat into the air in an iconic celebration. U.S. wins in a squeaker: 16.5-15.5.

Fred Couples celebrates at the 1996 Presidents Cup. getty images


The first Presidents Cup held outside of the U.S., at Australia’s Royal Melbourne, was the first International victory — and it was a hammering, 20.5-11.5, with the always affable Shigeki Maruyama leading the way at 5-0-0.


The U.S. has been dynastic in the Presidents Cup, winning 11 of the 13 competitions to date, the exceptions being the ’98 loss at Royal Melbourne and this famous 17-17 draw at South Africa’s Fancourt Hotel and Country Club. In the match, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els tied three dramatic playoff holes in search of a winner before darkness set in and captains Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus ultimately agreed to share the Cup.


At San Francisco’s Harding Park, Tiger got a small measure of revenge on Y.E. Yang, who overtook him two months earlier at the PGA Championship. Woods’ 6 and 5 singles win over the South Korean sealed another U.S. triumph.

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Steve Williams no doubt enjoyed being on Adam Scott’s bag as Scott and partner K.J. Choi hammered Woods and Steve Stricker 7 and 6 in an opening foursomes match. The U.S. still won, 19-15.


Hometown hero Sangmoon Bae needed to win the 18th hole to halve his match with Bill Haas — and halve this Presidents Cup in South Korea. Alas, Bae made a mess of things on the closing par 5, eventually conceding Haas a short birdie putt and, with it, the match and Cup. Bae left for his mandatory two-year military service the following month.


At Royal Melbourne, Aussie Cameron Smith — who won’t be at Quail Hollow this year — kept the Internationals’ slim hopes of holding off an American singles comeback alive, with a 2 and 1 win over Justin Thomas — until Matt Kuchar’s halve with Louis Oosthuizen guaranteed an eighth straight U.S. victory.

For the history books

— Fred Couples is the winningest U.S. captain, with a 3-0-0 mark, followed by Jack Nicklaus at 2-1-1. Nick Price holds the mark for futility with a 0-3-0 record as captain of the Internationals, followed by Greg Norman at 0-2-0.

— Five players have gone a perfect 5-0-0 in a Cup: Mark O’Meara (1996), Tiger Woods (2009) and Jim Furyk (2011) for Team U.S.A. and Shigeki Maruyama (1998) and Branden Grace (2015) for the Internationals.

— Though it’s possible that he will never add to his totals, Phil Mickelson holds several Presidents Cup records, including Most Points (32.5), Most Foursome Points (14), Most Four-ball Points (13) and Most Appearances (12). Most Singles Wins, however, belongs to his teammate Tiger Woods (7).

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