More than half the U.S. team found itself meandering around the 18th green at the moment the Americans clinched their 12th Presidents Cup victory on Sunday afternoon at Quail Hollow.
Up on the putting surface, Xander Schauffele represented the tournament-clinching 15th point, so long as he could hold his 1-up lead over opponent Corey Conners. But up against the ropes behind Schauffele, the list of American competitors had quickly grown to seven.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were there. The longtime friends were the first two Americans off in Sunday’s singles matches, and they quickly rejoined on a golf cart after their rounds were complete. To Spieth and Thomas’ right stood Tony Finau, who just minutes earlier had nabbed the 14th point for the U.S. with his own singles victory. Further down the line were Scottie Scheffler, Sam Burns and Cameron Young, who giggled as they clinked aluminum water bottles that almost almost certainly didn’t contain water. Fittingly, Patrick Cantlay held the position closest to Schauffele, resting on one knee on the fringe as his friend and playing partner surveyed the six-foot par to clinch it.
In that moment, the American side represented a striking picture of the week that was: successes and failures, fist-pumps and club-chucks, swagger and struggle.
The Americans are, once again, champions. Their 17.5-12.5 victory over the Internationals is the ninth straight for the red, white and blue. But as anyone who watched Tom Kim’s ballistic 18th-hole celebration knows, this week was about far more than just a trophy.
Rather, as with all Cup weeks, it was about taking the temperature of professional golf and its best players. For that, we leave Quail Hollow with a Cup-load of answers about everyone in the field. Let’s take stock.
Jordan Spieth: Stock Up
It was a slam-dunk week for Jordan Spieth, who leaves the Presidents Cup with the tournament’s only 5-0-0 record and his first-ever singles victory. (Spieth surprisingly was 0-6-1 prior to Sunday in Ryder and Presidents Cup singles matches.) Spieth, who talked early in the week about the importance of match play in assessing major championship readiness, looked like a man headed for the moutaintop again in Quail Hollow. As ever, there were some ugly moments — the two-bogey opening stretch on Sunday chief among them — but his response to those hiccups (five birdies in his next 11 holes on Sunday) helped to solidify him as the week’s biggest winner.
Justin Thomas: Stock Up
There were two key learnings from Justin Thomas’ week at the Presidents Cup. Here they are, listed in order of importance:
- The dab is not dead
- The Americans have a bonafide match-play villain
Thomas is a stick of dynamite for this U.S. team, a shot of energy, moxie and identity for a squad with an embarrassment of riches. His on-course performance stands for itself, an epic battle with Si Woo Kim marking the lone blemish on his 4-1-0 record, but we already knew what he is capable of. Rather, if this week proved anything about the two-time major champ, it’s that he has quickly become an Ian Poulter-type heel for the Americans. I can only imagine the insults International fans hurled at their televisions watching the action this weekend. Thomas is what makes these weeks — and these events — great. It’s awesome to see him absorb that place on the mantle.
Patrick Cantlay: Stock Up
Another surgical week for Patty Ice, whose game is beginning to feel tailormade for pressure situations. Cantlay’s growth into a two-headed monster alongside his teammate and pal Xander Schauffele has been American golf’s most important development over these last two years, and his 3-1-0 week in Charlotte proved it.
Xander Schauffele: Stock Neutral
Xander himself would admit he didn’t have his best stuff this week. His world-class ball-striking, typically the strength of his game, just didn’t show at Quail Hollow.
And yet he went 3-1-0 and clinched the winning point for the American side with a heat-seeking missile on the 18th. This is what great golfers do: find ways to win, even when they aren’t playing great golf.
I’m not sure Xander leaves this week thrilled about the state of his game heading into 2023, but there’s no question he played a key role in the American win.
Max Homa: Stock Up
Max Homa is the hottest golfer in the world right now. (Max, we don’t mean it THAT way.) After his heart-thumping win at the Fortinet Championship, Homa arrived at Quail Hollow with something to prove. He’d never made a U.S. team before, and he was tired of his game being reduced beneath his major-winning countrymen.
Homa responded by going 4-0-0 and nabbing one of the moments of the tournament — a 20-footer for birdie to steal his Friday-afternoon match on the 18th green. If he plays like this into ’23, there’s no chance he gets left out of Rome.
“To be here was one thing, and then to come out and play some great golf was another,” he said. “This week has been beyond special, validating, meaningful, all of the above. It meant a lot.”
Tony Finau: Stock Up
Finau quietly went 3-1-0 for the Americans, a strong bounceback performance on a course much better suited to his strengths than Whistling Straits, where he went a disappointing 1-2-0.
Collin Morikawa: Stock Up
Morikawa tweaked his putting (again) headed into this week, which likely played a factor in his only seeing three matches throughout the week. He looked good in all those performances, though, and went 2-1-0 overall. The flatstick has remained elusive for Morikawa, who had a surprisingly down ’21, but his approach play remains unmatched.
Scottie Scheffler: Stock Down
A shocking week from the world No. 1, who went winless in four matches (0-3-1). Scheffler just doesn’t look comfortable standing over the ball in the same way he did just a few months ago — particularly around the greens, an area that was such a strength during his early-season heater.
Kevin Kisner: Stock Down
Fans have long lobbied hard for Kis — the king of the Dell Match Play — to earn a bit more facetime on the U.S. team. This week proved why prior U.S. captains have had their reservations.
Kisner is a super-sharp player with prodigious putting skill, but his lack of distance is a major hindrance at bomber-friendly setups like Quail Hollow. Still, there’s no question who the biggest partier on the U.S. team is, even after an 0-2-1 week.
Sam Burns: Stock Down
It was an underwhelming week from Burns, who faced a real opportunity to build an identity for himself with the American faithful and responded by going a largely forgettable 0-3-2.
Billy Horschel: Stock Neutral
Billy Ho’s first match play start was very typical Billy Ho, with a few furious fist pumps offset by a handful of head-scratching moments. Aside from the golf, he earns high points from this writer for going hat-free — the man has a mop — and low marks for his putting routine, which is one of the more confounding things I have ever seen from up close.
Cameron Young: Stock Neutral
Goodness, if Cam Young made more holeable putts, the Americans might well have gotten to 20 points. Instead, Young — the latest in a long line of American ball-striking studs — struggled around the greens en route to a 1-2-1 record.
As the youngest player on the American side, the moment was decidedly not too big for him. In fact, his icy seriousness on the course leads one to believe his heart rate never wavers over 50 beats per minute. Barring any LIV-related news, I expect we’ll see young Cam in Rome, perhaps with a tweaked putting stroke.
Davis Love III: Stock Neutral
I’m not sure I can remember a single word Davis Love III said this week, which is perfectly emblematic of his role as the U.S. team captain. He did the work, stayed out of the way and made sure his guys were in a position to succeed. As for the crowd-charming, that role belonged to Freddie Couples who, true to form, was the most beloved man on site.
Si Woo Kim: Stock Up
All you need to know about Si Woo Kim’s week is that he took on the heartbeat of the American side, Justin Thomas, in singles, and dusted him.
Mr. Traj’s crowd-shushing, clutch-putt-draining style of play is awesome to watch, and not only to the fans. Just before the Americans closed out the Cup on Sunday, I caught both Davis Love III and Freddie Couples stopping Si Woo to tell him how much they’d appreciated his fight all week.
No one on the International side earned more respect this week … well, except for maybe the man below.
Tom Kim: Stock Up
Tom Kim was not just the rising star of Presidents Cup week, he may be the rising star in all of golf. The 20-year-old rookie dragged the International side into contention alone with his uppercut-inducing, 2-iron flushing performance on Saturday, and provided his team with a sorely needed sense of identity.
There’s a reason more than a handful of prominent golf figures speculated Kim was on the path to becoming a “global superstar” this week. He earned it. If I’m a betting man, it’s his name that we’ll remember above all others when we look back upon this Cup in two years.
Sungjae Im: Stock Up
Sungjae, golf’s resident workhorse, had a rare flash of emotion on the first tee Thursday when an American taunt sent him into a spiral of laughter. He followed up that giggle with a smashed tee shot down the right center of the fairway.
That would become a theme throughout the week at Quail Hollow, where Sungjae’s surgical ball-striking belied some surprisingly demonstrative play. His 2-2-1 performance should give the International side loads of optimism.
Sebastion Munoz: Stock Up
NBC Sports’ Paul Azinger said it best during Sunday’s broadcast: Sebastion Munoz found something at the Presidents Cup this week.
“I believe Munoz is going to come out of this competition with a real infusion of self-belief and confidence,” Azinger said. “He has made some huge putts.”
His 2-0-1 performance, including a 2-and-1 dispatching of world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, was particularly striking for team INT. Munoz has officially arrived.
Cam Davis: Stock Up
Davis was another surprising star for the Internationals in Charlotte, finding a real rhythm playing alongside fellow Aussie Adam Scott. Davis told me earlier in the week that he plays his best golf when he’s “jacked up” — and he played some seriously impressive golf. Plus, he’ll always have that moment after sticking his approach on 18 on Saturday afternoon.
K.H. Lee: Stock Up
K.H. Lee was a relative unknown for the Internationals heading into the week. He emerged as one of only three International team members to end the week with a winning record (2-1-0). How’s that for a response?
Corey Conners: Stock Down
No player had a tougher week than Corey Conners, whose putting was, well, sub-optimal through most of his 0-4-0 performance. It’s a shame, too. Conners is one of the best ball-strikers in golf when he’s on, and was one of the few experienced members of the International team.
Taylor Pendrith: Stock Down
It was a tough week for the Canadians in Charlotte, who went a combined 0-8-0. Pendrith’s week got off to a strong start when he and Mito Pereira took Tony Finau and Max Homa the distance in Thursday’s foursomes, but the 18th-hole disaster that followed was an unfortunate harbinger of things to come. This week should have set up well for Pendrith, but instead it turned ugly.
Mito Pereira: Stock Down
One needn’t look any further than Mito’s aforementioned Thursday match alongside Taylor Pendrith to know how his week went. An ugly, ugly left miss off the tee led NBC to show the replay of Pereira’s now infamous 18th tee shot at the PGA Championship. Pereira would lose that match and one other, but salvage a fourball halve against Cameron Young and Kevin Kisner.
Hideki Matsuyama: Stock Down
Matsuyama’s week can also be distilled into a single moment: His tee shot on the 18th in a tied match on Sunday, where his *perfect* tee ball hit an egregiously out-of-place marshal and ricocheted into the trees. Despite entering the week as by far the most prolific star on the International side, Matsuyama mustered only 1.5 points in a 1-3-1 performance.
Adam Scott: Stock Neutral
The International side needed its most experienced players — Scott chief among them — to carry them into relevance this week. Instead, they got a 2-3-0 performance that ruffled no feathers, but also featured no true disappointment. A perfect microcosm of the International week.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout: Stock Neutral
He played in only two matches, but escaped without a loss. All in- ll, it was a solid but unspectacular week for the South African.
Trevor Immelman: Stock Up
Immelman took the reins from Ernie Els as International captain and ran with them, building a team that battled their tails off despite losing its core crop of talent to LIV Golf just months before the event. Immelman deserves a ton of credit for the way his side bonded and fought at the Presidents Cup, which he rightfully assessed as validation of his effort to build a culture and franchise in the International team room, despite such varied cultures. Tom Kim’s moment on the 18th on Saturday afternoon — and the “I-N-T” chants that followed — were richly deserved.