Five things to know: Presidents Cup

Originally Published: October 7, 2009
ESPN Stats & Information

As the eighth Presidents Cup gets under way in San Francisco, here are five nuggets of information from ESPN's Stats & Information department.

1. U.S. against them
For all the talk about just how dominant the U.S. has been in the past seven Presidents Cup tournaments, if you add up the career records of each team in the biennial event, they are quite similar.

When tallying the marks of the American squad playing this week, the U.S. is 69-65-15, while the International team is 71-67-19. Both have 32 years of experience in this competition that was first held in 1994, while Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh are the only golfers to have played in every Presidents Cup.

And when it comes to world rankings, the U.S. team boasts the top three players -- Tiger Woods, Mickelson and Steve Stricker. As for the International squad? Just one of its 12 makes the top 10. Aussie Geoff Ogilvy is 10th in the latest world rankings.

2. Tiger and Phil
So how do the top two players in the world fare at the Presidents Cup? Well, their record is somewhat better at the Presidents Cup than the Ryder Cup.

Woods is better than .500 at the Presidents Cup (13-11-1) while worse than .500 when facing Europe (10-13-2). As for Mickelson, he'll have a chance to get above .500 this year at Harding Park, as his Presidents Cup record is 11-13-9 while his Ryder Cup mark is 10-14-6.

So maybe the best golfers do better when they have to rely only on their own games. But recent history for both would suggest otherwise. After winning the first three singles matches of his Presidents Cup career, Woods has lost two in a row (1-up to Mike Weir in '07, and 2 and 1 to Retief Goosen in '05). As for Lefty, his 5 and 4 win at the 2007 event at Royal Montreal was his first triumph in seven tries in Sunday singles at the Presidents Cup.

3. The numbers game
Conventional wisdom at most professional golf events says you can't win a tournament on Thursday. That might be technically true, but at the Presidents Cup, the standings after the first day often have foreshadowed the eventual champion come Sunday night.

On four occasions in the past seven Presidents Cup, the U.S. owned a lead of at least 4-1, including two 5-0 shutouts of the International squad. And five times overall, the Day 1 leader went on to win. The only exceptions came in 2003, when the International squad led 3½-2½ and the match ended in a 17-17 tie, and in 2005, when the International squad also led 3½-2½, but the Americans rallied to win 18½-15 ½.

4. Say what?
Words such as foursomes and four-ball will be tossed about this week at Harding Park. So before you go searching for that golf edition of Webster's dictionary, here's a quick primer.

• Four-ball: A match in which two players play their own golf ball against the opposing twosome, with the lowest score from each team counting for the team's score. The team with the lower score is deemed to have won the hole. If there is a tie, the whole is halved.

• Foursomes: Better known as "alternate shot," this format allows two players on each team to alternate shots until the ball reaches the hole. For example, Player A hits the drive, Player B hits the second shot, etc.

• Singles: A one-on-one competition in which each player is matched up against another player from the opposing team. This is the traditional Sunday matchup.

• Match play: Competition in which the winner of each hole is the determining factor as opposed to total strokes in medal play.

• Dormie: When a match gets to a point where one player or team needs to win every hole remaining else it would lose the match, that match is considered dormie. For example, if Player A is leading a match 3-up with three holes to play, that match is dormie.

5. Walk in the park
Harding Park Golf Course, host of the 2009 Presidents Cup, is situated on a gently rolling peninsula surrounded by the shores of Lake Merced in San Francisco's southwest corner. The club is located near one of the area's most well-known venues -- The Olympic Club. During the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic, Harding Park Golf Course was actually used as a parking lot.

But in the spring of 2002, an extensive renovation of the course was undertaken to restore Harding Park's famed layout to world-class standards. The course hosted a World Golf Championship event in 2005, in which Woods won on the second playoff hole against John Daly.

This week, the routing of the course has been changed to better accommodate more dramatic finishing holes earlier in the back nine because many matches never reach the 18th hole. The course will play as a par-71 at 7,137 yards.