Joy of Golf: Asia has levelled Presidents Cup playing field with Lahiri

Joy Chakravarty 09:22 08/10/2015
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Boosting the Internationals: Anirban Lahiri (l) and Thongchai Jaidee.

While the story of a David slaying a Goliath always makes for an interesting read, the mathematical chances of such a thing happening remain very slim. The possibility of a contest becoming more even increases exponentially when the minnow puts on more muscle, adds to his skills, increases his size, and tilts the scales in a similar weight category as the giant.

We have seen that happen in the Ryder Cup, and I think we are on the verge of seeing it happen in the Presidents Cup.

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What started off as a tournament between the United States and Great Britain & Ireland, became a competition in the truest sense of the word when in 1979, Team Europe replaced GB&I. Until then, USA had won 18 out of the 22 editions and tied one in 1969.

Since 1979, the two teams have competed in 18 Ryder Cups, one of which was tied and 10 have been won by Team Europe.

It’s been a similar story in the Presidents Cup with the Americans dominating it from day one. Internationals have won once and tied once in the 10 editions so far.

Anirban Lahiri (L) and Thongchai Jaidee pose before the start of the Presidents Cup.

But now Asia has formally joined the party for the first time – this is the first time the tournament is being hosted in the continent, and more importantly, this is the first time three Asian players have automatically qualified for the team.

There have been Asian players in the event before – Korean KJ Choi and a few Japanese stars – but then Japan has its own separate Tour. But this year, India’s Anirban Lahiri and Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee are true products of the Asian Tour.

The other factor that should favour the Internationals is the reduction of the number of points they are playing for. Instead of 34, only 30 points are on offer starting this year.

Because not everyone is going to play the foursomes and fourballs, the pairings have become a lot easier for captain Nick Price. He can now hide a couple of off-form players for the first couple of days and the points difference going into the singles will not be insurmountable.

Edge-of-seat drama
Finally rewarded: Rob Oppenheim.

The dramas of the Qualifying School, or the last event of the season that determines your playing privilege for the next year, is always hard to match.

The PGA Tour has done away with the Qualifying School, and the only way to get in is through the Web.com Tour. There are two avenues open – one either needs to finish inside the top-25 on the money list through the regular season, or finish inside the top-25 of a separate money list from the Web.com Finals – a series of four events in which the field becomes decidedly tougher.

When the regular season ended, Rob Oppenheim was the man to be edged out in the 26th position by a mere $943. It was a heartbreaking moment for the 35-year-old, but he gathered himself and battled hard in the Finals.

Two successive rounds of 67 lifted him to 26th again in the projected Finals money list when he finished, and then he had to endure a nervous wait for the tournament to end to find out for sure if he had missed a much-cherished PGA Tour card by one spot again.

As it turned out, he didn’t. Late movements saw him finish 25th – just $101 ahead of another American, Eric Huxley, in 26th place.

It felt like justice was done for Oppenheim, but wait until you get to know about Huxley.

Just one year ago around the same time, it was Huxley who was celebrating his PGA Tour card, having finished 25th in the Finals, beating the 26th placed Roberto Castro by an even smaller margin – a mere $31!

Stats of the Week
There were some interesting numbers that came to light about Rory McIlroy’s life when Santader, one of his sponsors, did a clever promotion for their new Spendlytics app.

It wasn’t the best year for McIlroy, considering his playing schedule was severely disrupted because of the ankle injury before The Open Championship, but it still did not stop him from travelling like crazy.

Here are some of his travel numbers, clearly showing why the life of a top athlete is hardly a bed of roses.
► Only 18 full days off in 2015 until last week.
► 287 nights spent away from home.
► 118 airports visited during the year
► 350 hours spent on flights
► 1500kms of walking

Quote of the Week
“I think he has a clear understanding with where he’s at in regard to his career that the sun is setting. He’s very fair about where he’s at with his career and his body, and he’s certainly not going to go down without a fight, without trying to do everything he can to get back to a world-class level.” 
– Tiger Woods’ close friend Notah Begay on how the former world No1 is slowly coming to terms with where his game is at.

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