Presidents Cup: How to watch, format, who's playing on Tiger Woods' American team

Captains Ernie Els and Tiger Woods prepare for the Presidents Cup. (Speed Media/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Presidents Cup is here again, and while this particular international rivalry doesn’t carry the history or venom of the Ryder Cup, it’s nonetheless a competitive nation-versus-nations challenge.

This year’s version takes place in Australia, meaning viewers in the United States will get primetime golf from Wednesday through Saturday. Here’s the rundown of everything you need to know, and in case you’re new to all this, we’ll start at the beginning.

What is the Presidents Cup?

A companion, of a sort, to the Ryder Cup, which matches the United States against Europe. The Presidents Cup, by contrast, matches the United States against everyone but Europe — Australia, Asia, South America, Mexico, Canada, et cetera. 

Unlike the legendary Ryder, the Presidents Cup only dates to 1994. In that time, the U.S. has won 10 of the 12 matches, lost one, and tied one. (Yes, there are ties; unlike the Ryder, a tie means the Cup splits, rather than staying with the defending champion.)

Perhaps because the talent pool is more diverse, and perhaps because the international team doesn’t have the same unity as Europe, the United States generally has little trouble waxing the floor with its Presidents Cup competition. Last time around, at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, the U.S. needed only one point on the final day of singles matches to hold onto the cup. (Spoiler: they got it.)

What’s the format?

The Presidents Cup features three days of team matches, both alternate shot and best ball, with one final day of singles. There are a total of 30 points up for grabs. 

Who’s on each team?

Captain of the United States is an up-and-comer by the name of Tiger Woods. Automatic qualifiers for the U.S. include Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Bryson Dechambeau. Woods’ captain’s picks included Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed and Woods himself. World No. 1 Brooks Koepka had to withdraw from the event due to injury, and Woods replaced him with Rickie Fowler.

The Internationals will play under the leadership of South Africa’s Ernie Els. Automatic qualifiers include Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), Adam Scott (Australia), Marc Leishman (Australia), Cameron Smith (Australia), Abraham Ancer (Mexico), Haotong Li (China) and C.T. Pan (Chinese Taipei). Captain’s picks include Sungjae Im (South Korea), Byeong-hun An (South Korea), Adam Hadwin (Canada) and Joaquin Niemann (Chile). Like Koepka, Jason Day (Australia) had to withdraw because of injury. 

Assistant captains for Woods will be Fred Couples, Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker; since Woods is playing, they’re likely to have more opportunity and leeway than most assistants. Els will use K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy, Trevor Immelman and Mike Weir as his captains.

(For the numerology-minded: The U.S. selected its automatic picks via the FedEx Cup points system running from the 2017 to 2019 BMW Championships, with points doubled in 2019. The International team chose its automatic picks from the top eight international, non-European players who accumulated the most Official World Golf Ranking points from the 2018 Dell Technologies Championship in August 2018 to the 2019 BMW Championship in August 2019.)

Where will the Presidents Cup be played?

Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia. There’s history here: Royal Melbourne was the site of the 1998 Presidents Cup, the lone victory by the International team. Peter Thomson’s International squad beat Jack Nicklaus’s American team 20 1/2 to 11 1/2 (the formats were slightly different then). Clearly Ernie Els is hoping a little of the same magic persists this season.

How’s this going to shake out?

On paper (or, you know, screen), this is an enormous mismatch. All 12 of the United States players are ranked in the top 25 in the world, with five in the top 10. The highest-ranked International player is Adam Scott at No. 18, with Haotong Li bringing up the rear at No. 65. Six of the U.S. players have won majors, only two (Scott and Louis Oosthuizen) have won majors on the International side.

What are the key storylines heading into the weekend?

Two primary ones: first, the U.S. will be dealing with a substantial travel burden. Eleven of the 12 American team members played in Woods’s Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas last week, then hopped on a plane to begin a 26-hour, 10,000-mile journey. Add in the fact that Australia is a 16-hour time difference from the East Coast, and you can see the problem. If the U.S. gets out of the gate quickly on Thursday (local time), it’ll be impressive, to say the least.

The second is how the Australian crowds will react to the U.S. team in general and Patrick Reed in particular. Captain America put himself in boiling water at the Hero World Challenge by disturbing sand in a trap, apparently a deliberate rules violation. While he accepted the penalty, he disputed the contention that there was malicious or dishonest intent behind it. Expect the Aussies to have something to say about all that. 

Where and when can we watch the Presidents Cup?

The Australian location means we’ve got evening golf here in the United States. Golf Channel will carry the entire event live, with next-day replay on NBC Sports. Times are as noted below, all times Eastern:

Wednesday

5:30 p.m. - midnight: Day 1 fourballs (better ball)

Thursday

7 p.m. - midnight: Day 2 foursomes (alternating shot)

Friday

3 p.m. - 2 a.m.: Day 3 fourballs and foursomes

Saturday

6 p.m. - midnight: Day 4 singles

Golf Channel will also stream the event here, and of course, we’ll be with you throughout it all here on Yahoo Sports. 

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

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