Date: October 12, 2015
Author: Mike Clayton

Clayton: Write off Scott and Cup at your peril

The extraordinary play of Jason Day this season has put him right at the top of the game and left Adam Scott almost languishing as yesterday’s man.

Of course it is a silly assessment of the Masters champion’s place in the sport, but in an age when everything seems to move so quickly in golf (except the players), it is not surprising some have come to the conclusion.

Scott's results this season were poor by the standards he has set for himself during his career and he came to Korea and the Presidents Cup armed with a putter only three feet long. His trusted broomstick is not banned in January but attaching it to his chest is and he either has to ‘un-anchor’ it or go back to the conventional.

I arrived in Seoul on Saturday in time to see half of the afternoon matches, but none of Scott’s play. By this time, one player on the other team had described his putting to that point as "horrendous".

There is no more elegant player in the game today and he is always a joy to watch, so it was with interest I headed out to watch him play the much-improved Rickie Fowler in Sunday's singles. They were the second match out and with the International team a point behind, it was critical the Australian came out on top. But, if the "horrendous" report was accurate, the odds were surely in favour of the American.

Scott pitched just long at the par-5 3rd hole and chipped down five feet past the hole leaving just the putt you don’t want to miss too early on. He holed it with a mix of confidence and competence. At the short 5th, he marginally pulled an iron aimed at the flag by the water. He almost holed the chip for a saving par and a half but from this point on, he was brilliant.

The swing looks as perfect as ever and he slayed Fowler with the putter. From eight feet he birdied the 7th, a 20-footer went down at the short 8th and his nine iron to the 9th was so close Fowler conceded the putt. Any doubt as to the winner was erased at the dog-leg left 10th hole when a 40-footer went in for yet another birdie. Fowler’s dispirited pitch into the right bunker at the 11th was only confirmation the match was headed for an unusually early conclusion.

At one point in the afternoon the International team was down in eight matches but slowly came back. Steve Bowditch was out against Jimmy Walker — he, too, holed some important putts, none more than a 15-footer at the 14th to get three holes ahead. It proved to be just enough as an awful drive into the water cost him the 15th, as did a pulled iron into the 17th. One up on the dangerous par-5 finisher, he hit a perfect long iron to the front of the green and Walker’s five was never going to be good enough.

Marc Leishman, too, was fantastic. It is staggering to hear of television commentators in some form of shock at the Warrnambool man being able to beat Jordan Spieth in an 18-hole match. Do they understand anything about the fickle nature of the game? Did they not notice Leishman in the playoff at St Andrews only three months ago? Or his near winning of Scott’s 2013 Masters at Augusta? Marc Leishman is a very under-rated player.

In the end it came down to the Indian Anirban Lahiri playing against Chris Kirk. Both missed left with long seconds at the final hole, but with water and sand right it was to be expected. Lahiri pitched so close that four seemed certain and Kirk blundered a chip 12 feet long. Surely it would be at least half a point.

But the American holed and, under all the strain, Lahiri spun his three footer out of the right side of the hole. In the end he will feel he cost his team the win, but Bubba Watson missed one from almost the same place as well and his didn’t even hit the hole.

The Presidents Cup is criticised by the cynical as an exhibition and, of course, it isn’t the Ryder Cup. But those who think it an exhibition did not see the final hole with the huge crowd willing local hero Sangmoon Bae to birdie the the 18th hole and tie the match. He failed, but this was a wonderful day's golf and again it showed there is little better in the game than match play played in teams.