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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Awesome Americans look set for emphatic triumph

Reed can star for States

Patrick Reed has been in solid form
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf/Main Event, 6pm Thursday

Palmer's verdict
The British Masters is an attractive betting heat – a tournament which compels financial investment – but it is difficult to say the same about the Presidents Cup.

Team tournaments rarely provide much interest for conviction punters because bets on non-outright markets rely as much on luck as judgement. Have a wager on top American this week, for example, and on Sunday your man could be playing against world number three Hideki Matsuyama or a vulnerable rookie like Jhonattan Vegas.

Your top American fancy could end up facing your top International pick in several matches, leaving you with virtually no chance of two successful bets. Without prior knowledge of who is playing who in each of the five sessions – and not even the two captains know this – the Presidents Cup is a damp squib as a punting proposition.

Team USA as a whole is immensely strong and deserving of their short price. Much has been made of the Americans having six Cup rookies, compared to the Internationals' four, but the lowest world ranking of those six is Kevin Chappell at 26th. Two of the 'rookies' have won Majors this year – Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas. The world number four (Thomas), crowned FedEx Cup champion on Sunday, is hardly a weakness.

The Presidents Cup has been staged 11 times and the States have lost only once – in Australia in 1998. USA have won all six of the editions on American soil and the venue this year arguably provides greater home advantage than ever. Liberty National in New Jersey will be packed with the notoriously loud, boisterous, patriotic New Yorkers.

It is not difficult to imagine this event becoming an embarrassment for the Internationals if they get off to a slow start. The unforgiving crowd will pounce on weaknesses, which the away side seems to have in spades. Who can inspire the Internationals to put up a fight?

Matsuyama has badly lost his form since blowing a golden winning chance in the USPGA, while former world number one Jason Day slumped to a final-round 74 in the Tour Championship and seems unable to regain his old consistency.

Adam Scott, having declared his US Tour season was over after the USPGA and the birth of his second child, suddenly returned for the Dell Technologies Championship and missed the cut. It is difficult to imagine the rusty Aussie bringing much to the party.

Vegas and Adam Hadwin are weak links, while Emiliano Grillo probably lacks the fortitude for this assignment. Anirban Lahiri lost all three matches he played on his debut in 2015, shoving that infamous putt on the 18th green, while there are always fitness question marks surrounding brittle Korean Si Woo Kim.

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Compare this rabble to the quality of the States' line-up. It is drenched in class. Thomas and Koepka. Dustin Johnson. Jordan Spieth. Rickie Fowler. Patrick Reed. Phil Mickelson, the highest points scorer in Cup history, is the player in this USA team with the lowest world ranking (30th).

The correct-score market may be the best option for small-staking punters as bookmakers appear to have underrated the possibility of an absolutely crushing home win.

The 21.5-10.5 romp of 2000 is the record margin (when 32 points were on offer) and something similar is entirely feasible this week. Punters can spread stakes around several scorelines if they wish, but a 21-9 USA victory could be close to the mark. The five sessions could go 4-1, 4-1, 2-2, 3-1, 8-4.

Top American
Patrick Reed 15-2
Steve Stricker is reportedly adopting the same 'pods' strategy which worked so well for Paul Azinger in the 2008 Ryder Cup. The team is cut into thirds, with partnerships derived from there. The strongest pod seems likely to be that of Spieth, Reed, Koepka and Daniel Berger, and Reed is the most appealing top American wager.

Reed has been in solid form since May, finishing runner-up in the USPGA, and this ruthless operator should beat up his opponents no matter which partner he is assigned. He could form a dream team with Spieth, a pairing which has won a total of 3.5 points from a possible five in the last Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup combined.

Thomas, Fowler, Mickelson and Charley Hoffman could be in the second pod, with Chappell, Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Kevin Kisner in the other.

Top International
Branden Grace 9-1
With doubts that Matsuyama, Day or Scott can provide much leadership, Internationals skipper Nick Price probably needs heroic efforts from Marc Leishman, as well as the South African contingent of Branden Grace, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Price will almost certainly pair two South Africans from the off, with Grace and Oosthuizen having earned the right to go first, courtesy of their brilliance in the last Presidents Cup. Grace and Oosthuizen defiantly won all four of their matches alongside each other in Korea, a magnificent performance on a losing side.

Oosthuizen halved his singles match with Reed, while Grace won five points from five matches by defeating Kuchar on the Sunday.

This season has not been a wonderful one for Grace, but only two months ago he carded the lowest round in Major history, a 62 at Birkdale. Sixth place in the Open was the culmination of some solid summer form and this gritty character stands out as the most likely points winner on the Internationals side.

Staking plan
USA to win 21-9
1pt 66-1 Coral, Ladbrokes
P Reed top American
1pt 15-2 Betfred, SkyBet
B Grace top International
1pt 9-1 general

The lowdown

Presidents Cup

Course Liberty National Golf Club, New Jersey

Length 7,328 yards Par 71

Field Two teams of 12, which each consist of ten automatic qualifiers and two captain's wild-card selections

Format A total of 30 points are available and there are no sudden-death matches. Each player must participate in at least two of the first four sessions. The matches are contested over 18-hole matchplay.

Matches that are tied after 18 holes are deemed to be a draw, with each team receiving half a point. A 15-15 tie is possible, with the Cup holders (USA) retaining in that scenario

Schedule for the five sessions: 6.05pm Thursday Five foursome matches; 4.35pm Friday Five fourball matches; 12pm Saturday Four foursomes matches; 5pm Saturday Four fourballs matches; 5pm Sunday 12 singles matches.

When to bet By 6.05pm Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 6pm Thursday

Time difference New Jersey is five hours behind the UK and Ireland

Course overview Liberty National was designed by Robert E. Cupp and Tom Kite in 2006. It was built on the site of a former Hudson River landfill and boasts spectacular views of the New York City skyline and Statue of Liberty.

The venue staged the opening event of the FedEx Cup playoffs – The Barclays – in 2009 and 2013. Heath Slocum won in 2009 with a nine-under-par total, then major alterations were made to the track before Adam Scott triumphed four years later at 11 under.

The layout is exposed and often windswept. All the par-fives are on the front-nine – the second, fourth and ninth – while the 325-yard, driveable par-four 12th hole is a great scoring opportunity on the back.

The par-threes vary dramatically in length, the shortest being the 150-yard tenth and the longest the 250-yard seventh. The 18th is a 193-yard par-three

Story of 2015 Jay Haas led the United States to a 14.5-13.5 victory, with his son Bill registering the decisive point by beating Sang-moon Bae in the Sunday singles at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, Korea.

The States were on the brink of defeat when Chris Kirk was staring at a 16-foot putt on the final green against Anirban Lahiri in their singles joust. Kirk holed, though, and Lahiri missed from five feet to swing the Cup the way of the visitors

Weather forecast Sunny, with light breezes, for all four competition days

Type of player suited to challenge Those with previous Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup experience will be more comfortable with the format.

Short-game skills will decide plenty of matches on and around tricky greens. The course is fairly straightforward for elite players under calm skies.

Key attribute Touch

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It is not difficult to imagine this event becoming an embarrassment for the Internationals if they get off to a slow start
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