The Presidents Cup: What Every Golfer Needs to Know

By Savannah Richardson

Tiger Woods was a playing captain in 2019

The Presidents Cup is a biennial golf competition between 12 of the top American and 12 of the top International golfers from outside of Europe.

The inaugural Presidents Cup was played in 1994, making it a relatively new event compared to many of golf’s other premiere tournaments including the Open Championship (1860), U.S. Open (1895), and

Ryder Cup (1927). Even the Solheim Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup which debuted in 1990, predates the Presidents Cup.

The first four Presidents Cups were played in even years, but when the Ryder Cup postponed its 34th matches from Sept. 28-30, 2001 to the following year after the 9/11 attacks, the Presidents Cup followed suit, moving to odd years through 2019. The coronavirus pandemic in 2020 flipped the script, bumping the Ryder Cup from 2020 to 2021, and the Presidents Cup from 2021 to 2022, and the two events will continue biennially.

American Dominance

The United States has dominated the 13 Presidents Cups, leading the International team 11-1-1 overall.

Year Winner Score Venue
Sept. 16-18, 1994 USA 20-12 Robert Trent Jones G.C, Prince William County, Va., USA
Sept. 13-15, 1996 USA 16.5-15.5 Robert Trent Jones G.C, Prince William County, Va., USA
Dec. 11-13, 1998 INTL 20.5-11.5 Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Oct. 19-22, 2000 USA 21.5-10.5 Robert Trent Jones G.C, Prince William County, Va., USA
Sept. 20-23, 2003 TIE 17-17 The Links at Fancourt, George, South Africa
Sept. 22-25, 2005 USA 18.5-15.5 Robert Trent Jones G.C, Prince William County, Va., USA
Sept. 27-29, 2007 USA 19.5-14.5 Royal Montreal GC, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Oct. 8-11, 2009 USA 19.5-14.5 TPC Harding Park, San Francisco, USA
Nov. 17-20, 2011 USA 19-15 Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Oct. 3-6, 2013 USA 18.5-15.5 Muirfield Villiage, Dublin-Columbus, Ohio, USA
Oct. 8-11, 2015 USA 15.5-14.5 Jack Nicklaus GC, Korea, Songdo IBD, Incheon
Sept. 28-Oct 1, 2017 USA 19-11 Liberty National GC, Jersey City, N.J., USA
Dec. 9-15, 2019 USA 16-14 Royal Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

All-Time Presidents Cup Captains

There have been just six International and eight United States captains in the history of the Presidents Cup. Among the notable captains are Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player. Peter Thomson is the only International captain to defeat the Americans, though Player was able to lead his team to the only tie. Nicklaus captained the most teams with four Presidents Cups under his belt, going 2-1-1.

In 2019, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els captained their respective teams. Els and the International squad led Woods’ American team through four sessions. Woods, who served as a playing-captain, then led the United States to its first comeback victory in Presidents Cup history.

Woods was only the second playing-captain to lead his team to victory. Hale Irwin first did it in 1994. Woods’ 3-0-0 record in 2019 helped secure the victory.

International United States
David Graham - 1994 Hale Irwin - 1994
Peter Thomson - 1996, '98, 2000 Arnold Palmer - 1996
Gary Player - 2003, '05, '07 Jack Nicklaus - 1998, 2003, '05, '07
Greg Norman - 2009, '11 Ken Venturi - 2000
Nick Price - 2013, '15, '17 Fred Couples - 2009, '11, '13
Ernie Els - 2019 Jay Haas - 2015
Trevor Immelman - 2022 Steve Stricker - 2017
Tiger Woods - 2019
Davis Love III - 2022

Who is Eligible for the Presidents Cup?

Eight American PGA Tour players earn automatic qualification based on FedExCup points over the previous two seasons, with the most recent season weighted more heavily. In 2019, players earned one point for each FedEx Cup point they received from the 2017 BMW Championship through the 2018 TOUR Championship, and two points from the first event of the 2018-19 season through the 2019 BMW Championship.

The International team includes eight automatic qualifiers based on points accumulated from the Official World Golf Rankings. International players who are eligible for the European Ryder Cup team are excluded from Presidents Cup qualification. Beginning in 2022, International captain Trevor Immelman announced new qualifying guidelines for his team that takes strength of field into greater consideration.

The United States and International captains each get four captains picks.

Presidents Cup Format

The Presidents Cup is played over four days and includes 30 total matches. A team must accumulate 15.5 points or more to win.

Day 1 5 Four-Ball Matches (best-ball)
Day 2 5 Foursome Matches (alternate-shot)
Day 3 - AM 4 Four-Ball Matches (best-ball)
Day 3 - PM 4 Foursome Matches (alternate-shot)
Day 4 12 Singles Matches

As of 2019, each player was only required to play a minimum of one match before the final-round single matches. Prior to that, players had to play in at least two matches before the final day.

Each match is worth one point. There are no playoffs, and each side earns a half-point if a match ends in a tie.

Donations Galore and a Heavy Trophy

Players do not receive money for participating in the Presidents Cup. Instead, the PGA Tour pledges contributions to charities nominated by players, captains and assistant captains on the two teams.

Since 1994, the PGA Tour has donated roughly 53.2 million dollars to the respected charities.

In addition to bragging rights for another two years, the winning team takes home a 28-pound trophy.

Image: Icon Sportswire/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

About the Author

Savannah Richardson is a staff writer for GolfLink. She’s a daily golfer and has worked for two years covering amateur and professional golf events with and The Brunswick News. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.