By Mark Lamport-Stokes
REUTERS - Tiger Woods likes it just the way it is but, in the eyes of many, the Internationals simply have to start beating the United States at the Presidents Cup to give the event's future a more solid footing after this week.
The pressure will certainly be on the Internationals at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio where they will be striving to improve a dismal record in the biennial team competition of just one win against the U.S. in nine attempts.
"I would envisage the Presidents Cup becoming more and more exciting and more closely contested ... but we are, what, 1-7-1 out of nine, so that's got to change," said International captain Nick Price, a veteran of five Cups as a player.
Zimbabwean Price felt that the Americans had one obvious advantage, apart from playing on home soil this week, in that many of their top players also competed in last year's Ryder Cup against Europe.
"Because of that, (U.S. captain) Fred (Couples) is going to have the edge because he has some of the pairings that played very well together (at the Ryder Cup)," Price told reporters.
"I'm going to have to come up with a whole lot of new pairings so, from that point of view, it's difficult.
"But I keep saying this: 18-hole match play is anybody's game. The American team is a lot stronger on paper than our team is but the camaraderie and the willpower and the spirit of a team can overcome a lot of things."
Woods will be competing in his eighth Presidents Cup, having shared in team victory on five previous occasions, but he rejects suggestions that it is vitally important for the Internationals to triumph to safeguard the event's future.
"It's not (important), not to us," the American world number one said of the competition which pits a 12-man team from the U.S. against a line-up of international players from outside Europe.
"We're playing against them. We like the way it's gone, and we'd like to keep it going that way."
Asked whether he was at all concerned about the future status of the Presidents Cup if it remained so one-sided, Woods replied with a smile: "We like it just the way it's at."
Three of the first four Presidents Cups were staged on American soil and that fact, combined with the 'Ryder Cup effect' from preceding years, gave U.S. teams a significant boost, according to Couples.
"We have dominated because I think when it started at the beginning (in 1994), we played a lot of years in the United States and we played against unbelievable teams," said Couples.
"I feel like we also have an advantage because we play in the Ryder Cup and (the Internationals) they do this every couple years. So my pairings are very simple."
Masters champion Adam Scott, the world number two, has never been on a triumphant Internationals team despite playing in the Presidents Cup on five occasions, and he has a burning desire to see that change when the 10th edition gets underway on Thursday.
"It's really important for the Internationals to win and just for myself, for my own satisfaction of being on a winning team, which I haven't done in my career," said Australian Scott.
"I really want to experience that elation with a bunch of other guys around me that have put in all that effort for the week. I'm looking forward to that opportunity."
The U.S. have dominated the Presidents Cup by winning seven times in nine editions, most recently with a 19-15 victory at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia two years ago.
The only success for the Internationals came in 1998 when the event was first staged in Melbourne. In 2003, the two teams battled to a 17-17 draw in South Africa.
"You know, I've always enjoyed being an underdog going in," said former world number one Price, who played for the Internationals in both 1998 and 2003. "I think the favourites have more pressure on them, no doubt about it.
"But I go back to this point of the morale and the camaraderie and momentum in a team. When you have that, the sky's the limit. It's all about momentum.
"When we won in Australia, it was a huge momentum change in the second day, and we just parlayed that into the weekend. That's basically what won it for us down there."
U.S. team: Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Steve Stricker, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth.
International team: Adam Scott (Australia), Charl Schwartzel (South Africa), Jason Day (Australia), Ernie Els (South Africa), Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa), Hideki Matsuyama (Japan), Branden Grace (South Africa), Graham DeLaet (Canada), Richard Sterne (South Africa), Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Brendon de Jonge (Zimbabwe), Marc Leishman (Australia). (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)