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What to expect at the Presidents Cup: MVPs, breakout players and keys to victory

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JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Can the Americans extend their streak of Presidents Cup victories to seven in a row? Or maybe the International team will notch its first win this century?

ESPN.com's golf experts weigh in on what to expect in the week ahead at Liberty National Golf Club for the 12th playing of the Presidents Cup.


U.S. MVP

ESPN.com senior golf writer Bob Harig: Patrick Reed. After a quiet year as an individual, Reed is ready to break out. He loves the team competitions, and expect more success out of him with partner Jordan Spieth.

ESPN.com senior golf writer Jason Sobel: Dustin Johnson. For all the attention on Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and even last year's hero, Patrick Reed, the world's No. 1-ranked player is still DJ -- and he'll assert that role this week.

ESPN.com senior golf editor Kevin Maguire: Jordan Spieth. A 5-0 week might be a bold prediction for the three-time major champion, but anything less than 3½ points would come as a surprise given this is his third Presidents Cup and he's only 24 years old.

International MVP

Harig: Adam Scott. A veteran of seven International teams, Scott is tired of the losing. It's time he carried the team on his back.

Sobel: Branden Grace. Two years ago, Grace went 5-0 in an impressive individual performance. That success might not be sustainable, but expect continued strong play here.

Maguire: Jason Day. The Aussie went 0-5 in the 2015 Presidents Cup in South Korea and clearly wants to contribute more to the team. He's in solid form of late, posting three top-10s in his past five starts, and he's ready to take a larger leadership role inside the ropes this week.

U.S. breakout player

Harig: Justin Thomas. This is his first team competition for the United States as a pro, but does anyone expect him to act or play like a rookie?

Daniel Berger. According to his teammates, nobody is more pumped to compete than Berger, who has the confidence and moxie necessary to succeed in match play.

Maguire: Kevin Kisner. PGA Tour watchers last week will have noticed that he "snuck" up to see his Georgia Bulldogs play on the Saturday night of the Tour Championship. This week, they'll see the competitive streak that will leave fans wondering how he hasn't been on one of these Cup teams before now.

International breakout player

Harig: Hideki Matsuyama. The Japanese star has struggled since the PGA Championship, but this is his third Presidents Cup and he's ready to be a force.

Sobel: Emiliano Grillo. None other than Spieth calls the Argentinian one of the world's best ball strikers. If he's on his game, he's going to be tough to beat.

Maguire: Grillo. When he stands on the first tee for his opening match, he might feel the nerves, but it won't be because the likes of Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas are standing across from him. Grillo played with these major champions in his junior golf days, so he won't be intimidated by their presence.

U.S. team wins if ...

Harig: ... it does what is always does, which is never let up. The Americans have led after every session going back to 2005.

Sobel: ... everything goes according to plan, the three pods of foursomes all mesh well, and a few of its back-of-the-roster players step up when needed most.

Maguire: ... the top American players aren't burned out from a long FedEx Cup playoffs schedule and can play up to their world rankings. On paper, this should be a Team USA rout, but that's not always how these things play out.

International team wins if ...

Harig: ... it gets some strong performances from players near the bottom of the lineup, a regular sore spot. The team usually has its depth exposed, but if Emiliano Grillo, Adam Hadwin and Anirban Lahiri come through, then all of a sudden the matches take on a different look.

Sobel: ... the U.S. team (which had 11 players competing last week) looks tired and three-time captain Nick Price outmaneuvers American counterpart Steve Stricker with his strategic decisions.

Maguire: ... its last few automatic qualifiers, as well as the captain's picks, produce winning records. Each team expects its top-ranked players to pick up points, but it's often left to the lesser-known names who seal the deal for a victory.

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