Break up the International team!
No, not the American team. They’re not the reason why the Presidents Cup is officially a flop 20 years into the concept. It’s the International side that is the problem.
The International team has lost the last five Presidents Cups by eerily similar margins: 18.5-15.5, 19-15, 19.5-14.5, 19.5-14.5, 18.5-15.5.
The extra six points available in the Presidents Cup compared to the Ryder Cup maybe make the matches seem a little closer on paper than they really are, but they really aren’t. This is a mismatch in every way imaginable.
You know it’s bad news when you have to concoct a flag for one of the two teams in a match. And it’s not because of some geopolitical strife, like Taiwan and mainland China. It’s because there’s no way the selection pool “everywhere in the world but the United States and Europe” makes sense. There’s no common bond. There’s barely a common enemy since almost all of these guys see each other 20 times per year on the PGA Tour.
This is not supposed to be an episode of “Cheers.”
For whatever reason, the Internationals always start slow. Even this year, when a concession was made to International captain Nick Price to start with fourballs (best ball) instead of foursomes (alternate shot), the start was a disaster. It was only the beginning as the International team lost all four team-match sessions.
Once again, the dozen singles matches on Sunday were more of a coronation than a nailbiter. When the Internationals made a mini-rally halfway into the session, interest was modestly piqued…about the possibility of a tie.
A tie? That has been the most dramatic moment in the history of this competition, when Ernie Els and Tiger Woods could not settle the Cup in an unprecedented sudden-death bout for the Presidents Cup. Two years later, Chris DiMarco put to bed any idea of a burgeoning rivalry, setting off a decade of American victory.
Meanwhile, look at what has happened in the Ryder Cup over the last half-decade. Coming off of embarrassing consecutive losses on both sides of the Atlantic, the Americans rallied at Valhalla for a rousing win thanks to the fresh blood that was captain Paul Azinger and his team of bludgeoned veterans and fresh-faced rookies. The resulting two Ryder Cups have each been decided by a single match out of 28.
Needless to say, it’s hard to imagine anyone in this country getting interested in the concept in 2015, when South Korea will host the Presidents Cup for the first time. There’s nothing wrong with the venue — course or country — but there won’t be many volunteers to watch a beatdown on tape delay. No one wants to watch repeats of a bad TV show, so why would they want a re-run of the last five Presidents Cups?
If I haven’t seen it, it’s new to me! Then again, that streaker on Sunday was a new character no one saw coming. Seems like it was just a cameo, though.
So, back to the initial suggestion: break up the International team.
When Young Tom Morris won the Open Championship three consecutive years, the Prestwick club retired their championship belt, leading to the Claret Jug we know and love today. Perhaps the same thing could happen with the Presidents Cup.
Make the Presidents Cup into a biennial competition, pitting the six major continents against each other. (Sorry, South America, er, Antarctica.) Pick six players for each continent based on whatever rubric, but Official World Golf Ranking probably makes the most sense. Format it to mirror the NCAA golf championships, with rosters facing off against each other in match play until one continental team is left standing. It would be an amazing four days of golf.
Look at the teams:
- North America: Tiger Woods (1), Phil Mickelson (3), Steve Stricker (7), Matt Kuchar (8), Brandt Snedeker (9), Jason Dufner (10)
- Europe: Henrik Stenson (4), Justin Rose (5), Rory McIlroy (6), Graeme McDowell (12), Luke Donald (14), Sergio Garcia (17)
- Australia: Adam Scott (2), Jason Day (16), Marc Leishman (61), Brett Rumford (81), Marcus Fraser (96), Geoff Ogilvy (97)
- S. America: Angel Cabrera (51), Felipe Aguilar (145), Andres Romero (169), Ricardo Gonzalez (230), Adilson da Silva (234), Emiliano Grillo (252)
- Asia: Thongchai Jaidee (59), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (87), Sang-moon Bae (102), Sung-Joon Park (109), K.J. Choi (118), Hyung-Sung Kim (124)
- Africa: Charl Schwartzel (19), Ernie Els (23), Louis Oosthuizen (29), Branden Grace (38), Richard Sterne (41), Brendon de Jonge (63)
Seems a lot better, right?
Not only are there more players (36 vs. 24), but the teams make some sense. Australian golf is great, even if the world ranking doesn’t show it this moment. African golf — read: mostly South Africa — is a tight-knit community with an astounding success rate. Asia is surprisingly deep, even if most American fans aren’t very familiar with the likes of Jaidee and Aphibarnrat (then again, he did once go by another name). South America is the dud team, but even then, they don’t go deeper than 250th or so in the ranking.
Adding in a European team is also a great idea, making them field a squad every year like the Americans have done since 1993 (with the exception of 2001). For American fans, the notion of putting a dozen guys out there to face an opponent every year has to get dull and exasperating. Limiting the team to six players will help keep some familiar faces on the teams, but not the same feeling of retreads.
Everything about this Phoenix Presidents Cup sounds better than what’s unfolding every two years.
Series like these end. Just look at the landscape in college football, which changed drastically in the space of 18 months, likely with more to come. Rivalries died. New ones will form. Every one makes money.
This American rivalry with an amorphous enemy can come to an end, too, and be reborn as an even better idea. After all, with six five other continents lining up to take down the Americans every two years, it seems much more of a daunting — and exciting — task.