I’m Not Sure What to Make of The Presidents Cup

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I just can’t figure out what to do with the Presidents Cup. I thought it was the little brother of The Ryder Cup. Sure, the Americans won every year, but what’s wrong with that? I’m an American golf fan. Full disclosure: I found myself rooting for the International Team. I’m not really a “pull for the underdogs” type of sports fan. I loved watching Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky as a kid. I loved watching the dominance of Tiger Woods and Roger Federer over the last decade. But those were examples of compelling dominance. The Presidents Cup is far from compelling and here’s why…

Granted, this International Team wasn’t really supposed to contend with the heavily favored Americans. But maybe they could have stayed close to the end. The format was changed in the team matches to begin with fourballs (better ball) in the Thursday session. This was supposed to be an advantage for the Internationals as the US had not won a fourball session in the Presidents Cup since 2003. The move didn’t pay off for the Internationals, though. The US led 3 ½ – 2 ½ after Thursday. It was closer than it normally is when the first session is contested in foursomes (alternate shot), but not a lead or even a tie for the Internationals.

The matches were contested at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, just outside Columbus. Muirfield Village is Jack Nicklaus’ place and it is a first-rate facility. It hosts the Memorial Tournament each spring, and holds an important place on the PGA Tour schedule. It is also the only course to host the Ryder, Solheim and Presidents Cups. Many of the International Team members play the PGA Tour and The Memorial each year. Australian Jason Day actually lives in Columbus and is a member at Muirfield Village, playing upwards of 35 rounds a year there. Where was this advantage of familiarity? With the Americans who featured Tiger Woods (five-time winner of The Memorial) and defending Memorial Champion Matt Kuchar.

It rained and rained and rained some more in Dublin, OH. It usually rains the week of The Memorial Tournament, too. This has prompted rumors of a curse on course designer Jack Nicklaus because MVGC is built on ancient Indian burial ground. I guess that’s more compelling than the golf turned out to be.

There isn’t much to look forward to either. In two years the matches will move to South Korea. With no International home advantage to speak of and a course that looks to be average at best, what does this even have to look forward to? The last four host courses were Royal Montreal, TPC Harding Park, Royal Melbourne and Muirfield Village, all well-known, well respected tracks with championship pedigrees. Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in South Korea? Anyone?

Moreover Korea’s KJ Choi looks to be a lock for the International Captaincy. KJ Choi is one of my favorite players on the PGA Tour and widely considered one of the most genuine, kind people in golf. He certainly has a hero’s reputation in his home country as the winningest Asian-born player on the PGA Tour. But is he near the level of recent International Captains Gary Player, Greg Norman or Nick Price? Not even close.

Two of the bigger stories to come from the week at Muirfield were Sammy the Squirrel, who apparently took a liking to American vice captain Davis Love III on Thursday and a female streaker during the singles matches on Sunday.

Speaking of Singles Matches, how about that draw, huh? Riveting stuff! Ok, not really riveting at all, by any stretch of the imagination. Unlike the blind draw of the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup features an alternating draw between the two captains. The greatest controversy to come from this year’s contest was whether or not captains Nick Price and Fred Couples should have punted on competition and given the people the much-ballyhooed Tiger Woods vs Adam Scott singles match. Consider that going into the singles session, the US held a virtually insurmountable six-point lead. By this point in the proceedings it was more of a story that the captains short-changed the viewers with their draw of singles matches by pitting, among others snoozers, Tiger Woods against Richard Sterne. Nevermind that Price and Couples might want to try and win the thing. Don’t worry about what the teams need to do to win the Cup. It’s about what looks good on TV, dammit!

That’s the problem I am having. I was barely inclined to watch a blow out contest featuring matches that seemed only slightly more interesting than a hardware store lecture on the differences between flat, semi-gloss and glossy paint. So where is this contest going? Sure, an international win would help to create some buzz. But one win will not do the trick.

Remember that the Ryder Cup was a snooze-fest as well through the 1970s and into the 80s. Europe hadn’t won since 1957 with the lone bright spot being a tie in 1969. Then along came Seve Ballesteros and Tony Jacklin. Seve was the leader for the Europeans on the course, engaging his teammates in a celebration after a one-point defeat in 1983 because it was the closest they’d been since 1957. Jacklin captained the mid-80s Europeans to that one-point loss in ’83 and a win in ’85 at The Belfry and again in ’87 against Nicklaus’ Americans for the first European victory on American soil.

Does anyone see that happening in the next 6 years for the Internationals?

Until the PGA Tour decides what it wants to do with its attempt at a Ryder Cup equivalent I see the Presidents Cup continuing to flounder in a tepid mix of mediocrity and boredom.

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