Is There Any Way to Make the Presidents Cup More Competitive?

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Is There Any Way to Make the Presidents Cup More Competitive?
David Cannon/Getty Images

The 2013 Presidents Cup was over before it started, and that is really too bad for an international event that should be competitive and at the very least fun to watch.

For the eighth time in 10 of these biennial events, the USA team beat the non-European International team, and it wasn’t as close as the 18.5 to 15.5 score would indicate.

Running with seven rookies on its team, the Internationals had to face off against a powerhouse USA squad with six players in the top 10 in the world rankings.

If you were a betting man, which team would you have taken?

Were it not for a playful squirrel, an ardent streaker and some inventive high fives by Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, this year’s Presidents Cup would rank as one of the most boring golf events of the year.

Suffice to say, the Presidents Cup has seen better times.

The first event held in 1994, which was developed to give the non-European players a chance to compete on the world stage in non-Ryder Cup years, may have been a harbinger for things to come as the USA beat the International team 20-12.

But in the third meeting, the International team turned the event into a contest by beating the USA soundly 20.5 to 11.5.

Looking back, there was nothing out of the ordinary about that International team led by Greg Norman, Vijay Singh and Nick Price. Perhaps they rallied around their home soil for the first time in Melbourne, Australia. Maybe they had created a bond that would solidify their team effort and turn the Presidents Cup into a solid alternative to the Ryder Cup.

That was just not meant to be. The 1998 contest now ranks as their first and last victory.

That is not to say there haven’t been competitive matches.

In 2003, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods needed to play a sudden death match to see which team would win. But that came to naught when the match was called due to darkness and the two teams tied and ended up sharing the Cup “in the spirit of the competition.”  

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Tiger Woods needed to play Ernie Els in a sudden death match in 2003.

Ah, the spirit of the competition. Back then when Els was younger, stronger and much tougher and Woods was at his youthful best, it actually may have been competitive. That International squad also included some of the game’s best players: Price, Retief Goosen, Mike Weir, Vijay Singh, K.J. Choi and a youthful Adam Scott.

When looking at this year’s uneventful event, it would be easy to say that the International team just needs better players in order to make the Presidents Cup more competitive.

Yet the teams are selected by quantitative criteria that seems to make sense. The USA team consists of the top 10 U.S. players who earned the most official PGA Tour money beginning with the 2011 Tour Championship by Coca-Cola through the 2013 Deutsche Bank Championships, weighted as follows: 2011-2012: $1 = 1 point. 2013: $1 = 2 points.

The International team selects 10 players from the Official World Golf Ranking as of Sept. 2, 2013 (post-Deutsche Bank Championship). Both team captains then select two Captain’s Picks.  

But the pool of players who are eligible for the International team just isn’t that large or that good.

Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
The International team needs some new energy.

Maybe there should be an addendum to the selection process that includes one player from Europe. What this team really needed this year was a successful bookend to Masters champ Adam Scott like FedEx Cup champ Henrik Stenson or Ryder Cup whiz and extreme cheerleader Ian Poulter.

When this year’s President’s Cup ended, Price told Reuters that he made his pairings “to try to win the Cup.” While his strategy was admirable, did he really believe his team could win?  He was referring to the idea that he should have considered a Woods/Scott individual match. He instead chose a strategy in which his best players played early in the day in an effort to gain some momentum.

They did gain 7.5 of the 12 available points, but what they needed was a miracle.

Price suggested that the Presidents Cup turn to a more “compact” format like the Ryder Cup in order to better the competition.

The Ryder Cup, like the Presidents Cup, includes foursome, four-ball and individual matches. But it lasts three days and has 28 matches instead of four days and 34 matches. That would surely shorten the event, but would it truly make it more competitive? It sounds like Price was just worn out by the entire process.

So, if it can’t be competitive, it at least could have been more fun to watch.

We should have been able to see No. 1 player in the world Tiger square off against No. 2 Scott instead of the rookie Richard Sterne, who was way out of his league and just happy to be there.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Too bad Scott didn't face off against Tiger.

We should have watched rookie phenom Jordan Spieth play against Hideki Matsuyama in a match of future stars.

In terms of pairings, everyone would have been following a Woods/Phil Mickelson no matter who they played.

The Presidents Cup is in the unenviable position of being compared to the much more competitive Ryder Cup with its rich history and obvious drama.

That may not be fair or realistic, but golf fans and players deserve more.

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