The Presidents Cup Will Never Be the Ryder Cup

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2009

NORTH PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and Greg Norman pose with the President's Cup trophy after Finchem announced that Norman and Fred Couples will be the captains for the 2009 President's Cup at PGA National on February 26, 2008 in North Palm Beach, Florida. The biennial team competition is to be held at San Francisco's Harding Park Golf Course.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

In case you haven’t heard, 16 of the top 25 players in the world will be on hand this week at Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco to take part in the 2009 Presidents Cup matches.

That's right: Woods, Mickelson, Ogilvy, Singh, and Villegas, amongst others, will all be there.

So, why the lack of interest?

Is it because football season has moved into full swing?


Do casual golf fans begin loosing interest in the game after the conclusion of the PGA Championship in August?


Are American golf fans still basking in the glory of their improbable thrashing of the European side at last year’s Ryder Cup matches?


You see, the Presidents Cup is the PGA Tour’s politically correct answer to the Ryder Cup matches.

As the game of golf began to spread around the world like wildfire in the early 90s, players from the United States and Europe were the only ones given the opportunity to compete in high profile team matches every other year.

But what about the rest of the world?

So, the always PR conscious PGA Tour took the diplomatic route and created the Presidents Cup in 1994.

However, the Presidents Cup couldn’t be a carbon copy of the Ryder Cup matches, that would be an almost mocking exercise.

The PGA Tour decided to differentiate the Presidents Cup by adding in another day and six additional matches.

The Ryder Cup format consists of eight foursome matches, eight four-ball matches, and 12 singles matches which take place over the course of three days.

The Presidents Cup consists of 11 foursome matches, 11 four-ball matches, and 12 singles matches which take place over the course of four days.  

In essence, the Presidents Cup format is exactly the same as the Ryder Cup, only with an additional day and six extra matches added in.

So, back to the main question—why the lack of interest in the Presidents Cup?

Plain and simple—it’s not the Ryder Cup.

The Ryder Cup has a tangible identity—it’s the United States vs. Europe.

It’s a rivalry in culture, ideals, political views, and of course, sport that dates back to 1777 when the United States declared its independence from Great Britain.

The Ryder Cup matches are steeped in history and tradition. Virtually every great player in the game’s history has competed in the bi-annual matches at one time or another; and over the past two decades, the competitiveness and overall interest in the event has increased tenfold.

Although the European Union seems to be expanding by the day, even a child can point out the general location of Europe and the United States on a map.

The international Presidents Cup team?

A fifth grade teacher could plan an entire geography lesson around the international Presidents Cup team.

Good luck to any fifth grader being able to point out South Africa, Japan, Korea, the Fiji Islands, Colombia, Argentina, Canada, Australia and, if you count co-captain Frank Nobilo, New Zealand on the map.

Three players on the international side will be traveling with translators this week, which, needless to say, makes building team unity somewhat difficult.

And therein lies the main reason why the Presidents Cup has never drawn as much interest as the Ryder Cup.

The international side has yet to create a true team identity. This is mostly due to the fact that the team is composed of players from every corner of the world who speak different languages, have different interests, and play on different tours.

Heck, some of the guys will have never even met each other before they show up at Harding Park this week.  

Whereas the Ryder Cup teams have entire countries (or at least a unified group of countries in the European Union) behind them, the fans of the international Presidents Cup team are scattered throughout the world.

There’s no visible unity present in the international Presidents Cup team, which is not at all a reflection of the players or their fans, but is simply an affect of geography.  

The Presidents Cup has certainly come a long way since its inception in 1994, and the ever increasing pool of talented young international players should secure the future of the event and provide for some highly competitive matches in the coming years.  

However, most casual golf fans, at least in America, seem far more excited about the team matches that are scheduled to take place 12 months from now in Wales than they are about the matches set to begin just two days from now in San Francisco.


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