Now that the 2005 golf season is finally gathering steam (I'm pretty sure the LPGA Tour starts up sometime in the next couple months, right?), it's time to look at an event that should be wiped off the schedule: The Presidents Cup. Why? Because it is pointless at best, anti-American at worse and, most crucially, it drags down the excitement and intensity of the Ryder Cup Matches. Let me explain.
Quick history lesson, which you probably don't need. The Presidents Cup was born in the Revenue Creation Laboratory located deep beneath PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach. It is an artificial construct created after the Ryder Cup became a surprise cash cow for the PGAs of America and Europe. The Tour was on the outside looking in, and it saw an opening. "Heck, they only play the Ryder Cup every other year. Let's cram another international team event into the off-years and sell a lot of corporate sponsorships!"
The Tour was well within its bounds in attempting to cash in on the Ryder Cup craze in 1994. But now the experiment has run its course. The Presidents Cup is enjoyable enough on its own, but you only need look at the recent uninspired performances of the U.S. side in recent Ryder Cup tilts to see the side effects of America's top players playing in an all-or-nothing, defend-your-flag pressure cooker every year. To be sure, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson don't lose any sleep over the Presidents Cup. But it is still a drain on them, and it sours their attitudes and enthusiasm for the Ryder Cup at the same time.
The rise of international, non-European players gives the PGA Tour a leg to stand on in defense of their manufactured team event. "Gee, who wouldn't want to see Ernie Els and Vijay Singh go up against Tiger and Phil?" Uh, they just did. It was called the Buick Invitational. And it happens several more times each year on the Tour. These guys play together all the time. Just because you make them all wear matching outfits doesn't up the intensity or meaning.
The only thing that unites the International Team, aside from the fact that they all seem to live in Isleworth, is that they're not American. In a world where there's plenty of anti-American sentiment to go around, why cultivate more, even if it's just a sporting event?
Why don't I have a problem with the Europe vs. USA dynamic? Because of the history of the Ryder Cup. It started not as an attempt to cash in on a trend. It started as a friendly competition between the old school of golf (Great Britain) and the new school (USA). When Ireland and, eventually, the rest of Europe, joined the fray, it wasn't a calculated business decision based on demographics and marketing metrics. It was to make the matches more fair and exciting. It was in the spirit of the Matches, which were meant to celebrate teamwork and sportsmanship.
True, the Ryder Cup has turned into a cash cow for the PGA. But give the PGA of America credit here: The folks from Palm Beach Gardens stuck with the event through decades of non-interest. The PGA pumped money into the event to keep the idea of "friendly" matches between the two golf camps, even paying to put the event on cable television in the early 1980s. They didn't give up on the event, and it has now paid off nicely.
But I saw firsthand the exasperation in Team USA at last year's Ryder Cup Matches at Oakland Hills. The mainstays like Woods, Mickelson and Davis Love III looked fried, even before captain Hal Sutton wound them up tighter than new rope.
In match play, golfers need to know when to let sportsmanship take over for competitiveness. They have a sense of when to give the other player a putt, and when to concede a match. It's time for the PGA Tour to pick up its golf ball, the one with the Presidents Cup on it, and end this match. Just as the Players Championship will never be anything more than "the fifth major," the Presidents Cup will never be anything more than "the other team matches." And just wait until Tiger says, "Uh, no thanks, I'll sit this one out."
The Ryder Cup is going to win out eventually. The Tour can do the game a service by shaking hands with the PGA and letting the Ryder Cup have center stage once and for all. This would give Team USA a chance to get back to full intensity, or at least eliminate another excuse for its recent poor performances. And it would show that in golf, sportsmanship and history still carry the day.
Besides, we'll always have those ridiculous Isleworth vs. Lake Nona matches to look forward to.
Vote in the forum or comment here: what do you think?