The Presidents Cup ends today, having started with a visit from three ex-Presidents and concluding with a visit from the current one, although to be fair, it’s possible Donald Trump thought he was showing up at Liberty National to play today.
Frankly, putting the sitting President on the team would make for a much more interesting event, and had Trump replaced, say, Matt Kuchar for the week, the Americans would have still won handily. As it was, they almost clinched on Saturday night, before the Sunday singles matches even began; instead, they took a 14.5-3.5 point lead into today’s round, which meant the Internationals needed 11.5 out of a possible 12 points just to tie.
That didn’t happen, of course.
Not quite "Do you believe in miracles?" or "In your life?" or "Yes, sir!" but U.S. wins when Daniel Berger clinches half-point on 15th hole.
— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) October 1, 2017
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the United States pretty much always wins this event:
The Presidents Cup is the store-brand Ryder Cup, pitting an American team of twelve golfers against a team of twelve golfers from non-European countries of the world. They’re all very talented players, of course, but the event was created in 1994 by the PGA Tour to get in on some of the sweet team-golf action the PGA of America had a monopoly on by running the more well-regarded, tradition-rich Ryder Cup.
The Americans have only lost once, in 1998; the event was tied in 2003, and then ever since the United States has dominated, though the 2015 event in South Korea was a close contest.
That held true this year, and the thrill of watching a team event just really isn’t that thrilling when it’s the equivalent of an NIT blowout. Were there some fun moments? Sure. Any golf tournament produces some fun moments, and match play does put the players in a slightly more directly competitive setting. But it was still pointless overall; how silly does everyone who spent tournament broadcasts debating whether Phil Mickelson should be a captain’s pick feel now?
So, as normally happens in the aftermath of a disappointing sporting event, the conversation shifts to “How can we fix it?”
Here’s how: just get rid of the thing altogether.
First of all, even calling it a store-brand Ryder Cup was probably an insult to store brands. (It’s definitely not a Kirkland Signature Ryder Cup.) The PGA Tour just throws together a bunch of corporate sponsors, heads to a bad or overrated American golf course, and expects people to treat it like a respected event.
It’s also rarely a good competition; the United States has the most great golfers in the world, and Europe has the next highest concentration. There are certainly great players from Australia, South Africa, and now Japan, but the Presidents Cup is a glorified Harlem Globetrotters game, with the International team playing the role of the Washington Generals on an off night.
The most drama to come out of this year’s event was a semi-controversial rules debate that ended with Jordan Spieth disqualified from a hole. Surely plenty of kids in India and China saw that and immediately asked their parents for a set of clubs.
Just pull the plug on it. Golf would be better off with just about anything going on in non-Ryder Cup years, including, even, playing the Ryder Cup every year. Is that lunacy? Tradition has it being played every two years, but tradition isn’t really a great reason to maintain the status quo, although don’t tell that to the golf world. And as Chris Solomon pointed out on a recent No Laying Up podcast, floating the idea to Rory McIlroy, the Masters is played every year too, and it doesn’t seem to have lost any luster.
The Ryder Cup is one of golf’s most exciting weeks, and seeing the American team in action every year hasn’t seemed to detract from the special nature of the event.
Or, barring that, play a 25-and-under Ryder Cup. Treat it as a showcase for young professional players, which could help expose more players in a fun setting, laying the groundwork for stardom. Golf really struggles with that; players like Brooks Koepka can win a U.S. Open and seem anonymous, despite having played on a Ryder Cup team and being one of the top-ranked players in the world. The Walker Cup features amateur players, yes, but the best players turn pro long before age 25.
Hell, play a mixed-gender event, a sort of hybrid Ryder-Solheim Cup. That would have been eminently more watchable this week.
Do you have a better idea? You probably do! But that idea likely doesn’t involve the Presidents Cup, as currently constituted. Unfortunately, it’s probably not going anywhere. At least the 2019 edition from Royal Melbourne will be contested on a decent golf course.