What Ryder Cup can learn from Presidents

Updated: November 25, 2003, 3:45 PM ET
Associated Press

GEORGE, South Africa -- No one can say the Americans don't care about the Presidents Cup.

Tiger Woods hardly smiled all week.

Kenny Perry was almost in tears after beating Nick Price in the toughest match he ever played. ''It just tore me up,'' Perry said.

Imagine what it did to Price after he missed a birdie putt on the final hole. He slammed the putter across his leg and bent the shaft, a rare fit of rage from the kindest man in golf.

Chris DiMarco couldn't work up a spit when he got to the 17th tee all square with Stuart Appleby in a match the United States had to win to have any chance.

Jack Nicklaus gave a Golden Bear hug to Jerry Kelly after a gritty performance.

Despite the way it ended -- in a tie -- the Presidents Cup came of age last week.

These matches went a long way toward giving the 9-year-old event credibility. Great golf, spectacular shots, raw emotions and gut-wrenching pressure used to be sole property of the Ryder Cup.

The Presidents Cup doesn't have the history of the Ryder Cup, and never will.

The cups were born 67 years apart, and the Presidents Cup can never match the natural rivalry between Europe and the United States -- the continent that created golf against the country that thinks it owns it.

But the breathtaking playoff between Woods and Ernie Els, and the clutch play of DiMarco and Kelly that carried the United States to a comeback, should sustain interest in the Presidents Cup when it returns to the United States in two years.

Nicklaus and Gary Player were the perfect captains for this venue, although the Presidents Cup would do well to follow the Ryder Cup by picking more contemporary captains. Fred Couples and Greg Norman are being considered for 2005.

Where does this leave the Ryder Cup?

As the best team show in golf.

Still, the Ryder Cup could learn a few lessons from the Presidents Cup, from the spirit of how the matches are played to the unique format that turns the matches into what they should be -- an exhibition.

Everyone plays: Woods was asked a few weeks ago why every Ryder Cup seems to come down to the final couple of matches, while the previous two Presidents Cup had produced record routs.

''You can't hide anyone in the Presidents Cup,'' he said.

The Presidents Cup has two team sessions of six matches. Do the math -- that's 12 players, meaning everyone has to play.

Benching players requires strategy, but Europe has taken it to an extreme. The most famous example was 1999, when captain Mark James didn't let three of his players into the game until Sunday.

The Ryder Cup should consider a new policy that everyone has to play at least once before Sunday singles (like the Solheim Cup). Or, it could add extra matches. The number of matches have fluctuated throughout the years.

Besides, when is more golf ever a bad idea?

Play over four days: The Presidents Cup switched to four days instead of three in 2000, another idea the Ryder Cup should copy.

Playing 36 holes a day brings stamina into the equation, but face it: That went out of style when the U.S. Open and British Open got away from a 36-hole final round in the 1960s.

There's nothing like raising the flag during the anthems, then changing into golf spikes and heading to the first tee. Otherwise, it's like player introductions at the Super Bowl on Saturday.

Sudden-death finish: Nicklaus and Player hated the idea of the Presidents Cup being decided by two players, but such a playoff is the greatest spectacle in golf.

Woods and Els said it was more pressure than they ever experienced.

But that isn't much different than when the 1991 Ryder Cup came down to the final match between Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, or the '69 Ryder Cup that was decided by Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin in the final match.

Anyone good enough to qualify for the Ryder Cup plays for moments like that.

And the crowd loves it.

Manipulating matches: The Presidents Cup allows captains to match players or teams from top to bottom. That allowed for Woods vs. Els in the singles match everyone wanted to see, and a great first match between Masters champion Mike Weir and U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk.

The Ryder Cup has a blind draw. Where's the strategy in that?

One could argue that Ben Crenshaw was brilliant in stacking his lineup in the '99 Ryder Cup, and ditto for Sam Torrance at The Belfry last year.

One problem: The players are so equal, and the 18-hole format so unpredictable, that it's hard to know who's going to play well.

Need an example? Phillip Price over Phil Mickelson.

Site selection: The Presidents Cup appears headed for Canada in 2007, although an announcement is not expected until early next year.

The Ryder Cup is booked through 2012.

If a golf course needs 10 years to get ready for a four-day exhibition, it has become more about money than golf.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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