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Why isn't there any Presidents Cup buzz?

9/14/2005

Say what you want about the conclusion to the last Presidents Cup, but at least it got people talking. And that's more than you could say about any of the previous competitions pitting a U.S. team against a conglomerate of international stars from outside of Europe.

When captains Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player basically forced a tie at the conclusion of the 2003 Presidents Cup in South Africa, it was viewed as being everything from a blatant bending of the rules to incredible sportsmanship.

There had been a provision in place for a sudden-death playoff, but after three riveting holes between Tiger Woods and Ernie Els, darkness halted play. Let's forget the very real fact that nobody wanted to come back the next day to decide things. So the captains came up with a tie -- even though there was no provision for one in the rule book -- making the Presidents Cup different than the Ryder Cup.

The "unfinished business" aspect of the Presidents Cup coaxed Nicklaus and Player into coming back as captains.

But unless you stand in the line of fire of the PGA Tour's hype machine, you would be hard-pressed to come up with the dates for the event.

Stumped? Well, it is next week.

The sixth version of the Presidents Cup begins on Sept. 22 at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, located less than an hour away from Washington, D.C.

Yep, there's not much of a buzz heading into the matches, whose worthiness is again in question.

If two of the greatest names in the game are unable to generate any excitement for it, what else is left?

And it's not like there is a lack of star power on both sides. The United States team will be led by Woods,Phil Mickelson, Chris DiMarco, Davis Love III and Fred Couples.

The International squad will be led by Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Michael Campbell and Mike Weir. Losing Els to injury is a blow, but the team remains loaded.

And the possibility of a Woods-Singh showdown in Sunday singles will undoubtedly be worth watching.

So why all the yawns?

Could it be that the Presidents Cup is too much of a good thing?

It is not a secret that having a competition such as this every year takes some of the fun out of the festivities for U.S. team members. Players such as Woods, Mickelson and Love are part of the action every year. Maybe they should get over it and deal with with the situation, but it's not all about them.

The public doesn't seem to get into it, either.

We love the Ryder Cup, and some of it has to do with the history of the tournament. In the past 20 years, the Ryder Cup has become, perhaps, the biggest event in golf. When the Americans started losing, people started paying attention. There is no prize money at stake, but there is some serious choking that goes on in the event, and it can be riveting.

In Europe, they already are talking about next year's Ryder Cup. The process for making the team began two weeks ago in Switzerland, and it was already a big topic. Europeans love the Ryder Cup so much and the players buy into it.

Here, you could say the U.S. players tolerate the tournaments. They probably like the Presidents Cup more, but that is because there is less pressure, less going on outside of the event. If there is anything the players hate about the Ryder Cup, it is all of the required functions that dominate the week. It makes for an exhausting, pressure-filled week.

Nobody seems all that worked up about next week's Presidents Cup, but perhaps that will change. There was little buzz going into the Solheim Cup, either, and that turned out to be quite the showcase for women's golf.

We'll just have to wait and see whether the excitement ever materializes.

Five Things To Bank On
1. This is a good week for Chris DiMarco to get his first victory in more than three years. DiMarco has three straight top 10s at the 84 Lumber Classic. He also has seven runner-up finishes over 98 starts since his last victory at the 2002 Phoenix Open.

2. If he doesn't win, defending champion Vijay Singh should at least match a milestone. A top-10 finish would be his 52nd in a three-year span, which was last achieved by Raymond Floyd during 1981-83.

3. The HSBC World Match Play loses some of its luster without defending champion Ernie Els and not a single American. But it does offer the richest first-prize in golf. It will be interesting to see whether Retief Goosen can continue his excellent play of late.

4. Although her team lost, Annika Sorenstam had an excellent Solheim Cup and appears poised to post her first LPGA victory since June. She defends her title in Tulsa at the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic this weekend.

5. There is some reason to pay attention to the Champions Tour this week: Lee Trevino returns from surgery to play his first event of the year at the Constellation Energy Classic.


Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.