The Presidents Cup got everything right last week at Liberty National except the thing that mattered most – the competition.
The 19-11 United States victory was as lopsided as the score appears, and by Saturday afternoon the event had taken on the feel of an exhibition because the Internationals were almost mathematically eliminated before Sunday singles.
So how to fix it?
How to make adjustments so that the Presidents Cup doesn’t remain as one-sided as it has been, with the U.S. winning 10 of the 12 times the event has been played?
Just two years ago in South Korea, the event went down to the final match but there haven’t been enough close competitions. Instead of building a Ryder Cup-like energy, the Presidents Cup is fighting to remain relevant.
The most likely scenario is a request by the International team to reduce the number of matches from 30 to 28 when the Presidents Cup is played at Royal Melbourne in Australia in two years. The Internationals were successful prior to the 2015 matches in trimming the match count from 34 to 30. Whether they convince the PGA Tour to allow another reduction is a big ask.
“I think we can go back to the drawing board with the Tour,” said Ernie Els, the presumed International captain in 2019. “Obviously playing for less points, I still say would benefit us.”
It’s no secret that the International team lacks the depth of the American side and the more matches played, the greater the perceived advantage for the U.S. side. And, unlike the Americans who play a team competition every year, the International side faces the additional challenge of trying to create a team of 12 with players from around the world.
“Maybe we should have our own selection process instead of us getting dictated by the Tour that this is the process you have to follow,” Els said. “There’s 10 guys and then two picks. Maybe we should have our own format of picking six guys and six guys qualify, or eight guys. We really need to sit down and talk about it.
“The Americans are the holders of the Cup. As we know, The Presidents Cup is owned by the PGA Tour. So they have written down the rules. So to change rules to benefit us … there’s got to be a two-way street going. But if negotiations don’t go our way, I don’t think the guys want to walk away from the Cup. I think the guys are invested into the Cup. The guys want to play. They want to compete.
“But we just want to feel that we are being treated fairly and that we get something going our way a little bit. The future of the Cup is important. We want to have it as competitive as we can, and taking nothing away from the team; we are playing against a team that are really good at it, playing it every year. So they, again, I’m going to say that they know what to expect into the matches. We have to really feel our way ourselves into it. And by the end of the week, every year, these guys are ready to go, but it takes awhile.
“So we have to go back to the drawing board.”
And what would the American side think of reducing the number of matches in the Presidents Cup?
The same way it felt when Nick Price convinced the organizers to cut the matches from 34 to 30.
“We voiced our opinion when they wanted to reduce the number of points in South Korea, and if I’m not mistaken, we all voted against that, of all the people that were asked. And the points system was still changed,” U.S. captain Steve Stricker said.
“Ultimately, it doesn’t seem like it would be up to us.”