Among the still-developing traditions with the Presidents Cup is the biennial discourse that before the results can change – the United States just won for the 12th time in 14 events with one tie – the format must change.
Here are some of the suggestions:
- Include a handful of European players to bolster the International side, which typically fights the depth of talent battle;
- Include women, making it a mixed event, which should help the Internationals given the number of exceptional female players from Asia, Canada, and Latin America;
- Scrap it altogether and let the Ryder Cup shine every two years.
Do any of those ideas have any traction?
No, no and no.
Asked specifically last week if there might be format changes to the next Presidents Cup – at Royal Montreal in 2024 – PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan made it clear that no big changes are coming.
He pointed to the Ryder Cup, which began in 1927, as being one-sided for decades before becoming what it is today. The addition of a junior Presidents Cup is a seemingly small thing but with a potentially larger impact down the road. Trust the process, as the saying goes.
From a business standpoint, there were 40,000 fans each day at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, last week and hospitality sales more than doubled their dreamiest goal, topping out at more than $40 million.
“I think this event is on a great path,” Monahan said last week.
“We’ll go to Royal Montreal and we will come back to Medinah. The support we will get is going to be tremendous. You’re always going to get people who say if you do this, you might be able to eliminate that. That’s the nature of it but we made a decision several years ago to reduce the tournament to 30 points (from 34) and two of the last three have been highly competitive.”
It’s easy to forget that in South Korea in 2015 the Americans needed to win the final match to win the cup and the U.S. trailed after every session but the final one in Australia three years ago, rallying from a two-point deficit in Sunday singles.
The problem is the matches haven’t been that close on American soil. It didn’t help last week that the U.S. went 8-2 over the first two days but eight of those 10 matches went to the 17th or 18th holes, suggesting they were closer than it appeared. The U.S. went 5-1-2 in those matches as the Internationals were unable to flip them at the end.
That doesn’t mean there is a movement internally to change the way the matches are contested.
“All I can say is (captains) Ernie (Els) and Trevor (Immelman) pushed hard for the best possible situation for the Internationals. If it’s not there yet the guys in the future will continue to push hard, trying to be as autonomous as possible.” – Adam Scott
Is there an inherent advantage for the American side given the PGA Tour runs the event and oversees both teams?
Not intentionally but the idea of giving the International team more autonomy has been discussed.
“It’s a big event and running just one side of the team is a big undertaking. I think somewhere behind the scenes those conversations continue to happen,” said Adam Scott, who has been on 10 International Presidents Cup teams. “All I can say is (captains) Ernie (Els) and Trevor (Immelman) pushed hard for the best possible situation for the Internationals. If it’s not there yet the guys in the future will continue to push hard, trying to be as autonomous as possible.
“It took a while to realize things weren’t maybe as even as it could be and some of the challenges the International team faced were maybe different than the European (Ryder Cup) team. They are from different countries, but they have their own organization to run the thing.
“It’s not a crack at anybody. It takes time like lots of things to get it right. We’ve had lots of different variations of the FedEx Cup and we’ve had a few variations of the Presidents Cup now. We’re nearly 30 years in. The Ryder Cup was not that much of an event for a long, long time.”
As a captain of two Ryder Cup teams and this year’s Presidents Cup team, Davis Love III sees the International side taking a page from the American playbook, which is based on what the U.S. saw the Europeans doing in the Ryder Cup.
He told a story Sunday night of Darren Clarke suggesting Love not captain the 2010 Ryder Cup team so both of them could be captains the same year in 2012. It didn’t immediately dawn on Love that the Europeans already had a plan in place for captains, elevating them through the system. It’s what the U.S. ultimately copied and now the International side is doing it.
The change doesn’t happen overnight but both sides believe it’s happening. Would it have been different with Cam Smith, Joaquín Niemann and Abraham Ancer playing for Immelman’s side last week? Perhaps, but Tom Kim emerged as a star and a potential long-term force on the team while the eight rookies will know next time what it’s all about.
“You can’t really gauge it on this year. It’s not a fair year. Obviously, we missed a guy, maybe two. We lost veteran leadership, but they lost a lot of guys,” Love said.
“They need a year to get their players back. It’s unfortunate. If you go over in their team room and say, ‘Do you guys want to just quit? Do you guys want to do something different?’ No. They want to win this thing.”
Scott, who has never won a Presidents Cup in more than 20 years of trying, believes an organic change has begun for the International side.
“This team’s got plenty of heart, and that’s thanks to everything Trevor’s put in the last couple years. He’s bled for this shield that we now talk about, and it’s just the beginning for this team, really,” Scott said.
“I think you’re seeing a lot of guys here who will be returning on the next one. If they don’t, they will have tried their ass off to get on this team.
“And the week when they put it together and they’ve got the heart, I think the U.S. team’s really going to be up for a helluva fight.”
Top: Big crowds at Quail Hollow for the Presidents Cup are part of the reason PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan says the event “is on a great path.” Photo: Brian Spurlock, Icon Sportswire via Getty Images.
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