Form prevails in Presidents Cup, to its detriment
By John Strege
DUBLIN, Ohio -- A good script requires drama, not a merciful ending, and the fact that the Presidents Cup failed on both counts, again, suggests a rewrite is in order.
It isn't a fair fight and hasn't been for awhile. The Presidents Cup has now been played 10 times, the International team winning only once and not since 1998. The U.S. won this one by three points, but had a substantially larger cushion on which it was comfortable leaning on Sunday. It was anti-climactic. It has now won five straight by an average margin of victory of four.
What we have here is an International crisis.
It played out over four rainy days at Muirfield Village Golf Club here the way any objective analyst might have handicapped it. Six of the 12 players on the U.S. team are in the top 10 in the World Ranking. Only one of 12 on the International team is. Bill Haas is the lowest-ranked U.S. player at 28th, which is still better than two-thirds of the International team. It was too predictable.
Adam Scott is among those concerned about the imbalance in the two sides. "We need to make this thing really relevant, make it a real competition," he said on the eve of the event. Five days later, his concern has not abated.
"I've been pretty open with what I believe about the event and it hasn't changed," he said.
The argument on behalf of the status quo is that the Ryder Cup once was similarly one-sided, and has now found a competitive balance. But it took decades and expanding the Great Britain team to include all of Europe. Does the PGA Tour want to wait, while continuing to stage mismatches televised opposite NFL football?
The idea has been floated that in the interest of closing the competitive gap that the number of points available should drop from 34 to 28, the latter equal to the points available in the Ryder Cup. It would allow captains to bench unproductive players.
"Nick [Price] and I talked about it," U.S. captain Fred Couples said Sunday, but he otherwise ceded the debate to others. Price, meanwhile, said that "there are a lot of changes I'd like to see, but I don't think we should discuss those now."
The matches slipped away from the Internationals in the two scheduled Saturday sessions, one of which carried over to early Sunday morning as a result of rain delays. A one-point lead after the first two rounds, became six after the ensuing two sessions, requiring the Internationals to earn 9 1/2 points in singles to secure the cup.
Optimism surfaced briefly, when the International team made a late rally to close the gap, but not the expectation that the outcome already had been decided.
"It was a tall order this afternoon, 9 1/2 points, against a team of the stature and ability of the American team," Price said.
Too tall an order. When their post-competition obligations concluded and the U.S. players left for their celebrations, it was still raining. And they were still reigning.