September 1, 2008

Cup Consolidation

Is one cup a year too much? Just wait until Tiger or Phil decides to skip one of these extravaganzas

Phil thinks golf in the Olympics is a good idea. What's his record on good ideas lately?

Phil thinks golf in the Olympics is a good idea. What's his record on good ideas lately?

A lot of people, including Phil Mickelson, think adding golf to the Olympics is a dandy idea. And it may well be, though the recent history of Phil's dandy ideas bearing fruit isn't all that impressive. Certainly, the addition of the backing of scores of Olympic committees the world over has done wonders for the growth and popularity of badminton, handball, curling and shooting a rifle whilst wearing skis and gloves. Imagine what a few more poor, corrupt officials could do for the game of golf.

On the other hand, maybe we should have our own Olympics every year instead of once every four. The whisper is the Americans are growing golf weary fighting on two fronts, taking on the Europeans in the Ryder Cup one season, then bouncing back the next year to take the measure of the Internationals. The rumors grow with each passing engagement that one of these fine days a Mickelson or a Tiger Woods will no longer want to donate a week of their lives to team-room table tennis only to be harangued with questions afterward about how pitifully they played or how little they care. Could they really be anxious to add the Olympics, too?

If the object is to grow the game worldwide, here's a wildly improbable suggestion: merge the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Let's say the Americans play the Europeans this year, with the Internationals waiting in the wings, waiting to ambush the winner next year in, say, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Korea or even China. In this round-robin scenario, the team that loses cools its heels for a year and comes back in two years, on its own turf, re-charged and ready to take the crown.

The logistics would be difficult but not insurmountable. The side that is sitting out would have two years to arrange a site. The order of host courses in any hemisphere could be determined years in advance by selecting a rota and ticking them off as they're needed.

Naturally, when the Internationals are playing the Europeans, the interest in America would wane. What's so unusual about that? When the New England Patriots play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, San Diego Chargers fans aren't that interested, either. It doesn't mean San Diegans don't climb down off their surf boards long enough to go to a Super Bowl party and watch the commercials on a flat-screen TV, however. One might suggest the Internationals, as a group, lack the kind of "us versus them" intensity that Europe and America have, for better or worse, engendered. On the other hand, think a few ex-colonies around the globe wouldn't mind having a go at Great Britain, France and Spain? The whole thing could well grow in stature.

The biggest drawback, of course, is money. What are the chances certain unnamed governing bodies would be interested in carving up the fatted calf the Ryder Cup has become? The Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds have a better chance of splitting Iraqi oil revenues. But imagine the worldwide marketing opportunities these matches would provide. If your motivation is to grow the game around the globe, wouldn't it make sense to do it through the associations that teach it and play it? It makes at least as much sense as creating golf's version of the Jamaican bobsled team.