How I'd fix the Ryder Cup

By Dan Jenkins Illustrations by John Euland
June 25, 2007

Paul Azinger's plan to improve our Ryder Cup team for 2008 was a good start, but it didn't come close to the drastic changes we need, which is why I'm asking the PGA of America to fire Azinger and appoint me the captain. Me, a man of real vision.

To begin with, Azinger asked for four captain's choices instead of two. That's far too conservative.

I would ask for 12. And suggest that they be Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Gene Sarazen, Walter Hagen, Jack Burke Jr., Tommy Bolt and Cary Middlecoff.

OK, a few of them are dead. But why would that make the team any different from the one that got manhandled in Ireland last September?

What? No modern player among my 12, you say?

Fine. Take out Middlecoff and put in Arron Oberholser. Same number of letters in his last name.

Where is Tiger Woods, you ask?

I ask, what has Tiger ever done for the Ryder Cup but have Michael Jordan in his gallery?

Next, captain's assistants. It's been a tradition that the captain's two assistants are men who used to play the tour without much success and whose names are completely unfamiliar to anyone under the age of 60. I would certainly change this.

My two assistant captains would be NBC's Johnny Miller and Kelly Tilghman of The Golf Channel. Miller would surely get our team riled up with his offhand comments, and Kelly would provide intelligent insights while dolling up the landscape.

Look at it another way. Who would you rather see climbing out of a golf cart holding a walkie-talkie up to the ear — some guy you think might have won at Doral or Hilton Head several years ago but can't be sure, or Kelly Tilghman?

Azinger relied on arithmetic for his other tweaks. He'd deal out a point here for something, a point there for something else, a half-point for this, a quarter-point for that. All based on money.

It was too complicated for most people, especially me.

It brought to mind the day in junior high when I told Miz McGuire how it didn't matter if I flunked her test because there was never going to be a day in my life when I'd need to know how many bushels of hay you could load into a boxcar. I just wasn't ever going to need to know that.

I would employ arithmetic more clearly than Azinger. Simply award points for doing something worthwhile.

Start with giving 100 points to a man who wins one of the four majors. Add another 100 points if he wins a major in which Tiger Woods is a serious contender.

Award 200 points to a man who wins one of the majors and immediately skips the three Booz Allens, John Deeres or Deutsche Banks that follow.

This is to remind the PGA Tour and Commissioner Tim Finchem that they don't own or control any of golf's five greatest events — the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, PGA and Ryder Cup — and there's nothing they can do about it no matter how many FedEx Cups and Tour Championships they manufacture.

Two hundred points to players who skip the Tour Championship and spend the weekend with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Three hundred points to players who skip the Shark Shootout and watch football instead.

Four hundred points to players who don't get invited to the Tommy Bahama Challenge, the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge, the ADT Skills Challenge and the Del Webb Father/Son Challenge.

Five hundred points to any player who can tell you what Tommy Bahama ever won, and why he's challenging anybody.

All that is a way of saying that the pro golf season will always end with the PGA in August or the Ryder Cup in September, except for a few scattered fans and silly sponsors who are apparently sick in the head.