JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The best thing that could happen to the Presidents Cup was a blowout loss by the Internationals.
The 19-11 defeat here Sunday to the Americans crystalized a view that many on the International side, golf observers and the media long have held: the product, if not broken, has some serious cracks that need to be filled (scores: http://bit.ly/2xzUKfk).
Finally, the PGA Tour, which administers the biennial series, can stop deluding itself into thinking that there is nothing wrong with the 23-year-old event and that major changes are not required.
Nothing drives the need for change more than money – specifically, sponsor money. The event’s financial supporters could not have been excited by the lack of drama in the matches. Even the backdrop from their corporate boxes, with the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline in the distance, couldn’t alter that reality.
So, where do we go from here?
Assuming that the Presidents Cup – an off-year alternative to the Ryder Cup – still is a good idea, despite the Americans’ 10-1-1 record and seven consecutive victories, it’s time to dig down and inspect the foundation.
In the past, the approach led to small changes. Those Band-Aids are not enough. Surgical changes are required.
If I were Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, this is what I would do:
1. The Tour must relinquish control of the International operations to the Internationals. In the Ryder Cup, the European Tour oversees the interests of the European side. On the U.S. side, the PGA of America takes charge. An independent voice focused on the International side is paramount.
2. The points system needs to change. Two years ago, the matches were reduced from 34 to 30, with the thinking that the lack of depth on the International side would be offset by fewer points in play. However, every player on the 12-man teams also was required to compete in two of the four sessions before the singles matches. The rule not only negated any potential gain for the Internationals with fewer matches, but it made the team more vulnerable by forcing everybody to play twice before the singles. As a historic note, Mark James, the European captain for the 1999 Ryder Cup, decided that he had three players who were not of the same caliber as his other nine, so he didn’t play them for the first two days at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. He let them fend for themselves in the Sunday singles. It worked, to a point. The Europeans had amassed a 10-6 lead entering the singles, but the Americans rallied to win, 14½-13½. At least it was entertaining.
3. The Internationals should be allowed to determine their own selection process for the team. Again, in a comparison with the Ryder Cup, the Europeans and Americans rarely have used the same system to determine who makes their team, including the number of automatic qualifiers and captain’s picks.
4. Switch to a Ryder Cup format: three days of matches, with 28 total points. That would keep the score as close as possible entering Sunday singles play. An 11-point lead, such as what the Americans held this year entering the final day of play in the Presidents Cup, fails to keep golf fans engaged. With the outcome no longer in doubt, more viewers turn toward the NFL.
Whoever is the next International captain will have to deal with some of the same historical issues in this series, notably the language and cultural barriers of a team that draws its players from all nations except the U.S. and Europe. The contrived flag that flies over them isn’t much of a unifier.
Creating a truly united International team that can build on its successes – perhaps even the one-point loss two years ago in South Korea – would provide hope and continuity that are sorely lacking with the Internationals.
None of these suggestions likely would have stopped the American juggernaut in New Jersey. The Internationals need to learn from the Americans’ self-analysis after blowing a 10-6 lead entering Sunday singles in the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. Look in the mirror and go deep within to find the solution.
Bring together former captains Gary Player, Greg Norman and Nick Price, plus veteran players such as Ernie Els, Geoff Ogilvy and Frank Nobilo. Their potential solutions could only help.
Let’s hope that Monahan can be convinced that real change is necessary or the event will be doomed.
Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @AlexMiceli