News & Opinion

Finchem’s folly: One-sided Presidents Cup

When Tim Finchem launched the Presidents Cup in 1994, the then-deputy commissioner of the PGA Tour said it was the right thing to do.

Twenty-three years later, the initiative has fallen far short of expectations.

In the previous 11 Presidents Cups, the Americans have dominated the biennial series with a 9-1-1 record. The U.S. is heavily favored to win again this week at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, N.J. (http://bit.ly/2ftFUjI).

The matches have been more of an exhibition than a competition. Against supposedly the best players in the world, outside of Europe, the U.S. has racked up 197 points to the Internationals’ 165. That 32-point differential over the years has made the outcome of the Presidents Cup about as predictable as a Harlem Globetrotters game, minus the high jinks.

“I think the U.S. team will be motivated by who's on the other side,” said Finchem, who retired last year after 22½ years as Tour commissioner, upon introducing the Presidents Cup. “They'll want to beat those guys. Greg Norman is the No. 1 player in the world; Nick Price is right up there [No. 3]. Our guys would like a shot at them. That's what they’ve told us.”

Now both sides are singing a different tune. Truth be told, most players on both sides would rather take the week off than make the trek to far-flung places around the world to play in what essentially is a foregone conclusion.

This year at Liberty National, the odds favor a seventh consecutive victory for the Americans. 

When the matches began in 1994, many of the International players didn’t compete consistently in the U.S. as they do today. The World Golf Championships wouldn’t debut for five years, and the game was not as global as it is for today’s top players.

In 2017, golf is in a totally different place. Although the Ryder Cup has flourished in recent decades, the Presidents Cup has floundered by comparison, with far less interest and little competitive drama.

The Internationals certainly want to win. It’s just that they struggle with the depth of the American squad. Because the PGA Tour has been unwilling to make all of the changes requested by past captains Norman and Price and supported by most of the International players – fewer matches and a return to the original three days of competition, to help offset U.S. depth – American victories will continue.

At this point, it’s clear that even with a stunning International upset this week, that would not be enough to salvage this event.

The Presidents Cup tried to ride the coattails of the Ryder Cup. If it had been competitive from Day 1, it would have had a chance. Since that inaugural 20-12 U.S. victory, however, the direction has been clear.

This is no Ryder Cup.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli