News & Opinion

A merger plan with a 1-in-a-million shot

Presidents Cup would be better as a qualifier for the Ryder Cup

The Presidents Cup should merge with the Ryder Cup.

That sounds unlikely, I know. Then again, who thought a hamburger could be made from plants? Yet, The Impossible Burger not only exists, it’s available at fine dining establishments such as Burger King, Red Robin and White Castle, plus your local supermarket.

The idea that the PGA of America, which runs the biennial Ryder Cup, would share its tradition-rich, bonanza-making showcase event with the PGA Tour, which created the Presidents Cup to be played on Ryder Cup off years, seems equally unlikely.

An elite player such as Adam Scott deserves a shot at the Ryder Cup.

I would say categorically that my proposed merger never will happen, except …

I was sitting at my desk in the media center during the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club in Ireland. My spot was near the back of the room, hard against a dividing wall that separated the working-media desks from the open area near the entrance where media and guests milled around. It was the equivalent of a window seat on an airplane.

As I typed on my laptop, I suddenly sensed someone standing to my left on the other side of the divider. When I glanced up, I saw PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. He looked at me at the same time and we made eye contact, which meant – oh no! – we had to make awkward conversation. Why awkward? He was a lawyer before becoming commissioner.

On the job, Finchem had a knack for dodging media questions by offering a lot of legal-ese that he seemed to think fooled us not-as-bright media scum. But I didn’t dislike him.

I don’t know why, but I suddenly blurted out a weird question: Would the commissioner like to hear my plan for the Presidents Cup? Finchem, also surprised, said, “Sure.”

I told him my idea was to merge the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup. It’s simple, really. The Presidents Cup would serve as the qualifier for the Ryder Cup. The Presidents Cup winner would advance to the Ryder Cup the following year to face the defending Ryder Cup champion.

It’s a win-win situation because it makes the Presidents Cup do-or-die (something it most decidedly is not). Lose the Presidents Cup and you’re not in the Ryder Cup. This would give the Presidents
Cup a huge boost in importance and drama, even though it would be a qualifier. The U.S. has dominated the series, 10-1-1, entering next week's event in Australia.

The merger would help the Ryder Cup, too, because it would make the Ryder Cup a true global event among the U.S., Europe and the Internationals. Does anyone in Japan, South Korea, Australia or South Africa care about the current Ryder Cup, an event from which they’re excluded? No. The first time the International team wins the Presidents Cup and plays in the Ryder Cup, the Ryder Cup goes global. Suddenly, interest in the Ryder Cup explodes globally and the PGA of America probably triples its profits, maybe more.

It has seemed silly for decades that some of the world’s best players have been left out of the Ryder Cup simply because they’re not from the U.S. or Europe. You know the list: players such as Greg Norman, Ernie Els, Jason Day, Nick Price, Adam Scott, Mike Weir, Hideki Matsuyama and the rest.

Golf is a global game now, and it has been for years. It wasn’t when Samuel Ryder founded his match in the 1920s. If Ryder created the Ryder Cup today, he surely would include the whole world. This merger is a way to do it, even if belatedly.

The only concession would be canceling the already-scheduled future sites for the Presidents and Ryder cups. The defending Ryder Cup champion will have to be the permanent host, which means a site would have at least two years to prepare. Why do it that way? You can’t very well play a Ryder Cup between Europe and the Internationals on some course in America. Nobody’s buying those tickets. Similarly, the U.S. versus the Internationals wouldn’t generate much interest even in a golf-loving country such as Scotland.

Likewise, the losing Presidents Cup team would have to host the next Presidents Cup, just to make sure one of the participants is the home team.

Everybody wins in my plan. The Ryder Cup goes global, and the Presidents Cup suddenly assumes the desperate sense of urgency it has been missing. Lose the PC and your favorite squad is facing at least an Olympic-sized four-year gap between Ryder Cup appearances.

Back to Finchem. When I finally finished my spiel, he gave me a small, thoughtful nod. “We wouldn’t be opposed to that,” he said.

What? If I’d been sitting down, I probably would have fallen off my chair in shock. I think I was standing, but what we chatted about after that was a blur. The PGA Tour commissioner was OK with the Presidents Cup being a qualifier for the Ryder Cup, and even bigger, the ex-lawyer and I agreed on something? You just never know.

That was 13 years ago. The Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup have not merged despite my brilliant (my word) suggestion. I wonder whether the PGA Tour ever has suggested such a plan? I doubt it, just as I doubt whether the PGA of America (and the PGA of Europe) would agree to share their massive Ryder Cup profits with the PGA Tour, even if it meant that all three parties would take more. Sharing money and power is not what these governing bodies do.

So, my cup merger idea is mostly fantasy. There is less than one chance in a million of it happening.

One in a million? To paraphrase Jim Carrey’s character in “Dumb and Dumber,” so I’m saying there’s a chance?

Well …