Altvater: Formula to fix the Presidents CupWritten by Fred Altvater | | BackNine@toledofreepress.com
Much is being made this week about the 1-7-1 record of the International team in the nine previous Presidents Cup matches.
Many are calling this a must-win for the International team to keep the biennial competition relevant. It is difficult to build a viable rivalry if one team rarely wins.
Maybe the Presidents Cup could take a lesson from the Ryder Cup.
Thirty-nine Ryder Cups have been held since 1927. From 1959 to 1983 the team from Great Britain and Ireland did not win one match outright. The lone bright spot was a 16-16 tie in 1969.
Everyone loved the idea of the Ryder Cup and what it stood for, but American golf fans were not enthused about a competition where the opposition never won.
During the 1977 Ryder Cup, Jack Nicklaus took the opportunity to meet with the head of the British PGA, Lord John Darby, to suggest inclusion of continental Europe to the Ryder Cup team.
Team Europe became a reality in 1979 and since then has won 10 of the last 17 Ryder Cups. The inclusion of Seve Ballesteros, Jose Maria Olazabal and Bernhard Langer completely changed the fortunes of the European Ryder Cup team.
The Ryder Cup had tradition and history, but was not afraid to alter its format for the good of the competition.
International team captain Nick Price may have struck on the right idea earlier this year when he suggested a slight tweaking to the format of the Presidents Cup.
In the Ryder Cup, four foursomes and four fourball matches are competed each of the first two days, plus 12 singles matches on Sunday, yielding a total of 28 points.
Four members of each 12-man team must sit out every session which allows the team captains to pick their best eight players for each session.
A total of 34 points are available in the Presidents Cup. Six fourball matches are held on Thursday and six foursome matches are held on Friday. All 12 team members must play each of the first two days matches. There is no chance to hide a player who is not performing well.
The fact that all team members must compete and the additional six points available favors the deeper team. This is very evident when looking over past Presidents Cup matches.
The Presidents Cup brings together 12 of the best International players in the world. Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Angel Cabrera have all won major championships.
On the 2012 European Ryder Cup team only Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer were major championship winners.
The problem for Price is the bottom of his roster is just not as strong as the bottom of the U.S. team.
Limiting Thursday fourball matches and Friday foursomes to just five matches rather than six would allow each captain to rest two players each day. It would shorten the points necessary to win the matches and give the International team a better opportunity to compete.
In the past, former International team Captain Greg Norman also suggested possible changes to the Presidents Cup format and they too were not well received by the PGA Tour.
Captain Price answered the must-win question in his Tuesday press conference at Muirfield Village:
“I wouldn’t say it’s a must-win, but this one needs to be competitive. The last four Presidents Cups have not been that competitive.”
The veterans in the International team room are tired of getting beat by large margins. The odds are stacked against them again this week.
A win by the Internationals would be welcomed by all involved, but it is more likely a change needs to be made to the overall format to make the Presidents Cup more competitive in the future.