Presidents Cup is an exercise of PGA Tour control
DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — The Presidents Cup is more of an exhibition than a competition, even on that rare occasion when the matches are competitive.
That only becomes a problem if nothing has changed 20 years from now.
A bigger issue would be if the quality of golf suffered.
Look beyond a week of rain that turned Muirfield Village into target practice. Try to forget the disjointed nature of this Presidents Cup when players twice had to return the next morning to complete matches, even though it was darker than when they had stopped the night before.
Zach Johnson closed out one match with a wedge from 115 yards that spun into the cup for eagle.
Remember that time at Harding Park when Tiger Woods laced a 3-iron into the 18th green that was so pure he twirled the club and stretched out both arms as he walked after the shot? This time it was a fairway metal into the 15th, and he crouched for a below-the-belt, double fist pump when it plopped down 4 feet below the hole.
Graham DeLaet twice holed shots for birdie on the 18th green — on the same day. He knocked in a bunker shot Sunday afternoon to close out 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. That morning, the Canadian chipped in for birdie from the front of the green.
“No one ever practices that shot because the ball never stays there,” Keegan Bradley said.
Bradley followed that chip-in birdie with a 10-foot birdie putt of his own, set up by one of the best shots of the week. Phil Mickelson had to play a hook with the ball below his feet to get around a tree and up the hill to a pin 190 yards away. He shut the face of a 7-iron and stuck it in the tiny, right corner of the 18th green.
Yes, it was a real exhibition of golf, as it usually is in these formats.
But a competition?
The United States won (again), 18½-15½, an outcome that could be considered close only with a little imagination.
The Americans assured themselves a tie when Johnson defeated Branden Grace for the 17th point. It took more than an hour until Woods beat Richard Sterne on the 18th hole for the winning point. The Americans won for the fifth straight time and improved to 8-1-1.
“We all know how close it really was,” Jack Nicklaus said before handing the gold trophy to the American team.
International captain Nick Price wasn’t so sure.
The Americans had a 14-8 lead going into singles and had to win only four of 12 matches. And they did, even if it took longer than expected.
On his way to the villa for a few beers — the Internationals lead the series 10-0 when it comes to the after party — Price was a mixture of frustration and honesty.
“People say it was close. Jack said it was close. You tell me,” Price said. “We were behind the 8-ball today. If we pulled it off, it would have been miraculous. But then there’s the debate. Did they take it easy with a big lead? I don’t know. If you have a real feel for the game ... it would have been so hard for us to win.”
Price was more bothered by a format that he said favors the Americans. There are 34 matches at the Presidents Cup compared with 28 at the Ryder Cup. Everyone plays the first two days. There is no hiding the weaker players, such as when European captain Mark James didn’t let three rookies play until Sunday in the 1999 Ryder Cup.
Price lobbied for change. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem denied his request. “Unless it’s broken, don’t really mess with it,” was Finchem’s logic.
When he was appointed captain of the Ryder Cup, Paul Azinger asked the PGA of America for four captains’ picks instead of two. His wish was granted, and the Americans won back the cup at Valhalla.
To whom does Price appeal?
What hurts the credibility of the Presidents Cup is the lack of ownership by the International team, even when the matches leave America. Imagine a World Series between two teams with the same owner.
How can it be looked upon as a competition when the whole affair is orchestrated by one organization?
It was stunning two years ago to learn that a simple change — starting with fourballs instead of foursomes — required approval of the PGA Tour policy board.
Never mind that the International team has 12 players who are, will be or want to be PGA Tour members. This is supposed to be the United States against players from every continent except Europe. But it’s governed exclusively by the American-based PGA Tour.
Finchem is and always has been chairman of the International Federation of PGA Tours. Why not let the host tour (South Africa, Canada, Australia) call the shots? Better yet, why not let the host tour reap the financial benefits to help strengthen its tour?
“This is a PGA Tour event,” Price said. “How is South Africa or Australia going to tell the PGA Tour how to run an event?”
Price made it clear he wants to be captain again. “Don’t care where it is,” he said.
Fred Couples, Gary Player and Peter Thomson have been captains three times. Nicklaus was captain four times. It would seem reasonable to bring back Price.
But who decides? Price smiled.
“Tim told me the International Federation makes that choice,” he said.