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Is anyone interested in the Presidents Cup?

Last fall we were treated to another edge of your seat Ryder Cup.

The bi-annual nailbiter had the Europeans taking home bragging rights for at least two years against a heavily favored American squad that couldn't capitalize on their historical strength in singles.

Not too many on this side of the pond had heard of the Ryder Cup, and even fewer cared, until America started losing it in 1985.

When America lost it after 28 years that year, it suddenly became a big event stateside with blanket media coverage, hype and hysteria.

Since then, the Ryder Cup has become a hotly contested, jingoistic (on both sides) affair. In 1991 at Kiawah, we had the "War By The Shore."

Having just beaten up hapless Iraq in the Gulf War I, American golf media and players nearly turned a golf tournament into Desert Storm 2, complete with camouflage clothing and Paul Azinger's "First we kicked the Iraqi's butt and now this" comment.

Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and things settled down... at least until the 1999 green stampede at Brookline.

That unfortunate happening prompted an angry book from European captain Mark James and a host of newspaper editorials that made the front page of many papers.

The events of September 11, 2001 helped put everything in perspective and the 2002 affair saw a return to how it should be played.

One hopes the civility and sportsmanship continues when the event returns to America in 2004.

Except for the 1996 edition, the Presidents Cup has been a lopsided affair; three times for America, and once for the International squad.

The last edition of the event had one American pro grumbling that it was difficult to get excited competing against an International team made up of players who live in Orlando.

The event has never really caught on with the public.

There has been some terrific shotmaking at the Presidents Cup and it was exciting in 1996, but it still doesn't hold a candle to the tingling nerves and emotion of the Ryder Cup.

True, the Ryder Cup started back in 1927 and has history on its side, but the Presidents Cup is a case of capitalizing on the popularity of one event and trying to transfer that to a second event.

It never works.

For 2003 (the event was changed to odd numbered years after the events of September 11 postponed the Ryder Cup), Tiger Woods and others are debating whether to make the trip to South Africa in November.

While they have been criticized in some quarters, one can understand their reaction. At the end of a long season the last thing many American pros want is to make the trek across the globe for another team event.

Selfish? No. Having a major team event every year is a bit much for the Americans, every second year is plenty.

The European pros get a year off from this type of international competition but the Americans don't.

Some feel that if Woods and company don't make the trip to Gary Player country, the event will suffer greatly, or even fold.

Here's hoping that it does.

The Ryder Cup on it's own has become huge and planning for the event began immediately after the final putt of 2002.

Hal Sutton is the next captain and he is working hard at getting everything ready.

There is nowhere near that kind of build up or media coverage for the Presidents Cup and a lot of American fans and golfers don't care that much. American golf fans can probably name their last few Ryder Cup captains, but how many can name all five (counting 2003) Presidents Cup captains.

For the record, starting in 1994 it's been Hale Irwin, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ken Venturi and Nicklaus again for 2003.

Too much of anything has a detrimental effect.

Canadian hockey fans well remember the 1972 Canada vs. the Soviet Union 8 game hockey series.

Students were pulled out of class to watch Paul Henderson's famous goal with 34 seconds left.

The entire series electrified a nation.

Capitalizing on that success came an onslaught of international hockey events such as Canada vs. Soviet Union 2 in 1974 when it was the WHA's turn, the Canada Cup, the Challenge Cup, various NHL, WHA and even AHL clubs against Soviet teams, and on it went.

By the early 1980s many were sick of it.

While the tournaments were entertaining, nothing captured Canada's imagination like 1972, until perhaps the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City when Canada defeated the USA for gold.

Why was that so exciting? Besides the normal nationalistic overtones present in any international competition, the Olympic hockey tournament featured the best against the best. Would you rather win gold at the Olympics or the Pan American Games?

Major championship winners Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Mike Weir and Nick Price, can never play Ryder Cup, but must settle for the second tier Presidents Cup. Even Greg Norman in his prime couldn't attend.

Those five players own 12 major championships, yet their birthplace stops them from playing.

The Presidents Cup has some great international talent (Ernie Els, Vijay, etc.), but where is Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Darren Clarke, and a couple of those European captain's picks we've never heard of but who always seem to give the Americans fits? They can't play.

The solution is to merge the Presidents Cup into the Ryder Cup and have the top 12 players in the world battle the 12 best Americans.

Finally, we would have the pinnacle of international golf competition, with the build up and excitement reaching unprecedented levels.

The players would bring out the competitive fire in each other like never before and the real winner would be golf.

The tournament could alternate between America and an international site, giving fans in places like Japan and South America a chance to see the top golfers go head to head.

Jack Nicklaus deserves credit for reviving interest in the Ryder Cup.

The matches were becoming stale as America always won by a comfortable margin, so Nicklaus suggested all of Europe battle the Americans to make it more competitive.

It's now time to take the final step of America vs. the World at the Ryder Cup and may the Presidents Cup then rest in peace.

 

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