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No changes planned for Ryder Cup format

Since 1979, when continental Europeans were allowed to compete for the first time, the Ryder Cup has consisted of 28 matches crammed into three days -- eight alternate-shot and better-ball matches, followed by 12 singles on Sunday.

Don't expect that to change any time soon.

``Most everything that other event does has been suggested to us,'' said Jim Awtrey, chief executive officer of the PGA of America.

That ``other event'' to which he referred is the Presidents Cup, and two of the suggestions Awtrey has heard were to play an additional team match each session, and to let the captains manipulate the draw to get more marquee pairings.

Awtrey wasn't impressed with either.

``When we were talking about adding points, or adding matches, we saw what can happen,'' he said. ``You get too many points early, and it's over before it gets to Sunday. With the possibility of a nonevent on Sunday, that has never been a serious discussion.''

Indeed, the International team took a 14 1/2-5 1/2 lead going into Sunday in the '98 Presidents Cup. Two years later, the United States led 14-6 going into the last day. Both matches ended in blowouts. Three of the five Presidents Cups have been decided by at least eight points.

Awtrey also said television officials liked the idea of the captains announcing one match at a time.

``They thought that would be great theater, and television wants theater,'' he said. ``But the captains know they've got to start out with strong players and have someone to close it out. We've found that created some strategy, some excitement. And that had tremendous theater.''

He also believes playing 36 holes on Friday and Saturday (the Presidents Cup spreads the four team sessions over three days), leads to more strategy because captains have to decide who has the stamina and the hot hand.

The only substantial change Awtrey can recall is allowing the home captain to decide which format to use at the start the Ryder Cup. Seve Ballesteros changed in 1997 to start with better-ball matches.

``I don't recall that we've done any material change,'' he said. ``And I really don't expect any.''

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