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Presidents Cup almost becoming forgotten

If the Ryder Cup is the most overhyped event in golf, the Presidents Cup is perhaps the most underhyped.

What Presidents Cup, you may ask? That's a fair enough question, because September's scheduled showdown at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club outside Washington has received about as much publicity as the Somalian synchronized swimming championships.

The Presidents Cup is much younger than the Ryder Cup. It began in 1994, and its primary purpose - apart from making money, of course - was to give players such as Australian Greg Norman and Zimbabwean Nick Price a chance to compete in a Ryder Cup-style competition.

The format is very similar to the Ryder Cup, except that it's the United States against an international team comprising players from rest of the world, excluding Europe.

In 1994, there were only a handful of world-class players from outside the U.S. and Europe, most notably Norman and Price. But how things have changed over the past decade, as golf increasingly has become a global game.

Based on the current world rankings, the International team this year will be stronger on paper than the U.S. Currently, there are four International players in the top seven of the world rankings - No. 2 Vijay Singh, No. 3 Ernie Els, No. 5 Retief Goosen and No. 7 Adam Scott.

Long-hitting Angel Cabrera, consistent Tim Clark and U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell are also certain to make the International team, while a tight battle has developed for the remaining spots.

Two players who only a few months ago seemed certain to make the team - Mike Weir and Stuart Appleby - are now on the bubble. Weir's form in particular has been extremely poor.

The teams will be finalized after next month's PGA Championship, with the top 10 players qualifying automatically and captains Jack Nicklaus (U.S.) and Gary Player (International) picking two players each to complete their lineups.

Six players already are locks for the American team - Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, David Toms, Kenny Perry, Chris DiMarco and Jim Furyk - while Fred Funk and Stewart Cink should also qualify, barring a fluke set of circumstances.

The last Presidents Cup, played in South Africa in November 2003, ended in a dramatic tie, when a sudden-death playoff between Woods and Els was halted by darkness after three holes. Rather than returning the next morning to decide the winner, the captains decided a tie was a fitting outcome.

It was a tremendous competition but was largely ignored in the U.S. Not only was it televised on tape delay, but not one American newspaper sent a staff writer to the event, whereas dozens routinely go to the Ryder Cup when it is held in Europe.

And if you think Tiger Woods is unenthusiastic about the Ryder Cup, one would love to hear his private thoughts about the Presidents Cup. Tom Kite, the losing 1997 American Ryder Cup captain, thinks Woods and Mickelson would be well-served skipping the Presidents Cup,

Kite believes that would allow them to be more focused and motivated for the Ryder Cup, instead of having to play a team competition every year, something neither the Europeans nor the Internationals have to do.

But that's not likely to happen. Woods would be hammered by the media if he decided to sit out the Presidents Cup. It would smack of selfishness and greed to decline a chance to represent his country simply because there was no financial reward. In an age where image is everything, Woods would be better off sacrificing a week doing something for nothing than taking the grief that could accompany a boycott.

Perhaps part of the reason the Presidents Cup is not as compelling as the Ryder Cup is because the U.S. doesn't necessarily have the better team on paper. Therefore, nobody is shocked if the Americans are beaten.

Part of the recent appeal of the Ryder Cup has been that Europe - arguably inferior on paper - has won four of the past five events, surprising even the staunchest European fans. But if a team containing Singh, Els and Goosen wins, it hardly sends a shockwave around the world.

 

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