x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Plenty of room for team compeitions in professional golf

There are elements of the Presidents Cup and Seve Trophy which could be used to help improve the Ryder Cup, writes Steve Elling.

Tiger Woods is one player who approves the daily draft-board process of the Presidents Cup when compared to the Ryder Cup. Andy Lyons / AFP
Tiger Woods is one player who approves the daily draft-board process of the Presidents Cup when compared to the Ryder Cup. Andy Lyons / AFP

In what qualifies as either a slice of nirvana for fans of team competitions or a boneheaded scheduling blunder, dual Ryder Cup wannabes staged by the world’s two biggest tours are both set for this week. Pretty obviously, the Presidents Cup and the largely obscure Seve Trophy were established decades after the Ryder Cup had stuck its FootJoy in the cultural door.

The Ryder Cup is the biggest event in golf, a notion affirmed by television ratings, apparel sales and the unabashed partisan rooting that accompanies it.

Yet, whether by mimicry or gimmickry, there is elbow room at the table for the knock-offs, too.

Like a modern cover version of a scratchy old pop tune, the format nuances of the Presidents Cup, first staged in 1994, have mostly been embraced as defining, not derivative. It sounds heretical to suggest the format is superior to the Ryder Cup, but like analogue versus digital, it is in the ear of the beholder.

Here are four format points that not only distinguish the Presidents Cup, but arguably make it superior as far as presentation and portending drama:

• Unlike the suffocating three-day Ryder Cup format, the Presidents Cup starts a day earlier, on Thursday, giving all matches the scrutiny they deserve. More days means more fans, more excitement and more points on the table. In fact, it has recently been suggested that the Ryder Cup spread its competition over four days, but officials have resisted.

• With the Presidents Cup, the daily draw is like a fantasy sports draft. At the Ryder Cup, the pairings and line-up order are privately set by each captain. At the Presidents, the captains sit in the same room and alternate naming players. Randomness is removed and pairings are manipulated. Tiger Woods called the draft-board process “fantastic,” adding, “It’s not like in the Ryder Cup, blindly seeing what happens.”

• Because of the four-day format, which features 32 total points compared to the 28 available at the Ryder Cup, everybody plays every day. There is no hiding inexperienced, struggling or lesser players, which helps identify the best team.

• In a dramatic move, singles matches on Sunday cannot be halved, unlike at the Ryder. Players keep grinding until somebody has won, however many holes it requires.

Cloning and honing? If the European Tour’s Seve Trophy, established in 2000 and still struggling to gain traction, can similarly distinguish itself, it is all for the better. Because as the Ryder Cup has proven, fans have an itch for this niche – and they want it scratched.