DUBLIN, Ohio – The Presidents Cup is a lot like The Players Championship. No one really talks about it until it’s time to play. And too much time is spent comparing it with something it will never be instead of enjoying it for what it is.
The Presidents Cup can never equal the passion, pride and excessive hype of the Ryder Cup, just like The Players Championship can have all the trappings of a major championship without being considered one.
That’s missing the point.
Europe has a real flag, not one that someone designed exclusively for a golf tournament.
More than playing for a flag, Europe plays for its tour. Padraig Harrington said it best a decade ago when he referred to the European Tour as the “country cousin” of the PGA Tour. It’s not as big, not as rich, not as popular. They have something to prove one week every two years. It’s the success of the Ryder Cup – and that success comes from beating up on the Americans every other year – that pumps much-needed money into the European Tour.
The International team comes from Argentina and Japan, South Africa and Australia. The biggest draw this week in Ohio might be Graham DeLaet of Canada, a proud golf nation and not terribly far away from central Ohio.
“We are going to have a lot of support from the Canadians, and I think we’re going to have a lot of people down here from Canada in the next four or five days, so good for him,” International captain Nick Price said.
Safe to say there hasn’t been a big rush for tickets from Zimbabwe. Or Argentina.
So why bother with the Presidents Cup?
Mainly because it’s an opportunity, and that should be enough.
“When we started out with the Presidents Cup, the initial guys – myself, Greg (Norman) and Ernie (Els) – we so enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup and so wanted to be a part of the Ryder Cup-type format,” Price said. “And then the Presidents Cup came along, and that was fantastic.”
Go back two decades to the start of these matches, and it might explain the value of the Presidents Cup.
The biggest stars outside of America in the mid-1990s weren’t from Europe, but from other parts of the globe. Norman was the biggest draw in golf. Price won three majors and was No. 1 in the world. Els won his first U.S. Open at 24 and was referred to by Curtis Strange as “the next guy.”
International players not eligible for the Ryder Cup won majors in all but two seasons during the 1990s.
The only big stars from Europe when the Presidents Cup began in 1994 were Jose Maria Olazabal (when healthy) and Colin Montgomerie.
These days, Europe has the best of both – the Ryder Cup and some of the top stars. Just two years ago, the season ended with Europeans in the top four spots in the world ranking.
Maybe that’s why it’s hard to get worked up for this tourney. Masters champion Adam Scott has emerged as a global star. No other player on the International team is ranked among the top 15.