Our Cup Runneth Over

Monday October 8th, 2007

American golf fans endured the FedEx Cup, watched the U.S. win the Presidents Cup, almost noticed the Walker Cup and are looking forward to next year's Ryder Cup (although recent history says that might be overly optimistic).

In short, our cup runneth over with cups. And that's not counting the World Cup, the Curtis Cup or the Palmer Cup.

So this is my all-in-one cupper fixer-upper. Tweaks for all the Cups that matter (yes, that is presumptuous) right here in one place. Bob Vila doesn't waste time when he's home-improving, so why should we? Let's get to it.

The FedEx Cup
The season-long points race was a big waste of time, not to mention confusing. Because the points list was only marginally different from the money list, lose it. Use the money list to determine the 144 players who start the playoffs, then go to a point system for the four-event series. Also, only pay the top 30 point-getters and jack up the first prize to $25 million, a provocative increase from the paltry $10 million that Tiger Woods scored for his retirement plan this year.

Then throw in a non-cash perk that might appeal to Woods or Phil Mickelson. For instance, let the FedEx Cup winner hand pick his Thursday-Friday tee times the next year or skip any three Wednesday pro-ams during the season.

Most of all, the schedule needs to change. Apparently, 2008 is etched in stone and the four weeks of FedEx Cup play will be followed immediately by the Ryder Cup. That's a huge mistake. I don't think anyone is going to skip the Ryder Cup, but I can pretty much guarantee that nearly every potential Ryder Cupper will skip at least one of the four FedEx Cup events, if not more. In fact, I look for Woods and Mickelson to skip two FedEx Cup tourneys, up from one this year.

In '09, the Presidents Cup will move to Harding Park in San Francisco and will likely be played in September to avoid a repeat of the '07 crunch.

The Presidents Cup
Not much to improve except for some of the venues. The Americans aren't going to like returning to Australia in the middle of their off-season in 2011. The griping will begin in late '10. Will any big-name player have the guts to give it a pass? It's possible. And please don't bring the event back to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in the distant suburbs of D.C. It's a lame course and the event is kind of a dud there. I can think of a perfect match-play course in a big city that doesn't have a PGA Tour stop — Castle Pines, former home of the International, near Denver.

The Walker Cup
The amateur version of the Ryder Cup has one glaring flaw. One team has to cross the Atlantic for only two days of golf. That's all. The Walker Cup should add a few matches and play for three days so every player gets more competition. Name another significant two-day golf event. OK, name any significant two-day golf event. More is better.

The Ryder Cup
Ditto. One improvement the Presidents Cup made was to spread play over four days. The Ryder Cup is golf's most exciting event, but it's packed into three days. It's like somebody ran a war through a trash compactor. By following the Presidents Cup's lead, the Ryder Cup would feature more golf and every player would have to play the first two days. The Presidents Cup exposed one potential flaw in the four-day setup, however: One team can build an insurmountable lead by Sunday, rendering the singles matches meaningless. Still, who doesn't want to see more great matches?

The World Cup
Just blow it up. Nobody cares. \n

Now, let's go to viewer mail. Oh, that's right. I don't have any. Well, here are a couple of questions that you should have asked.

Hey, Vans. How come the Americans are killer in the Presidents Cup but look like something that dropped out of the rear end of a tall cow in the Ryder Cup? — Mr. Greenjeans, Norway, Iowa.

The conventional logic is that Jack Nicklaus is a genius captain who lets his players have fun and keeps them loose. There is something to that, but I think a bigger factor is the International players. Nearly all of them were playing poorly before and during the Presidents Cup. Instead of asking why the Americans don't play better, ask why the Europeans play so well. The Euros have played tremendously three times in a row; they were simply unbeatable, like Josh Beckett of the Red Sox when he has his best stuff. It's not us, it's them.

So, Mr. Expert, why do the Euros play so well in the Ryder Cup? — Mrs. Colin Doubtfire, Surrey, England.

Can I be blunt, Mrs. D? It's because the Euros actually like each other. They spend time together year round. They're friends and drinking buddies. They've got players who are leaders, like Darren Clarke and Colin Montgomerie. How many players on the U.S. team can say they're truly close friends with either Woods or Mickelson ? The answer rhymes with beer-o.

I'm sick of hearing about the FedEx Cup. It's just a boring cash grab that happened to feature a couple of good tournaments. When can we quit talking about it? — Mick Phillipson, San Diego, Calif. Right now.

Mr. Former Underground Golfer, what do you think of the so-called Fall Series that's going on right now? I thought the PGA Tour season was supposed to end with the FedEx Cup? — Wally Cleaver, Mayfield, Ohio.

The Fall Series will live up to its name within a few years unless the tour does something drastic. The only solution I see to saving these living-dead events is to take a page from the European Tour and count them as the official start of the next season. In other words, the current Fall Series would kick off the 2008 PGA Tour schedule. Money and wins would count toward 2008 totals. It's the only way I see to make them relevant.

Sickle, there's no debate about the No. 1 golfer in the world. Who's No. 2? — Joe Avis, Tulsa, Okla.

Woody Austin. Just ask him.

Is it true that Woody Austin's favorite CD is Jethro Tull's Aqualung? — Jethro Bodine, Beverly HIlls, Calif.

Jethro, all Woody Austin-as-Aquaman jokes ran out of gas two weeks ago. They're so yesterday. If you don't believe me, ask Mr. Drysdale down at the bank.

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