In the first in a series of great golf arguments, we’ve asked Alan Shipnuck and Gary Van Sickle to debate the merits of the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup. After reading their arguments, tell us what you think in our forum.
The Ryder Cup vs. the Presidents Cup is the biggest smackdown since Mike Tyson vs. Rosie O’Donnell. (OK, that fight never actually happened, but a man can dream, can’t he?)
This one, likewise, is no contest. The Ryder Cup is without peer. Start with the history — eight decades worth. The Presidents Cup is a 13-year-old. One has the wisdom of the ages, an Obi-Wan Kenobi. The other has the inexperience and immaturity of a young Luke Skywalker whining to his uncle that his new ‘droid is defective.
In simpler terms, the Ryder Cup has Darren Clarke standing triumphant in the rain, his tears mixing with the raindrops as he led Europe to victory in his home country just weeks after his wife passed away. There was Bernhard Langer’s agonizing miss that ended the War by the Shore, Paul McGinley’s clinching putt at The Belfry that set off a raucous celebration, Paul Azinger and Seve Ballesteros literally getting in each other’s faces, Justin Leonard’s improbable putt and the Americans’ even more improbable comeback in the Miracle at Brookline. There was Lanny Wadkins, cool as ice, hitting a flop shot to the final green to secure a hard-fought U.S. win, Philip Walton’s putt, Christy O’Connor’s 2-iron shot, Tony Jacklin’s nerve, Nick Faldo’s hole-in-one, Colin Montgomerie’s uncanny ability to deliver, Brian Barnes beating Jack Nicklaus twice in singles. There was Ben Hogan’s request to inspect the grooves on the other team’s clubs, a retaliatory move at first but one that proved shrewd when the clubs were found, indeed, to be illegal. And on and on.
Name a great Presidents Cup moment. The one you may remember was Chris DiMarco holing a putt to give the Americans the win two years ago and Jack Nicklaus padding onto the green, carrying a water bottle in one hand, to give him an honest-to-goodness Bear hug.
The only other Presidents Cup moment you’re likely to recall is the reason the Ryder Cup blows its punk rival away. In South Africa in 2003, the teams were tied after the singles matches, so Tiger Woods and Ernie Els went into a head-to-head playoff to determine the winner. When darkness halted play, captains Nicklaus and Gary Player conferred with PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem via phone and decided to call it a tie, even though the rules said it couldn’t end in a tie. Imagine two teams deciding that it would be good for the game of football to leave the Super Bowl tied instead of completing a playoff. One man’s great show of sportsmanship is another man’s travesty.
Perhaps the best part of the Ryder Cup is its pace. The event is jammed into three days — two rounds of foursomes and four-ball matches on Friday and Saturday followed by singles on Sunday. It’s busy, it’s frantic, it’s a nonstop four-ring circus. There is no time to breathe — not for the players, not for the captains, not for the media, not even for the spectators. The Ryder Cup is golf’s best three days.
It’s the United States vs. Europe, and even though the Europeans have developed a cadre of young talent and are dominating the event, history says it is still Europe’s David standing up to America’s Goliath. The Ryder Cup is a match for the ages. Always has been, always will be.
The Presidents Cup? Its most compelling moment involved a cell phone. Enough said.