We can pretend no longer: the Presidents Cup is dead. I’m sorry to have to deliver this painful truth. It is, in theory, a likeable event, bringing together most of our favorite golfers in a tried-and-true team format. But for years (decades?) the Presidents Cup has been a dreary slog, and this playing has been the most boring yet.
Quite simply, a sporting event is not fun when the outcome is preordained. The Internationals never had a chance against this powerhouse U.S. squad and they looked defeated from the opening match on Thursday; this thing was all but over on Friday evening, with the U.S. holding an 8-2 lead. That has left us with two soul-sucking days of meaningless golf, during which fans, players and reporters will make a token effort but ultimately fail to convince anyone that they care.
Unfortunately, it’s only going to get worse. This U.S. team is stacked with young major championship winners. The Internationals? Not so much. The next decade plus is sure to be a series of further mind-numbing American blowouts. That is, unless we fix the Presidents Cup. Here are eight modest proposals.
1. Take the Cup on the road. Permanently.
I’m thinking Mongolia, Siberia, Greenland and places like that. If the point is to grow the game, let’s be more creative in the venues. Because the only time the Internationals have a chance is when the Americans are forced to fly halfway around the world to play golf for free, which seems to have a dispiriting effect on these capitalists.
Since the founding of the Cup in 1994, the Internationals have won only once, in ’98, and Tim Finchem gets all the credit: He forced the Yanks to fly all the way to Australia a week and a half before Christmas and they responded by caring even less than usual. In 2015, the Internationals kept things close only because of the extraordinary rendition that left the Americans stranded in Korea when all they wanted to do was spend their FedEx Cup bonuses back home. The Tour is inching toward this idea in 2019, with another visit to Australia in mid-December. But they must go further. You want a competitive Presidents Cup? Schedule it to begin New Year’s Day in Swaziland.
2. Make the Presidents play in their Cup
The best thing that happened all week at Liberty National was the giddy scene on the 1st tee on Thursday when Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton were chewing the scenery. All three love golf, so let’s put them on the U.S. team … not as figureheads but actual competitors. I’m pretty sure that this week Kisner-Obama would’ve have little trouble beating Lahiri-Schwartzel.
3. Let’s incorporate the WAGs, too
Hey, they already have matching uniforms. And gawd knows that most golf websites already treat them like a crucial part of the event. Earlier this week the wives and girlfriends squared off in a cooking competition at a Dean & DeLuca in New York City – amazingly, we’re not making this up. This retro enforcement of gender roles actually offers a way forward: a Miss America style competition in which the WAGs give short speeches about world affairs and have a talent competition. Since the Cup’s TV ratings are abysmal I ’spose we should throw in a swimsuit competition, too. This could easily replace the first day of the golf competition and nobody would complain.
4. Speaking of which: For the love of Pete, shorten the event
As this year has proven, two days is more than enough to decide the Presidents Cup. Day 1 would have four-balls and foursomes, Day 2 singles and then, mercifully, we can all go home. Much as inferior college basketball teams milk the shot clock to reduce the talent gap, fewer matches would give the underdog Internationals a better chance to pull an upset. Similarly, reducing the team size from 12 to 10 would also help mask the Internationals’ inferiority. No offense to captain’s pick Emiliano Grillo, but he finished better than 10th exactly once on the PGA Tour in the 2016-17 season. I think the Cup could survive his absence.
5. Speaking of the captains, make them play. Their assistant captains, too
Just as high school golf coaches tee off together after their players go out, let’s have the Presidents Cup leaders play for points, too. Personally, I would rather watch Nick Price-Ernie Els vs. Steve Stricker-Tiger Woods more than any other match we’ve seen this week.
6. This is the Presidents Cup, so let’s gerrymander the teams
Clearly the rest of the world is not enough, so let’s give the Internationals two wild-card picks from Europe; how much more fun would this be with Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter in the mix? Maybe we even gift a few Americans – perhaps the Internationals should get all the blue states? (Not many Tour players live there anyway.) Or how about the U.S. team can only be compromised of players from the original 13 colonies? The Presidents Cup was birthed by the same nation that thought up the electoral college, so we oughta be able to figure this out.
7. Introduce betting games to the matches
Clearly the Internationals should be offered automatic two-down presses. Can we work wolf hammer into the proceedings? Maybe the U.S. players should be forced to take a shot of Titos after every birdie. This alone deserves a task force. In fact, I’d encourage the captains to implement wagering Sunday, so we actually have a reason to watch.
8. Combine the Tour Championship and Presidents Cup
It just so happens that two of the dullest events of the year have been played back-to-back, throwing into sharp relief the PGA Tour’s structural problems. We can solve both issues by putting the $35 million FedEx bonus on the line in a new team competition that pits U.S., European and International teams against each other in a round-robin, match-play format. Throw in the WAGs talent show, actual U.S. Presidents grinding over bogey putts and playing captains, then take the whole thing on a barnstorming tour through Micronesia. I think we’ve got a hit!