The Presidents Cup wrapped up this weekend with Team USA beating its International counterparts 19-15. The event was played at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia, one of the world's most spectacular golf courses. Despite a terrific venue, a little pre-tournament controversy in the captain's picks and two teams made up by some of the world's best players, the event fell flat. That isn't to say that the Presidents Cup wasn't exciting, it was. It is just missing that spark that other big golf events have. It is not "must-see" golf.
Ever since its inception in 1994, the President's Cup has been the poor man's Ryder Cup. The organic rivalry and patriotism of the Ryder Cup is contrived at the Presidents Cup. There isn't a rallying cry for a team made up of South Africans, Fijians, South Americans, Australians, Japanese, South Koreans and Mike Weir. Even the captaincies of legends Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player from 2003 to 2007 did little to further the event.
Europe vs. USA is a rivalry that predates the Ryder Cup. The same cannot be said for what little animosity there might be between the Americans and the countries that make up the International team. Even quantifying the International Team is awkward. When your non-golfing uncle asks "what is the Presidents Cup?" Your answer goes something like this, "Well it's the Americans against the rest of the world, minus Europe." That sounds ridiculous.
The Europe-America rivalry is old-world golf vs. the new world. It's the PGA of America against the European Tour. One style of golf against another. On the ground vs. through the air. Two super-powers competing for golf supremacy. European players feel a sense of camaraderie. It's that team unity that has often made the whole team stronger than its individual players. The International Presidents Cup team doesn't have this same bond. The Ryder Cup is nerve-racking, competitive, historic and intense. The Presidents Cup is not. The Ryder Cup had "the War on the Shore" in 1991. The Presidents Cup ended in a tie in 2003.
But for one victory in 1998, The International Team has often been waxed by the Americans. However, there is hope for the future of the Presidents Cup, and more specifically the International Team. "The rest of the world minus Europe" includes South Korea, Japan and China; golf's emerging market. This year's international team included four players from Asian countries. K.J. Choi, K.T. Kim, Ryo Ishikawa, and Y.E. Yang. In 2009, there were two. In 2005, zero. It is likely that as golf continues to grow in Japan, South Korea and even China that there will be more Asian players making up the International side.
The benefit for the Presidents Cup, of course, is that the event could become one of golf's dominant nations against the emerging super-power of Asian countries. This would create a much stronger rivalry between the two teams. The Americans looking to hold their position on the world stage against an International team with a number of Asian players looking to put themselves on golf's map. An International side made up of players from only a few countries would certainly help strengthen their team unity.
The Presidents Cup will never be the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup is steeped in tradition and history dating back to the first matches in 1927. However, the Presidents Cup does have an opportunity to carve its own identity. An identity where the US isn't the younger, newer version of the game, but rather the team trying to hold on to their ranking in the world of golf.