Prez Cup may lack history but still worthwhile

Phil Mickelson tees off during Presidents Cup practice as his teammates look on.

MELBOURNE, Australia – Once you get over the sticker shock (though truth be told, is there anywhere on the planet worth going to that is inexpensive, given the Popeye-before-spinach weakness of our dollar?), the trip Down Under is a majestic one that affords you an even greater appreciation of how global this game of golf truly is.

Now, if only the visit could be made perfect by an American loss.

What’s that? An American loss? Such a shameful, Benedict Arnold-like attitude, you say?

It’s nothing of the sort. Rather, it’s exactly what this Presidents Cup needs, sort of how the Ryder Cup morphed into something special when the Europeans won in 1983 for the first time in 28 years and just the fourth time in 26 competitions. That’s right, at one time the Americans were 21-3-1 in Ryder Cup matches, which is Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals territory and helps explain why TV didn’t care, sports fans didn’t care and only a miniscule percentage of the golf world lifted an eyelid of interest.

Ah, it’s amazing what happens when your dominance is not only questioned, but shown to be mythical. (Same thing happened in the America’s Cup, though a Swiss yacht manned by a host of Kiwi sailors awash in a sea of money proves how silly that landscape is.) The Ryder Cup – since Seve Ballesteros and the Europeans came on the scene and started winning – has been golf’s best show, a biennial affair that is insufferable with build-up and hype, but breathtaking in excitement.

Now the Presidents Cup, though similar in model and every bit as glitzy, has never driven quite like the Ryder Cup, and it starts with one reason: History. You simply cannot manufacture it. You either have it or you don’t, and the Ryder Cup has a history that the Presidents Cup doesn’t.

Which doesn’t mean that the Presidents Cup isn’t a worthwhile endeavor. To the contrary, it is a most positive one, and I would argue that it’s one that needs to be maintained. Certainly, we could go without the pomp and the galas and the Las Vegas-like opening ceremonies, but the thing is, if we are going to continue to accentuate the fact that golf is a global game, how can we every two years provide a showcase theater for the game, but exclude special talents because they were born in South Africa or Australia, South Korea or Argentina, Fiji or Japan?

You not only cannot, you should not, and since the logical explanation is a rotating competition between Europe, the United States and an International Team (that would require the PGA Tour, the European Tour and the PGA of America sharing proceeds, and that will happen only when the R&A allows for mulligans in the Open Championship) is out of the question, we are left with what we have: the Ryder Cup and massive golf passion in even years, the Presidents Cup and civil interest in the odds.

Yes, there’s an imbalance between the two, but there’s a suspicion that they could be brought closer to each other – if only the International Team could start winning a few of these things. “We need to win a few to annoy you,” said Aussie Geoff Ogilvy, well aware of the fact that the Americans have won six, tied one, and lost just once in eight editions of the Presidents Cup.

Even Ogilvy, one of the world’s greatest golfers and perhaps the most cerebral of those with whom you’ll cross paths in the game, recognizes that the tilted record has hurt the event. But he and his colleagues – be they Aussies or South Africans; Fijians or Korean – have pondered the reasons why and vowed to make improvements.

However, he doesn’t think it begins with animosity.

“It feels like the friendliness will always be here in this event,” Ogilvy said.

Rather, a cohesiveness must be addressed.

“The slight disadvantage we have is that the nucleus of the U.S. team is together once a year. Their six or seven guys get to do it once a year. It is so hard if you only do it once every two years (like the Internationals). But we have been getting more into the ‘team’ this year. We have been hanging out this week. We are getting there. Hopefully we will win.”

If you fancy this international team competition and enjoy the flavor it provides, you’d agree with Ogilvy’s hopes.

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