Rude: International uprising needed at Prez Cup

The Presidents Cup has been dominated by the U.S., and tournament organizers might need to look at less points being awarded to potentially make it more competitive.

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Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.

It has been said that for the Presidents Cup to grow, the International team needs to be more competitive. The United States leads the series, 7-1-1, and has won each of the last three meetings by at least four points. That’s why International captain Nick Price lobbied the PGA Tour (to no avail) to lower the number of points from 34 to 28, the theory being that fewer points can translate to closer results.

Apparently, though, not everyone believes the Internationals need to step up in order to create more interest.

“It’s not that important,” Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson said Sunday after the Tour Championship. “Actually, the tournament is about promoting the game of golf on an international level. Who loses and by how much isn’t as important as having the guys get together in a competitive, friendly environment, put on a good show or display of golf and have some fun doing it.”

That’s one point of view. Frank Nobilo, a former International team member and twice an assistant captain under Greg Norman, is another who says the event, however lopsided, is valuable because it helps spike golf growth in faraway ports.

Yes, having the Presidents Cup in South Africa (2003) and Australia (1998 and ’11) have helped promote golf in those areas. The same figures to be the case in South Korea in 2015.

But the Presidents Cup also is a sporting event, and spectators tend to prefer competition with a splash of drama. If global promotion is all we’re after, we can send the 24 players on a barnstorming tour to play exhibitions, do clinics and sign autographs.

The truth is the International players want more than that. They want a better chance of succeeding, and playing for 28 points would help. Because of the lopsided outcomes, Price said he sensed International players weren’t all that excited when he took the captaincy last year.

Perhaps things will be different next week at Muirfield Village. But if they aren’t, we’ll again be revisiting ways to improve the product.

• If Tiger Woods isn’t voted PGA Tour Player of the Year, the outcome would be a shame given that he won five tournaments (out of only 16 starts) – or three more than next best. As I’ve said many times, it’s hard to win on Tour, so it’s disconcerting when victories are discounted.

Hence, I’m surprised people are even debating the issue. Yes, Woods didn’t win a major but did bag The Players, two WGCs, an invitational (Arnold Palmer’s) and, of course, his usual trophy at Torrey Pines. Those aren’t exactly opposite-field events in Reno or Mississippi.

On top of that, he led the Tour in earnings, the all-around category and FedEx Cup season points and was second in scoring. It’s a worthy body of work.

If he is not voted in by his peers, the verdict would make one wonder if more than performance might be involved, such as his dysfunctional relationship with the rules this year.

The Golf Writers Association of America faces a tougher decision because its POY award factors in worldwide victories. Phil Mickelson has three of those, including the Open Championship jug, and yet another U.S. Open second. His record, though uneven, figures to make some voters think twice.

• Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by Jordan Spieth’s sustained brilliance, given that he became the first teenager in 82 years to win on Tour and that he’s the only multiple U.S. Junior champion besides Tiger Woods. There are flashes and there are five-tool players, and he’s among the latter.

Spieth always has been a good putter but this year ramped up his ballstriking and kept climbing. He’s a shot-shaper who ranked third in all-around and in the top 10 in scoring average, total driving and FedEx Cup points.

He remarkably went from no status to tying for first with nine top-10 finishes. They weren’t back-door deals, either, what with the John Deere Classic victory and three runner-up finishes.

Given his recent birdie sprees, Spieth might be the most lethal (as well as by far the youngest) member of the U.S. Presidents Cup team. This much is certain: A lot of players wouldn’t mind being his partner.

• In case you don’t want to use your abacus, I’ll give you the numbers: In one season, Spieth has earned $3.88 million. That already puts him at No. 275 all-time, which, interestingly, is ahead of numerous Hall of Famers, including Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Larry Nelson and Sandy Lyle.

Spieth, who turned 20 in late July, is in the process of looking to buy a house in his hometown of Dallas. You might say he has outgrown his apartment.

• About three years ago, I did a Hate To Be Rude video interview with Henrik Stenson, now golf’s hottest player. I recall going into the taping thinking the Swede would be one of the worst in the 200 or so HTBR segments. Instead, the dryly humorous Stenson was one of the five or 10 best. He bantered along for several minutes as I called him “Hennie Stennie” and tried to draw out a lighter side that pleasantly surprised.

In other words, he might play like a ballstriking robot, but he mixes like a comedian.

• The national long-drive season is upon us, and that triggers a memory. A few years ago at the finals in Mesquite, Nev., I recall asking Sean “The Beast” Fister this question: “Beast, how does it feel to hit a drive 404 yards and lose (to Jason Zuback)?”

I can’t recall what the 6-5, 265-poundish Beast said, but I do know he didn’t pick me up with one hand and slam me to the ground. It’s always preferrable when beasts are affable.

(Read Jim Achenbach's series on long-drive legends, including Fister)

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