4 Fixes the Ryder Cup Can Borrow from the Presidents Cup
Via Mike Egerton/Getty Images. Pictured: A general view of a Ryder Cup flag at the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club, Rome, Italy, ahead of the 2023 Ryder Cup. Picture date: Monday September 25, 2023.
I’ve been writing some semblance of this piece every other year for the past two decades, so if it all sounds vaguely familiar, please just nod your head politely and humor me for a few minutes.
Okay, here’s the usual intro: The Ryder Cup is better than the Presidents Cup.
See that? There's nothing controversial there, unless you’re, say, a dyed-in-the-wool Australian who lives and dies (mostly dies, sorry not sorry) with the International Team’s performance.
Here’s the next part: There are, however, a few definitive ways that the Presidents Cup does one-up on its more famous cousin.
I’ll then wait for the screams of horror to subside, as those who don’t care to read below the figurative fold become incensed over what they’re not about to understand.
Finally, I’ll break it down with four potential fixes for the Ryder Cup, in an attempt to make it even better. You know, like the Presidents Cup. Off we go…
Expand to Four Days
First things first: When I explain that these are ways to make the Ryder Cup better, most fans will automatically assume that I’m speaking in terms of it being better for them, which isn’t necessarily the case.
I actually think the current format of three days makes the festivities a little more of a sprint and a little less of a marathon, which is better for everyone involved.
Sorry, almost everyone.
Make no mistake about it, the Ryder Cup – for all its cliches about playing for country and team over any individualism, and despite the fact that players don’t get directly paid to compete – is all about the almighty dollar (or pound, Euro, etc.).
This is a massive money-maker for the PGA of America, which owns and operates the U.S. side of this business, but it's an even more integral cog in the machine of the DP World Tour, which essentially helps fund its business for the next two years based on the revenue it earns from this singular event.
With all of that in mind, I’m surprised this event hasn’t been expanded to include 33.3 percent more days of competition, starting on Thursday like the Presidents Cup.
Think about it: The NFL and Major League Baseball didn’t add more teams to the playoffs because they simply wanted everyone to have a chance.
They expanded their playoffs because quantity equals profit, and profit reigns supreme. Offering one more day of meaningful matches would in turn mean one more day of TV revenue, ticket transactions and merchandise sales – all of which would benefit the organizations which operate this event.
Go Deeper the First Two Days
The four partnered sessions at the Ryder Cup – two Friday and two Saturday – each include a total of four matches, which means four players from each side will be playing the role of cheerleader during each session.
This format harkens to the old days of the U.S. team outclassing its then-Great Britain and Ireland counterpart, especially in the back half of the lineup. Keeping players benched during the first few sessions was a way to ostensibly keep things closer in terms of the overall result.
That’s not really the case anymore.
Okay, so maybe we can argue that the so-called 12th man on the U.S. side (Sam Burns?) is a more accomplished player than the 12th man on the European side (Nicolai Hojgaard?), but it’s hardly a mismatch.
The Presidents Cup contests five matches during each of the first two days in its four-day event, and expanding to that size could mean the Ryder Cup does one better, forcing each captain to play all dozen of his men during each of the first two sessions.
Generations ago, such a maneuver might’ve been considered overly pro-America, but the scales aren’t tipped that far in either direction anymore, so allowing every player to compete for the first two days – not to mention allowing the fans to watch them – would make too much sense if this ever expanded.
Create the Singles Matches
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve likely been waiting for this one.
Most casual fans might not realize this, but at the Ryder Cup, each captain lists their players 1-12 for the Sunday singles session, then the matches are announced based on that. At the Presidents Cup, though, the captains go back and forth naming players – not unlike a snake draft for your fantasy football league.
Over the years, this has led to juicy matchups. If a player from the International team called out Tiger Woods and wanted to play him on Sunday, the captains could make that work.
This week, though, if we want to witness, say, Scottie Scheffler against Rory McIlroy, we’ll just have to cross our fingers and hope that the 1-in-12 chance (8.3 percent) comes through.
I get that it’s tradition, but tradition can get antiquated, too.
From the captains to the players to certainly the fans, there isn’t anyone who wouldn’t want to find an improved way of creating the singles matches that everyone would like to see.
Ditch the Ties
Twenty years ago, the fifth-ever edition of the Presidents Cup ended in a 17-17 draw in South Africa.
To settle the tie, U.S. captain Jack Nicklaus sent out Tiger Woods in a head-to-head playoff and International captain Gary Player countered with Ernie Els – at the time, the two best players in the world . They played three more memorable holes and remained deadlocked as darkness closed in, and the two captains decided to share the title.
But hey, at least they tried.
More recently, last week's Solheim Cup finished 14-14, but instead of heading to a playoff, the trophy was retained by Europe because they'd won the previous edition of this event.
If the Ryder Cup ends the same way, it similarly won't have a playoff this week, as the U.S. would simply hold on to the title because it had won two years ago, even though it's a completely different roster playing another completely different roster.
Which of course is ridiculous.
I mean, if the Kansas City Chiefs go back to the Super Bowl this year and the score is tied after four quarters, they don't just hand Patrick Mahomes the Lombardi Trophy again since his team won it the previous year.
The idea of a team retaining the Ryder Cup instead of winning it is antiquated at best, but that might be too kind.
Really, it's just preposterous.
The unfulfilling conclusion to the Solheim Cup once again taught us this. If it happens this week at the Ryder Cup, expect even more hatred toward this format.