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Revamping the Ryder Cup: Format changes could help event

Robert Thompson

On Golf

Tom Lehman is insulted at the insinuation that the U.S. Ryder Cup squad could use a little help from Canada and South America.

“That sounds a little insulting in some ways,” Lehman said after being handed an 181/2 to 91/2 crushing at the hands of the European team and asked whether his team could have used help from the likes of Mike Weir. “These things go in cycles, and there will be a time when we’ll be sitting here saying to the Europeans that this is in danger of getting into trouble because the Americans are on top. That will happen. Our guys are great guys and great players.”

It is a good thing Lehman is certain that some sort of turnaround is in the offing, because the rest of the golfing world doesn’t see one. Why a man who was just given the second-worst thrashing in Ryder Cup history would be insulted by a notion that the U.S. needs assistance is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it is just part of the great American confidence — the view that their nation is always the best even when proven otherwise. Regardless, the loss of the most recent Ryder Cup by the U.S. team should be taken as a chance to reform the event and do away with the Presidents Cup, a tournament that has the U.S. team face an international squad in the years between Ryder Cups.

This isn’t an entirely original suggestion. Television mouthpiece Johnny Miller has long suggested scrapping the Presidents Cup and adding Canada, South America and Asia to a world team, that would then play the U.S. The problem with that is the U.S. has already been pounded regularly by the Europeans. Imagine what would happen if Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Retief Goosen, Ernie Els and Weir were added to this new team? It wouldn’t be pretty.

But that doesn’t mean a change couldn’t be made. The Presidents Cup has never caught on the way the PGA Tour hoped when it was created, and the Ryder Cup has become a bit of a farce. With the U.S. now appearing unable to be competitive, why not reconsider the format and the players that are involved?

Several options exist. Perhaps the most attractive would consist of utilizing all three teams as they currently exist. In other words, the Ryder Cup would still be a tournament in which two teams face off. The winner would play in the next Ryder Cup, while the loser would be replaced by the third team. Under this concept, the U.S. would sit down in 2008 and an international team would fight it out with the defending champion European team. This format would eliminate the need for the Presidents Cup, and also allow the American team to have a break by having to play every two years. Like the Super Bowl, where cities are selected in advance to hold the game regardless of what teams are playing, courses for this new Ryder Cup could still be determined in advance. It would allow the event to travel the globe, making it the international ambassador of golf that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem hoped the World Golf Championships would become.

Of course, this is a utopian dream that will likely never come to reality. Sure the American players complain about having to field a team every year to play the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup. But they would probably complain even more loudly if they were not playing. Add to that the real power behind both events — money — and the fact that television networks would not be keen on an event that doesn’t include Tiger Woods, regardless of how poorly he plays.

But by creating an event that forced players to step up and play the Ryder Cup would certainly gain the relevancy and level of competition that Samuel Ryder was hoping for when he first dreamed up the tournament.

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

7 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Speaking as a European, there is nothing wrong with the Ryder Cup!
    Leave it alone and let us enjoy this winning spell!

    The best team will always win.

    As long as the golf is good and the spirit of the matches stays where it is right now (thanks to Curtis Strange and Sam Torrance)the Ryder Cup has a very healthy future.

  • “The Ryder Cup has become a bit of a farce. “????

    My man RT, what have you been smoking? The Ryder Cup makes $50 million NET and has a world wide television audience and you call that a farce? It is some of the best golf that we see!!!!

    These things go in cycles. Anybody who knows sports would know that. It will not always be that the Europeans will win and when the US wins next time, and there will be a next time, then the event will be even more popular.

    A farce? You are not thinking straight.

    And stop thumping your Canadian chest. The US will NEVER accept anything but an American team. To do so would be to admit failure.

    Your arguments are nonsense. When Brazil doesn’t win the World Cup every time, who the hell makes the argument that it should be assisted with other south american players. When Canada doesn’t win at the Olympics in hockey, do we argue that we need to have a North American team? RT my man, you are joking with this column right? You were just trying to get us going? You didn’t really believe what you wrote? Say it ain’t so RT. Give us hope that you know something about golf and sports.

    When you talked about the Utopian dream that gave it away….that you were just taking us for a ride. …..right????

  • Alfie, buddy, so much focused anger. ‘

    Apparently a big whack of cash makes an event perfect, right?

    My arguments are nonsense? Your remarks are largely off point and don’t actually discuss the column. What a waste. I’ll have a debate on this, but you don’t seem to want one.

    And if this past weekend was the best golf we’ll see, I’ll bet more and more people will be tuning out.

  • I was having fun.

    The Americans will simply not change the format. There is just too much pride and money involved. The fact that the Americans have had a rough time during the last decade will only make them more resolved and focused. The American Team has the same problem in basketball right now. They are individually the best players on the planet, but don’t play as a team as well as some European nations. However, these things go in cycles and this too will pass. It is the beauty of sport. I was trying to convey the point that I believe that the current Ryder format is fine, and that we should not be reactive to the current difficulties of the American side. Their players are too good not to prevail in the future.

    In any event, it is all academic, in my view. The Americans have too much at stake to introduce others to the bonanza of the Ryder Cup.

    Angry Alfie.

  • I prefer a variation on RT’s suggestion. Make the Ryder Cup a 3 team event. The current champ gets a bye to the finals. The other two teams play a semi-final either on Tuesday-Thursday or the previous weekend.

    If this format was adopted for the 2008 RC then Europe would be in the finals and they would face the winner of the matches between USA and Rest of the World. The risk, at least for the US, is that they would not make the finals, particularly when the event is being held in the US.

  • The Ryder Cup is only important for 3 types of people:

    – Those who make a whack of cash of it, the likes of PGA America, European Tour, the host course, the merchandisers
    – Those who can not win a major, the likes of Sergio and Monty
    – The golfing media – something to write about and hype

    The golf fans just get hooked, lined, and sinkered into the hype.

    As for its important to the participants? Maybe the Sergios and Monties of the world where it is the only time they are winning anything of signficance. As mentioned numoerous times before, everyone knows Jack has 18 majors, but how many knows his record at the Ryder Cup?

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