• Don’t can the Cup

    Nick Price with Ernie Els
    Nick Price is to be replaced by Ernie Els

    Calls to scrap the Presidents Cup are premature and unjustified, even if it may be some time before the Internationals win again, writes WADE PRETORIUS.

    The 2017 Presidents Cup was always going to be won by the US. They arrived at Liberty in form, with incredible strength in depth, inspired by youth and balanced by a strong leadership group led by Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Fred Couples.

    The Internationals were lambs to the slaughter, and while many didn’t anticipate such a heavy loss, defeat was always just a putt away.

    While Stricker got everything right – going with Phil and Kevin Kisner early on, keeping Patrick Reed and Spieth together and pairing Rickie Fowler with Justin Thomas – his opposite number, Nick Price, struggled from start to finish. He wasn’t helped by his pick of Anirban Lahiri. His call backfired almost immediately when Lahiri was disqualified from playing a hole for a practice shot violation in his first game and kept his side on the back foot.

    When you are coming up against the very best, there is no time or space on a roster for a nice guy. The next captain – anyone say Ernie Els? – won’t be making the same mistake.

    The blame, however, should be shared in the Internationals dressing room. None of the big names stood up – Adam Scott continued his struggles in this event, while top-ranked duo Hideki Matsuyama and Jason Day failed (miserably) to stand up and lead the team. Saffas Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen earned the only win in the first three sessions, but even they struggled with their ball-striking and putting under pressure.

    Regardless, this US team is one of the best in many, many years. They wrestled back the Ryder Cup and this event will be a massive confidence booster for them as they bid for a first win on European soil in over two decades next year in France.

    The calls to scrap the Presidents Cup have streamed in. Almost predictably so. The hysteria – almost only from the US – is that the biennial showdown between the USA and ‘the band of misfits from outside of Europe’ simply isn’t competitive and can’t compete for fan’s interest with football.

    Those crying for the Cup to be culled, scream that it can’t hold a candle to the Ryder Cup. And right now it can’t, but it’s a good thing then that those crying out can’t remember the first 23 editions of that event when the USA won 19, drew one and lost just three times. And there were routs too. 11–1 in 1947, 23–9 in 1965, 23½–8½ four years later and 21–11 in 1975.

    The Ryder Cup was reorganised to allow the rest of Europe to join Great Britain and Ireland, but the US won the next three cups too, including a nine-point win in 1981.

    Good thing then, that the powers that be didn’t scrap that competition – we’ve been fortunate enough to witness some of the magical matches in recent times.

    While it may be some time before the Internationals get win No 2, a tweak or two to the format would help that cause. There is enough quality in the makeup of the team to suggest they will come back stronger. The wounds of Liberty, the passionate Aussie fans, and a few Internationals wins on tours around the world could see another close-run contest in just two years’ time, just like it was in Korea previously.

    Jason Day is only 29, Hideki Matsuyama is only getting better with each year, and the SA contingent – Oosthuizen, Grace and Schwartzel – will be desperate to be a part of a successful side.

    With any sport, there are ebbs and flows. The current Australian cricket side can’t compare with that of the 1990s, boxing heavyweights are slowly gaining momentum after more than a decade of dull ‘action’, and the Springboks are far off the pace of the sides that have Tri-Nations glory and World Cup wins to their names. Manchester United are only now regathering their swagger, while Liverpool are still chasing an elusive Premier League title.

    You don’t just scrap competitions simply because opponents aren’t as strong as previous sides, or don’t perform to their usual standards.

    Nothing would be sweeter than a home win at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. I for one, will have a sarcastic ‘scrap the Cup article’ in my drafts ready to go …

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