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Ryder Cup walking to oblivion?
The recent staging of the Presidents Cup has caused the author to worry that this event might one day supplant the Ryder Cup completely

As the year comes to an end I make no apologies for reverting back to an item I wrote some time ago, and one dear to the heart of the Alliss family - the future of the Ryder Cup.

You may think, ‘What on earth is he up to now? There’s no way the Ryder Cup matches would ever end!’ Well, I’m not convinced, particularly after watching the recent presentation of the Presidents Cup matches played at the Harding Park Golf Club just outside San Francisco.

What came as a surprise and, in truth, shocked me, were the huge promotional efforts made in the run-up to the matches, commencing, naturally, with the respective captains, Greg Norman and Fred Couples. They spoke of their delight to be associated with such a “magnificent competition”, and many worldfamous players on both sides eulogised about “this very special event”. It was all going to be so much fun, and why not? The idea, like communism, is somewhat appealing - in this case, it’s the greatest players in the world competing before a golf-hungry audience.

It’s a competition between non-American players who are not eligible to compete in the Ryder Cup matches pitted against America’s finest. Dammit, between them they had the four major winners from 2009 on parade, plus new wunderkinder from around the world, which I’m sure boosted the television interest. There were glowing comments from Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh and Ernie Els. Even Tiger Woods repeatedly told us how much he was looking forward to the series, and reiterated the fun of it all and the joy of competition – something I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say when reviewing his association with the Ryder Cup!

But then, from an American perspective, these matches were being played at home, there was prize-money in it, plus the USA almost always wins – well, six wins out of eight, with one tied match. This year, the sun shone and the golf course (although the commentators repeatedly said its condition was not up to the standard of Augusta) looked glorious. The crowds came in their thousands and the matchplay golf was, as always, exciting.

Over the years, various captains have spoken in glowing terms about the event – “what a privilege it was/is to captain the team” etc. etc. Even the mighty Australian, Peter Thomson, when captaining the Rest of the World team to their lone triumph some years ago in Melbourne, said it was “the proudest moment of my golfing life”.

Peter, oh Peter, I love you dearly, but what rubbish. Are you seriously telling us that captaining that team to victory was worth more than any one of your five Open Championship wins? Of course not. Tish, tosh, and pooh – you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

The Presidents Cup is enjoying terrific success - even though America dominate the meeting, Couples' side this year making it six wins out of 8, with one tied

However, the Presidents Cup is definitely on a roll. This could be for a number of reasons. First up, the US PGA Tour owns it, whereas its involvement with the Ryder Cup is negligible and commercially it has no part of it at all. Also, the event could be played in any one of the 52 weeks of the year in the United States in almost guaranteed sunshine – the West Coast, Palm Springs, Arizona, Florida – whereas in northern Europe things are a very different proposition.

The Ryder Cup is huge business and over the last 25 years the Europeans have been very successful, but Europe’s success has created its own problems. Thousands of people come to watch, the play has become increasingly slow, the matches are played in early autumn when the days are short, and unless play goes to four days I don’t see how they are going to get round twice in a day when the matches are played at the Gleneagles in 2014. Early morning mist and frost are not unknown at that time of year. There is no doubt that four days of competition would generate a great deal more money for the authorities but I have a feeling the matches could lose their sense of urgency and excitement if that came to pass. I therefore hope it doesn’t happen but logistically I find it hard to envisage how the powers that be will be able to avoid taking that step.

In the not too distant future I’msure the matches are bound to go to Sweden, but wouldn’t it be nice if we had a guarantee that they would be played at the beginning of September, not towards the middle of October.

I’m not sure the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai have been the enormous successes everyone hoped they would. It has been said that next year, if the tournaments are played in more or less the same sequence, the Ryder Cup will come at the end of a five- or six-week period when the top players are bound to be feeling pretty jaded.

This is not a good omen for the future. I’m sure the main men at the European Tour are aware of all these various situations and permutations, but I hope they are not just pleased that the Americans turn up and play, thereby enabling them to collect a hefty share of profit.

I’ll say it again. I have great affection for the Ryder Cup but feel the next few years are going to be very crucial to its survival. The way things are looking to me, the Ryder Cup matches may not be being played come the year 2030. By then it could be the USA vs. the Rest of the World. But I hope I’m wrong. How I hope I’m wrong.

January 2010

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine


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