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The Presidents Cup, or the old Ryder Cup?

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The Presidents Cup is more like the Ryder Cup used to be… a friendly competition where international golfers can showcase their abilities devoid of the “we’re No. 1” mania that has stricken the Ryder Cup. It’s also quite lopsided.

In 1977, Jack Nicklaus suggested that perhaps the continent of Europe should be added to the Great Britain and Ireland side to make the competition more fair. Prior to that, the Americans almost always won, often by lopsided margins. The inclusion of Europe made the Ryder Cup what it is today. This was, as we’ll see, a little bittersweet.

It’s true that the Ryder Cup is a far superior competition, but it has become more than what was intended or what Jack had in mind. It’s all well and good to root for the home team, but when flag waving dominates the contest, it demeans golf. Since the infamous “War at the Shore” in 1991, the Ryder Cup has become far too serious an affair for its own good. Booing opponents and name calling is not what our game is about. And while it used to represent a spirited, yet congenial event, it got lost along the way.

Can you imagine Patrick Reed giving Sergio a 3-footer to halve the entire event on Sunday? Crazy right? Well, that’s just what Jack Nicklaus did in the 1969 Ryder Cup in his match against Tony Jacklin.

“I knew you wouldn’t have missed that, but under the circumstances, I wasn’t going to give you that opportunity,” Nicklaus says he told Jacklin as they shook hands leaving the green.

That would be unthinkable in today’s competition. But, of course, Jack Nicklaus is the rare exception to many things; he’s the greatest winner AND the greatest loser in sports… maybe ever!

The Presidents Cup, on the other hand, has the feeling of the Ryder Cup of long ago. Yes, the teams play hard and it’s a great show, but it’s without the bitterness that seems to pervade the Ryder Cup. That’s said, I don’t think the contest is competitive enough. Not in spirit, but for whatever reason, it has become a one-sided affair, almost a foregone conclusion, like the first 50 years of the Ryder Cup. It raises money for charity and gives us another week to watch some of the best players in the world, but it needs a format or restructuring of teams to make it a world-class event. An event that is effectively closed out on Saturday needs serious consideration.

Personally, I’m less concerned with country and care more about good golf. I want to see grueling matches come down to the wire and have the result decided on the penultimate or final match, regardless of the outcome or nation they represent. I also want to see the players shake hands and go have a beer after they’ve left everything on the course. I’m not getting that from the Presidents Cup.

I love the congeniality… I just don’t see a level playing field here. Do you?

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Peter

    Oct 7, 2017 at 6:12 am

    I was at the 1998 Presidents Cup where the much vaunted USA team was beaten 20 1/2 to 11 1/2 at the next overseas (2019) venue, Royal Melbourne. The teams that year in World golf rankings order were;

    Tiger Woods (1). Ernie Els (5)
    Mark O’Meara (2). Nick Price (6)
    David Duval (3). Vijay Singh (9)
    Davis Love (4) Steve Elkington (16)
    Phil Michelson (10). Greg Norman (18)
    Fred Couples (11). Stuart Appleby (33)
    Jim Furyk (12). Carlos Franco (39)
    Justin Leonard 15). Shigeki Maruyama (43)
    Scott Hoch (20). Craig Parry (53)
    Mark Calcavechia (21). Joe Ozaki (55)
    Lee Janzen (23). Frank Nobilo (60)
    John Huston (29). Greg Turner (62)

    The most points won by a player that year was Shigeki Maruyama (5) followed by the Elk with 4. Best of the Americans was Couples with 2 1/2. The International team had a 9 point lead going into the singles!
    Why did a team so talented as the USA team get smashed? A tough unfamiliar golf course that they obviously took for granted! A strong ethic with great leadership from both within and outside of the International team (Peter Thomson, Greg Norman, Nick Price) resulted in a team that bonded well. Great local support from an enthusiastic but fair spectator army raised the standard of the Internationals to where the lesser players believed they could compete and win!

    If you want to make the Presidents Cup more competitive, play it away from the USA more often! International golf would benefit and the comp would be closer! Standard US PGA tour venues like this year’s are only going to widen the gap between the teams!

  2. BD57

    Oct 6, 2017 at 8:45 pm

    starting point to restructure the President’s Cup, IMO – shorten the bench, lessen the points.

    There’s no “rule” that says it has to be 12 man teams; for the Internationals, going to 12 means they’re going to get hammered by lack of depth.

    (Of course, this year they would’ve gotten hammered no matter what).

    Cut the teams to 10, or even 8.

    If you wanted to play three four-balls and three foursomes the first two days, and then 8 singles the last day, you could, although the public would probably like to see everyone play every match.

  3. Gorden

    Oct 5, 2017 at 10:08 am

    Ryder Cup good, Presidents Cup seems way to one sided. Want to really get some pressure on America add the Asian Women to the Solhiem Cup.

  4. RMF

    Oct 5, 2017 at 9:11 am

    Ryder Cup Flag waving is something the Americans brought to the event, I think it was when they spent the best part of the last 3 decades getting spanked by Europe. They didn’t like it one bit

    Competition with an edge is good for the game, how many people on here don’t joke around on the course, before and after… 0% that’s what I thought.

  5. bellisaurius

    Oct 5, 2017 at 6:23 am

    It’s a lot easier to be friendly and congenial when you’re up a couple points. The closer the competition, the harder the two sides are going to go at it.

  6. Chris B

    Oct 4, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Generally the Ryder Cup is played in good spirits but it clearly has boiled over. Kiawah was the worst that I have seen with balls being kicked out on to the fairway, Seve’s cough and the ball swapping disagreement. Brookline was really bad at the end, and I really didn’t like the bowing last time round from a couple of our guys.

    But, this event seems to take some guys to another level and the standard of the golf is usually beyond what you see during the regular season. maybe it needs that edge to it.

  7. Rano

    Oct 4, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Other than when certain immature fans stoop unnecessarily low in their goading of opposition players, I don’t see the problem in the fact that the Ryder Cup has a bit of edge to it. It’s what makes the contest a sepectacle, and the reason why it attracts viewers who would ordinarily not sit and watch golf for hours.

    The President’s Cup on the other hand, is a damp squib and flawed from the start. The International Team is not a team. It’s a group of random players, from different countries, cultures, languages and tours thrown together for a few days. It’s not all bad though, it has at least generated quite a lot of money for charity.

  8. NG

    Oct 4, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Clearly we don’t need the President’s Cup any more. All that time and money should be spent on helping disaster areas and not wasted on golf by the President

  9. Greg V

    Oct 3, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    Good comment about the Ryder Cup. It all starts with the pregame pageantry, which is way over the top. Too much party, too much production. Really, military jets flying overhead?

    At some point the Rest of the World will have excellent golfers who may dominate US players – it could happen.

    I would like to see the Presidents Cup retired, and have a Ryder Cup continue with 3 teams – US, Europe, Rest of. If your team wins, you play the next year against the other team. YEs, a superior team could play every year for 5 or 6 years, but isn’t that what the US does currently?

    Of course, that will never happen because these things are made for TV. There would be little interest (ie, no sponsorship interest) in the US in the years that the Rest of played Europe.

  10. boomroasted

    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:48 am

    You can’t really ask for chemistry on the international side. They don’t all speak English well, they probably don’t spend as much time together on tour, and it’s probably more motivating to play for YOUR country like the U.S, or at least Europe where there is a cultural root, rather than just being all grouped together from god knows where. I think they’re just less fired up than Europeans in general, but it’s not really their fault. They don’t even get home-field advantage in a true sense, it’s a foreign country for the majority of the internationals. Plus for now, the U.S. has way more talented golfers to choose from and gets to play and build chemistry every year so the internationals are at a disadvantage from the start.

    Hard to become a good golfer anywhere other than the U.S, parts of Europe and Australia, unless you’re rich or gifted or both, so the talent pool is going to be narrow to begin with for the internationals. Maybe in 10-20 years when Golf grows in Asia and beyond, we might see more competitive teams.

  11. Chris Maddison

    Oct 3, 2017 at 11:41 am

    “That would be unthinkable in today’s competition.” — umm, what about Tiger giving Molinari the putt to win the RC outright 5 years ago?

    The RC is played with great sportsmanship over the last twenty years. Only the incidents at Brookline and Kiwah were over-the-top.

    It is what makes the RC so appealing, they play hard but they play fair. The perfect example of this was Rory and Paddy on the 8th green. This fist bump as they walked off was everything the RC is about.

    99.9% of the fans in 2015 were perfectly behaved. They got excited, they cheered and they booed which added to the atmosphere. The ‘bitterness’ you refer to is such a small minority it isn’t even worth talking about.

    • peeny

      Oct 3, 2017 at 2:16 pm

      Disagree – the bitterness is very much there and far more than a minority (at least when it is being played on US soil). I don’t understand the need for screaming with excitement when the opposition make a bad shot. A win at all costs mentality with spectatorship being flung out the window.

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The History of Course Design is Yours to Play at Oglebay

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There is a much-talked about “New Golden Age” of golf course design underway that is driven by demand for ever-more spectacular courses at the top end of the resort golf market. Destinations such as Streamsong, Bandon Dunes, Cabot Links, Sand Valley and others provide the traveling golfer a spectacular golf experience; unfortunately, it comes at a price tag that is equally spectacular. When a week playing golf in Florida can cost as much as a week in Scotland, where do you go for a golf getaway that doesn’t require a second mortgage?

Oglebay Golf Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia, doesn’t just provide an affordable golf vacation option; with its three golf courses, it provides players the chance to experience a condensed history of American golf course design through its three courses. The resort sits on land that was once owned by a wealthy industrialist and is now a part of the city park system. Located about an hour from Pittsburgh, Oglebay draws the majority of its golfers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia. It’s kind of cool that when you drive to Oglebay from the Washington, D.C., you hit all of those states except Ohio, which is just a few minutes away from Wheeling. The area is especially picturesque in the autumn months when the changing colors of the leaves are at their peak.

The property has a rich history in the business and sporting history of West Virginia, but the three golf courses, Crispin, are a special prize that taken together form a primer on the history of golf design in the past 90 years. The 5,670-yard Crispin course is a one-off design by local golf enthusiast Robert Biery that was completed in 1930 and is a fascinating study of design techniques of that era. The slopes and elevation are severe and extreme by today’s standards. A clue was the raised eyebrow of the assistant pro when I said that I would walk the course. Uneven lies are the order of the day, the product of a time when there was neither the money nor equipment readily available to create gentle slopes and even surfaces; the course is true to the original contours of the West Virginia hillside.  There is little relief on the greens, which run a little slower than typical greens but make up for it in size and slope. It is by far the shortest of the three courses but the par-4 8th hole and par-5 9th holes are a thousand yards of joy and pain.

Hole No. 6 at the Klieves course

The Klieves Course is a 6,800-yard, par-71 Arnold Palmer design that was completed in 2000. The design features broad fairways, mildly undulating greens and opportunities for heroics on short par-4’s, all the prototypical characteristics of modern resort golf courses. While some architects choose to torture and torment, Palmer courses put a premium on fun and this one is no exception. The par-5, 515 yard 6th is a great example of the risk/reward available without that challenges the resort golfer without the need to humiliate. The course is very well maintained tee to green, and you’ll want to keep a fully charged battery to take photos of the vistas from the elevated tee boxes.

Hole No. 13 at the Jones course

In my humble opinion, the true gem is the Robert Trent Jones course. The 7,004-yard, par-72 Course carries a healthy 75.1 rating/141 slope from the back tees. It utilizes a gorgeous piece of land that meanders across the West Virginia hills to give a mesmerizing collection of holes that are equal parts scenery and challenge. Both nines start from elevated tee boxes hitting down into valleys that offer classic risk/reward propositions. Usually I have no problem identifying a favorite hole or two, but on this course it’s difficult. Having said that, the stretch of No. 4 (par 3, 193 yards), No. 5 (par-5, 511 yards) and No. 6 (par-4, 420 yards) are among the best I have played anywhere as a show of nature’s beauty and the at of laying out a golf hole. And the four par 3’s are not the place to pic up an easy birdie. The only one less that 190 yards from the tips is the 158-yard 15th, which is protected by a small, undulating green. All in all, it’s a perfect representation of the genius of Robert Trent Jones.

The golf is good at Oglebay and the prices are better. You can get in 18 at the Oglebay courses for as little as $32…on the weekend. And when you’re not playing golf, you can take advantage of the myriad of outdoor sports activities, tour the Oglebay mansion, hit the spa or visit the Glass Museum on the property (I promise it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds). There’s a lot of great new golf resorts out there and that’s a good thing for the golf industry, but destinations like Oglebay prove that there’s a lot of life left in the old classics as well.

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