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Opinion & Analysis

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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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: The 2018 Open Championship

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The 147th Open Championship gets underway this week as 156 players launch their quest to capture the Claret Jug. The oldest and for many, most prestigious event returns to Scotland, where Carnoustie will host the tournament for the eighth time in its history.

The last time Carnoustie hosted The Open was 10 years ago when Padraig Harrington finished tied with Sergio Garcia at 7-under par after 72 holes. Harrington went on to outlast Garcia in a dramatic playoff to capture his first of two-straight Open Championships.

The weather is expected to be kind this year and the rough will less penal than it was in 2007, which should offer more birdies than it did in 2007. Carnoustie will measure just over 7,400 yards. With the course playing fast and firm, however, distance is not going to be an issue.

Strategy will be vitally important, and we’ve heard that players will be able to lay up on some of the holes by taking short irons off the tee. The likes of Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, and Rory McIlroy have all stated that they will be taking driver off the tee to eliminate many of the pot bunkers on the course. The reason for this comes down to the fact that the rough is playable this year, which allows for attacking golf. As with any Open Championship, players will need to have every single part of their game in shape for the difficult challenge that links golf always provides.

Last year, Jordan Spieth won the Claret Jug by playing his final five holes in 5-under to post 12-under and beat runner-up Matt Kuchar by three strokes.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Dustin Johnson 12/1
  • Justin Rose 16/1
  • Rickie Fowler 18/1
  • Rory McIlroy 18/1
  • Jon Rahm 20/1
  • Jordan Spieth 20/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 22/1

Considerably cheaper in salary than both Spieth and Mcilroy, and only marginally more expensive than Fowler, Jon Rahm (20/1, DK Price $9,800) looks to offer excellent value this week at the top of the board. The Spaniard has shown he can play links golf very well, as he once again performed excellently in Ireland, posting a top-5 finish two weeks ago. Rahm now turns his attention to Carnoustie where he’ll be gunning for his first major championship victory.

Rahm comes into this event with a clear strategy. He’s going to play as aggressive as always and hit driver off the tee at every opportunity. Rahm believes the course layout and conditions will suit his explosive game. When you listen to his assessment of Carnoustie this year, it’s difficult to disagree with him. Speaking to the media this week, Rahm said:

“If you hit a good one with a driver, you’re going to have nothing to the green. If you hit the rough this year, it’s not as thick as other years. You actually get a lot of good lies, so you can still hit the green with confidence.”

With playable rough, Rahm should feel every bit as confident as he sounds about his chances this week, as the only thing that prevented him from winning in Ireland was the odd blow-up hole. But with his power allowing him to take the pot bunkers almost entirely out of play, combined with light rough, Carnoustie should be an excellent fit for him. Rahm’s experience in contention at Augusta earlier in the year should put him in good shape mentally as he attempts to win his first major championship, and if he can keep his volatile temperament in check, then Rahm has every chance of claiming the Claret Jug.

From the middle of the range prices this week, Francesco Molinari (33/1, DK Price $8,600) may be the safest man to add to your lineups. The Italian has been in imperious form lately, winning twice and finishing runner-up twice in his last five events. Molinari leads the field in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green over his previous 24 rounds and sits third in ball striking over the same period.

Molinari’s Open Championship record has been solid, making the cut in five of his last six appearances at this event. His best finish at this event is a T9 back in 2013 at Muirfield, where the conditions were also dry. Molinari enters this event in the form of his life, and the way he is hitting the ball right now, he looks primed for his best Open Championship performance yet.

A links specialist, Marc Leishman (50/1, DK Price $8,000) has performed excellently at this event in recent years. Leishman has recorded three top-10 finishes at the Open Championship in his last four appearances, and he looks reasonably priced to go well once again this week. An excellent wind player, Leishman will relish any wind that may descend on Carnoustie. With him being so adept at playing links golf, taking an expert at $8,000 seems a prudent play.

Leishman’s immediate form hasn’t been spectacular, but he has made five cuts from his last six events, including a runner-up finish at the Byron Nelson where he shot a brilliant 61 in the opening round. The Australian finished T13 at his previous outing at the Quicken Loans National, which shows his game is in solid shape. With his expertise on links courses, Leishman may well be able to conquer Carnoustie and finally get his hands on the Claret Jug.

Emiliano Grillo (200/1, DK Price $6,800) is undervalued this week. On DraftKings, with the books, everywhere. Grillo has been playing terrific golf lately, and Carnoustie should suit the Argentine’s clinical ball striking. Over his previous 24 rounds, Grillo sits 15th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, fifth in Strokes Gained-Putting, 17th in ball striking and 10th in Strokes Gained-Total. Grillo has three top-25 finishes in his last four events, and he has shown he can produce his best golf at this event in the past, finishing T12 at Royal Troon back in 2016. At 200/1 and $6,800 on DraftKings, Emiliano Grillo looks the value play of the week.

Recommended Plays

  • Jon Rahm 20/1, DK Price $9,800
  • Francesco Molinari 33/1, DK Price $8,600
  • Marc Leishman 50/1, DK Price $8,000
  • Emiliano Grillo 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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Opinion & Analysis

I’m practicing. Why am I not getting better at golf?

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We all want to improve our golf games; we want to shoot lower scores, make more birdies and win bragging rights from our friends. As a result, we practice and invest many hours in trying to improve. However, do we improve as quickly as we want to? Is there something we’ve been missing?

“The secret is in the dirt,” Ben Hogan said. And he was right. To date, not one golfer has become an elite player without investing thousands of hours in improving their golf game. And yet, there are thousands of amateur golfers who practice every week and don’t get better. What is the difference? To me, this is a very interesting question. What underpins how or why we learn? Furthermore, how can we super-charge our rate of learning? 

To super-charge our learning, we must first realize that practice itself does not make us better at golf. This is an empty promise. It is close to the truth but incorrect. Instead, practice, when done correctly, will cause changes in our body to make us more skillful over time. This is a subtle, but important difference. There is no magic type of practice that universally builds skill, however, there are a handful of factors that can speed up, slow down or even stop your progress.

Remember: “You are not aiming to hit 50 balls; you are trying to become more skillful.”

There are the two major factors that stop golfers improving. Try not to view them as switches that are on or off. Instead, view both factors as sliding scales. The more you can fine-tune each factor, the faster you will improve your golf.

1) Give your body clear and precise feedback

What is 2 + 2? Imagine if you were never given the answer to this question at school. If you weren’t, you would never know the answer. Similarly, imagine you made a golf swing and the instant you hit the golf ball it disappeared. How would you know what to do on your next attempt to hit a straighter shot?

In both cases, feedback is the missing ingredient. Feedback comes from the shot outcome, watching the ball flight and many other sensations we get during our golf swing. As soon as our body does not have clear and precise feedback our learning will stop.

When we first learn to play golf, the feedback required to improve is simple – did the ball move at all, and did it get airborne? As we progress, we then need more precise feedback to keep developing our skill.

As a 20 handicapper, we need to know if the ball finished 10 or 15 yards right of our target. When we become an elite player, the requirement for feedback becomes even more stringent. The difference between a wedge shot landing 103 or 107 yards becomes important. This type of feedback, known as knowledge of results, is focused on the result of your golf shot.

“If your body can’t tell the difference between two outcomes, you will not make any changes – learning will not occur.”

To learn, we also require another form of feedback, known as knowledge of performance. In essence, your body needs to know what it did to cause “x.” Relevant practice drills, training aids and videoing your swing are all useful ways to increase feedback on performance. The best form of feedback, however, is an internal understanding of your swing and how it causes different ball flights. This is an implicit skill all great golfers master, and a by-product of many hours of diligent practice, refinement and understanding.

Many golfers hit a brick wall in their golfing journey when their practice stops providing the precise feedback they need to keep improving. They may not have enough information about their shot outcome, or they may not understand how the golf swing causes various shots. Both will completely halt your golfing progress.

Next time you practice, think of ways you can obtain clearer feedback. You don’t need Trackman by your side (although this can be helpful), but pay attention to where your shots finish during putting and chipping practice and note these trends. Find landmarks behind your golf range to gauge the lateral error of your long shots.

If you’re working on your swing path through the point of impact, one way of obtaining feedback on your performance is to place a bottle or a second ball on the ground. To put it simply, if the bottle/ball flies, you’ll know you’ve made a bad swing. Another way, if you are trying to improve your iron striking, is to place a towel one inch behind the ball to indicate whether or not you have hit the ground before the ball. These ideas are not mind-blowing, but trust me; they will speed up your rate of learning.

2) Make your practice suitably difficult

When you first go to the gym, lifting the lightest weight you can find is fine. But how much would your fitness improve if you were still lifting that same weight 12 months later? Now think of how your golf practice has changed over the past 12 months. If you were asked, could you explain the level of difficulty of your practice?

The reason many golfers can’t answer this question is they don’t have a good measure of success when they practice. Most golfers don’t have a quantifiable way to say “that shot I just hit was or wasn’t good enough.” Even fewer golfers have a way to say “this week my practice performance was 20 percent better than last week.” If you fall into this category, try the following game the next time you practice your long game.

Structure your practice so that you have set target zones (10 yards and 20 yards wide) with points for hitting each zone (3 and 1 points respectively). Take a set amount of balls (20 balls) and see how many points you can score with a 6-iron and a driver (10 balls with each). Each week, play this game and track your progress. We’ll call this game the “WRX Range Challenge.”

Set a goal for how many points you want to achieve. This goal should be challenging, but not impossible. When you reach this goal, make your target zones smaller and repeat the process. This way you can track your progress over time. As you make the target zones smaller and smaller, your body has to continually refine your swing to make it more effective.

Summary

We all want to improve our golf. We all want to get better at a quicker rate. The two factors discussed here are obvious and yet are not addressed by many golfers when they practice. Next time you head to the range or practice ground, ensure you have clear feedback on your shot outcome and golfing technique. Make your practice measurable, suitably difficult and enjoy watching your scores progress.

If you do try out the WRX Range Challenge, let us know. Post your score and a photo: #WRXrangechallenge @GolfWRX and me @golfinsideruk on Twitter and Instagram.

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The 19th Hole: What it’s like to play golf with a goat caddie

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Live from Silvies Valley Ranch in Oregon for the Grand Opening of McVeigh’s Gauntlet and the debut of its goat caddies (yes, goats), host Michael Williams shares his experiences using a goat caddie. Guests include course architect Dan Hixson and Seamus Golf founder Akbar Chistie.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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