In comparing the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup, there’s no comparison. And really, the Presidents Cup is nothing more than a concession and a political exercise. That said, the Ryder Cup is no longer appropriate in the context of the modern golf landscape.
The Ryder Cup was first contested in 1927. From 1927 to 1977, the competition was between the United States and Great Britain. From 1979 on, the competition was expanded to include all of Europe against the United States. The Presidents Cup has only been contested since 1994.
We’ve seen plenty of great Ryder Cups in recent years: The War by the Shore in 1991 at Kiawah Island, the Battle at the Belfry in 1993, the Battle of Brookline in 1999, the Miracle at Medinah in 2012…even last year’s U.S. thumping of the Europeans at Hazeltine was damn entertaining. The Presidents Cup? Not so much.
Here’s the truth: It’s ridiculous for both the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup to exist. However, the problem is this: When the Ryder Cup was started nearly 100 years ago, the majority of golf was played in the UK and U.S. Now, it’s a global sport, with countries like Japan, South Korea, and Africa comprising significant swathes of the global golf pie. It’s not right to exclude them from a big-time (and big money) team competition. It’s only because of the development of the game historically that we have both Cup contests.
Per Golf Datatech, here are the world’s largest golf markets. #1 United States; #2 Japan; #3 South Korea; #4 United Kingdom; #5 Canada. #6 China
However, the Ryder Cup is established, beloved, full of history, etc, so doing away with that competition isn’t really possible. Hence, the United States is forced into biennial duty: Battling Europe and the rest of the World in separate competitions.
In a sense, if the U.S. wants to suit up for the country every other year, nothing needs to change. And nationalistic pride will probably keep this from ever being the case, but these two competitions should really be folded into one.
Consider this: Of the current top 50 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking, 25 are from the United States and 25 are from the rest of the world. Perfect! The best competition, then, would be “U.S. vs. The World,” no? The current makeup of professional golf has elite talent grouped into two buckets: The United Stated and everywhere else. On paper, the best team competition ought to reflect that.
The Presidents Cup, the necessary evil that it is, merely dilutes the Ryder Cup. The United States has won nine of the 11 competitions. It’s not a competition! However, because so many people (and countries) have so much invested in the Ryder Cup and the “U.S. vs. Europe” element, don’t expect that competition to be dissolved, or expanded to include the rest of the world, anytime soon.
Thus, every two years, we must engage in this farce of the Presidents Cup as necessitated by politics and history.
One small request from the golf fans of the world if we must continue to do this: Could the International side actually start winning? Or at least make it competitive?