Presidents Cup reduces number of matches to try to keep event close
By Doug Ferguson
EDISON, N.J. (AP) – The PGA Tour agreed Monday to reduce by four the number of matches in the Presidents Cup, giving the event its fewest matches since it began in 1994.
International team captain Nick Price has been lobbying for the change to help keep the matches close and interesting. The Americans have won the last five times by a combined score of 95-75, and by at least three points each time.
For the Presidents Cup in South Korea on Oct. 8-11, Thursday and Friday will have five matches (fourballs or foursomes), down from six matches. Saturday will consist of four matches of fourballs and foursomes, followed by 12 singles matches on Sunday.
Each player will be required to compete in two of the four team matches. Previously, all players had to compete in at least three team matches.
"After numerous meetings and discussions, it was apparent that both captains felt passionate about their respective positions, as did their potential team members," PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said. "But with no clear consensus between the two sides, it was up to me to make a decision that would be best for the event overall."
The Presidents Cup began in 1994 with 32 matches and went to 34 matches in 2003.
The Presidents Cup was created to give international players from outside Europe a chance to compete in a team event made popular by the Ryder Cup. At the time, four of the top 10 in the world ranking were Price, Greg Norman, Ernie Els and David Frost. The Americans had just two players (Fred Couples and Corey Pavin) in the top 10.
But this has been a lopsided event with a few exceptions.
The Americans have won eight out of 10 times, and the combined score in those eight victories was 153-113. The International team's lone victory was 20-11 in 1998 at Royal Melbourne, and the matches ended in a draw in South Africa in 2003.
"I think just looking at the record of the Presidents Cup, we're 1-9-1. I think all of us on the team feel that a points change would really make it more exciting and more competitive," Price said this month before meeting with Finchem. "I think win, lose, or draw, we all want to see it come down to the final match on Sunday instead of being done with eight matches left on the golf course on Sunday. That's a big deal."
Price said the International team historically lacks depth compared with the Americans, though that wasn't always the case. For the 2007 matches at Royal Montreal, the International team had nine of the top 20 in the world, compared with five of the top 20 for the Americans. But the Americans didn't lose any of the 12 foursomes matches and breezed to a victory.
Finchem also took one small step toward eliminating a glaring weakness in the event – both teams run by one tour. Starting in 2015, the host team captain will decide whether to start the Presidents Cup with foursomes or fourballs.
Finchem also said the Presidents Cup would revert back to singles matches being halved at the end of 18 holes. After the tie in South Africa, singles matches went extra holes until there was a clear winner. The last four times, that hasn't been an issue.
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