Price, Els: Closer than you think

For all the United States media and fans’ derision and disrespect for the skills and abilities of the International team, the US victory in the 2013 Presidents Cup raises issues which deserve careful consideration.


International team captain Nick Price alluded to some of those issues in his comments after the event. “There’s lots of [structural and format] changes I would like to see but I don’t think we should discuss those now,” said Price. “Let’s let the Americans enjoy this win and let’s look to the future as to what we can do to make this perhaps more competitive.”


Earlier this year Price, former captain Greg Norman and future captain Ernie Els pleaded with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to give the Internationals a fighting chance and reduce the number of foursome and fourball matches, the idea being fewer team bouts would favour the Internationals’ perceived lack of depth.


Instead, Finchem allowed for a format change – this year’s event started with a fourball session instead of foursomes, with which the Internationals have struggled – and the United States rolled to an 18 ½ to 15 ½ victory to improve to 8-1-1 in the matches.


And while it is dispiriting to have lost yet again, it is almost as disheartening to read the constant downplaying of the individual members of the International team by people who should know better.


For example, here’s what Associated Press writer Rusty Miller wrote:

“Perhaps the oddest singles pairing on Sunday was Tiger Woods, tops in the world rankings, going up against No. 41 Richard Sterne.

“The galleries and media were clamoring for Woods to play Adam Scott, No. 2 in the world, or maybe a wily veteran like Angel Cabrera, winner of a couple of major championships during the Woods era.

“Instead they got a little (5-foot-7, 150 pounds) and little known South African against the man who makes headlines with everything he does and says.”


The disdain for Sterne’s abilities and record stems from two things: jingoism is one, and that goes without saying, and the other is money.


The simple fact of the matter is that the European Tour’s schedule has tournaments that average out at about €2.5-million, while the PGA Tour’s average is in the region of $6-million. That’s nearly double the amount of money available per tournament on the PGA Tour. And while that doesn’t directly affect the world ranking points available, in the end, that kind of money influences players’ decisions as to where to play. In the end, the money draws the players, and the consequence of that is the Official World Golf Rankings are skewed in favour of US players – in spite of squeals that come from that side of the Atlantic any time Europeans dominate to top 10 positions.


To get a sense of how a player can rocket up the world rankings by being successful on the US PGA Tour – as opposed to the European Tour – a cursory glance at the big movers inside the top 50 shows the likes of DA Points, Boo Weekley, Kevin Streelman, Billy Horschel and Jordan Spieth all climbed 100 places or more to reach their current positions. By way of contrast, the biggest European Tour mover is Sterne, who, on returning from injury, climbed from 154th at the end of last year to his current 39th.


In any event, this disparity was irrelevant to the players and captains in the Presidents Cup. Fred Couples, the US captain, said, “Tiger has talked a little about Richard and his game this week. They have not played each other, but it just came to the point where we didn’t want to wait any longer and we put him out there.”


Woods himself needed to go to the final hole and the final putt to hold off Sterne 1-up. “I was just trying to hang on,” said Woods who had his back problems come back to haunt him.


“I was fairly relaxed, I was actually enjoying the match,” said Sterne. “You know, we played pretty well, but neither of us really made any putts.  But obviously 16 was the turning point in our match, and that was unfortunate that it didn’t go my way.”


“I did my pairings to try and win the Cup, not to put one or two together, or three or five or whatever,” said Price. “And the whole idea of doing the picks was to put what we felt was the best strategy forward to win this Cup.”


Sterne’s comment puts the defeat in perspective. As Els said, “Obviously we’ve got a strong team here. I just thought the American team played exceptionally well, really. Their level of play was really up there and they made a lot, a lot of birdies. They seemed like they got momentum in most of the sessions, and we were trying to fight ourselves back into it.


“There were a couple instances here and there, maybe it’s a lack of experience, but we just let some matches go here and there, maybe a tee shot here and there or a putt. I think the Americans putted a little bit better than us. But we weren’t far away. It’s closer than you think.”


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