Adding The World's Best Women Would Jump-Start The Presidents Cup
Initial conversations did not advance due to pre-pandemic scheduling conflicts. But it's time for golf to have an international mixed-team event.
This week’s Presidents Cup was hobbling into overused Quail Hollow long before Saudi Arabia’s LIV Golf siphoned off top International players.
With Team USA winning 11 of 13 editions and a format borrowing too heavily from the Ryder Cup, the Presidents has long needed a rethink. There may be no better time to incorporate the best American and international women to create golf’s premier mixed-team event and, potentially, the most compelling Cup event of them all.
The Presidents Cup was the PGA Tour’s answer to the lucrative Ryder Cup, surviving on the thrills provided by team match play along with moments of grand sportsmanship and two dreamy trips to Royal Melbourne. But its format only deviates from the Ryder Cup with a Thursday start and holding captain’s selections on live TV. Couple that lack of differentiation with American dominance, and the Presidents Cup promise has all but cratered.
The Ryder Cup survived much longer with a similar lop-sided scenario only to be boosted in 1979 by expanding the GB&I team to include all of Europe. But the matches were less visible then compared to the current Presidents Cup, which has a network television partner and audiences around the planet. The event is positioned to succeed if only there was a genuine reason for the “rest of the world” to care.
Ensuring the event’s future has also been a topic in the hallways of PGA Tour headquarters. According to two sources who have knowledge of informal pre-pandemic discussions held with the LPGA Tour, consideration was given to expanding the Presidents Cup to include the world’s best women. Those sources tell The Quadrilateral that exploratory conversations did not go very far because the LPGA’s biennial USA vs. Europe Solheim Cup was played in the same odd-numbered years as the Presidents.
The COVID-19 global pandemic pushed the Ryder and Presidents Cup back a year, thereby ending the date conflict. The Presidents Cup is now scheduled for even years, while the Solheim remains an odd-numbered year event.
Naysayers—a.k.a. LIV Golf’s robust army of bots and lonely online bored basement dwellers—will claim that upending the current Presidents Cup format would be demeaning to the world’s best women and a sure sign LIV has once again forced the PGA Tour to get better. Nonsense.
The mixed-Cup concept is even more sensible in 2022 than it was a few years ago. Consider:
A mixed Presidents Cup would fulfill a promise of the PGA Tour/LPGA Tour “alliance” that has not produced anything of fan interest.
There would be no damage to the Solheim’s USA vs. Europe event. A mixed Presidents Cup might even increase interest in other LPGA team events.
The LPGA’s UL International Crown has been on hold since 2020 and this would help offset its potential demise. That biennial women's professional team event was played in even-numbered years and featured eight national teams of four players each.
The women are more famous than the men in several Asian markets.
Adding the International women would level the Presidents Cup playing field and create more potential for excitement. (And there’s some bulletin board material America’s world No. 2 Nelly Korda did not need!)
The International men would be boasted this week by the play of Korea’s Jin Young Ko and Australia’s Minjee Lee, while the American squad would be more compelling to watch with the Korda sisters or recent major winner Jennifer Kupcho instead Billy Horschel and Kevin Kisner.
The format possibilities would depend on the size of teams. But there is the potential for every session to be different, from traditional foursomes and four-ball, to expanded singles, modified foursomes (with both players hitting tee shots) or even scramble on the table. A mix of disciplines would only add intrigue and also begin laying the groundwork for a long overdue Olympic golf format reboot incorporating mixed teams.
The IOC’s addition of mixed gender events gave the pandemic-diminished Tokyo and Beijing Games a boost with more events planned.
Mixed formats have roots in the every day game, which continues to thrive thanks to a healthy increase in female participation.
A remastered Presidents Cup incorporating the world’s best women is likely to become the most watched mixed-competition in the world of sports.
Regarding the past discussions or the potential of rekindling talks, the PGA Tour did not have any comment.
LPGA CMO Matt Chmura told The Quadrilateral it “wouldn’t be fair to the LPGA to speculate about an event that we are not involved in.” But, he added, “We are always open to new event ideas and certainly would be interested in a mixed event of some kind in the future.”
During a recent media call, Trevor Immelman was asked if he felt a “historical responsibility as the captain of the 2022 International Team to keep that momentum going for a future when this becomes maybe like the Ryder Cup is today?”
Immelman curiously morphed his answer into addressing online banter that the beleaguered 2022 event would have benefited from a female presence.
“I read so much on social media about [how] we need to blow this event up, we need to change the format, we need to add female golfers,” he said. “First of all, I believe female golfers could hold their own Presidents Cup. That's how good they are. They don't need male golfers to make them relevant. I watch the Solheim Cup every time and am just like glued to my TV. It's some of the best golf you watch every couple of years. So I think that's kind of demeaning to both the men and the women players when people throw that out. But we love this event. We love our team.”
Those remarks came on the same call where he was announcing captain’s picks of K.H. Lee (OWGR No. 43) and Si Woo Kim (76th) of South Korea, Canada's Taylor Pendrith (109th), Australia's Cameron Davis (66th), South Africa's Christiaan Bezuidenhout (67th) and Colombia's Sebastian Munoz (63rd). They join these qualifiers: Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, Adam Scott, Mito Pereira and Corey Conners.
Hardly the all-star team our television viewing dreams are made of.
Had the 2022 Presidents Cup teams included six men and six women, the squads would have looked like this based on points earned (men) and Rolex rankings (women).
USA: Patrick Cantlay, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Tony Finau, Nelly Korda (2), Lexi Thompson (7), Jennifer Kupcho (11), Jessica Korda (13), Danielle Kang (20), Meghan Khang (27).
International: Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Tom Kim, Adam Scott, Mito Pereira, Corey Conners, Jin Young Ko (No. 1, Korea), Minjee Lee (3rd, Australia), Lydia Ko (4th, New Zealand), Brooke Henderson (5th, Canada), Atthaya Thitikul (6th, Thailand) and In Gee Chun (8th, Korea).
If the teams were expanded to eight players each, it could allow for single gender team sessions. In that scenario, the USA would have added Mina Harigae (33rd) and Marina Alex (47th), while the Internationals would draw in Hyo-Joo Kim (8th, Korea) and Nasa Hataoka (9th, Japan).
Or, both sides could reserve those last two spots for traditional Captain’s picks.
In randomly surveying golf world types about the mixed concept and potential formats, I’ve heard a wide variety of suggestions. Everything from calls to a strict mixed-only format for all sessions, to a lively combination of mixed and same-gender sessions concluded by singles matches.
Some prefer the idea of keeping the current 12-player teams and format, with mixed foursomes and four-balls the first three days followed by Sunday singles. Others insist rosters must expand by as many as 12 from each gender with essentially two cups within one event. That seems bloated and defeats the purpose of having true mixed matches where fascinating dynamics come into play due to the unique competitive setting.
Ultimately, the format details are moot until the Presidents Cup organizers concede a reboot is overdue. Outside of Immelman and a few others, there is near-unanimous agreement that the event would become bigger and, please forgive me, “grow the game” thanks to a competitive vibe unlike anything else in our sport. Or the world of sports.
Should that day come, then the fun of envisioning how to format such a compelling international team competition will assuredly fall into place. But for now, I ask…
Team Quadrilateralationals, feel free to offer expanded thoughts on the idea or possible formats in the comment section. Thanks!