How to improve the Ryder Cup
The Ryder Cup might be the best event in golf. For three days every two years, players and fans representing the United States and Europe show emotion that you rarely see in golf, and while most don’t get as crazy as Ian Poulter, there’s a vibe and atmosphere around the event that is pretty special. The event isn’t as heated as it used to be, see Seve/Azinger for just one example, but you can tell that these guys really want to win for each other and their country. Even in the events that seem to be one-sided, the Ryder Cup always just seems to deliver something memorable. Hell, I’m Canadian with no rooting interest in the event and I’m pumped for this thing every two years.
With all of that said, it’s not perfect and I think if there were some simple changes made, we could see the Ryder Cup become an even better event. Here are three suggestions that I think would greatly improve the overall experience.
Remove the qualification system
When Tom Watson was announced as the captain for the American side back in 2012, he made the decision to remove one of the captain’s picks, dropping it down from four to three for both himself and European captain Paul McGinley but he also said that if it were up to him, he’d remove the captain’s selections entirely and go solely on points and I think that’s an awful idea.
I understand that the pressure would really be on the captains at that point to make the selections, but isn’t that what you want? If I were in control of one of the teams, the last thing I would want is a player to be on the team that I didn’t really think belonged in the first place. Look at Luke Donald this year, who had a spot on the European side guaranteed for 95% of the qualification period, but really didn’t play at a high enough level to justify the spot, and when he fell out, McGinley decided that he couldn’t take him as a captain’s pick. Having complete control of the roster is something that the captain should want, not fear.
Moreover, the way that players qualify for the event isn’t consistent between the two teams with Europe getting additional weeks to qualify and having players make the team from two different points lists compared to one for the Americans. Sure, captains could go more with their “friends” than perhaps the most deserving players, but that would be pretty obvious and I doubt that the men selected to captain the teams would risk their reputations on something like that.
Pick a date for the two teams to be revealed, preferably after the Tour Championship, and do it live on Golf Channel. Just make sure that the question period is done after the teams are named.
Strategize and televise the pairings
Admittedly, I’m stealing part of this idea from No Laying Up, but there would be some seriously incredible drama to the three days of action if some changes were made to the way that the pairings and matches were announced. Here’s what I’m thinking.
On the Thursday night before the event, you get the captains and assistants together on a stage with the players and assembled media in the audience. The team that won the previous event, usually Europe, would have the option to announce their first pairing for Friday morning or defer to the other side. The teams go back and forth, naming their pairings until all eight matches are known for the first day, and they do it again before the Saturday sessions and the Sunday singles, with the team who’s leading after Friday and Saturday getting the chance to name or defer.
Maybe Watson was planning on putting Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler in the opening spot, but decided against it because McGinley put out a weaker side for Europe. How great would it be to see Rory McIlroy get named for Sunday singles in the opening spot and have Phil Mickelson jump out of his seat and convince Watson to put him out first? The Presidents Cup actually does this on some level, and it makes perfect sense. Put a clock on these guys to make their decisions and televise it on Golf Channel every night and you would get a guaranteed audience, plus it allows the captains to actually strategize instead of doing it blind and having them announced via press release.
Work something out with Augusta National
Gleneagles is going to be a great host this year in the sense that the area and amenities are fantastic for the players, and from a television standpoint, it’s going to come off great to the viewers. It’s a course that just pops on TV, but to be honest, there’s nothing that really stands out about it from a pure golf perspective and really, if you look at the most recent venues as well as upcoming ones, you’re going to see most of the same thing.
How great would it be though to have Augusta National host a Ryder Cup? Obviously the chances of it happening are almost non-existent, but it’s the type of course that fits great for match play, with risk/reward holes everywhere, especially on the back nine, and it’s already proven to be a tremendous spectator course. Maybe I just want to see more than one event played at Augusta, but there’s no doubt that a Ryder Cup held there would be something special.