DUBLIN, Ohio — The Presidents Cup is a lot like The Players Championship. No one really talks about it until it’s time to play. And too much time is spent comparing it with something it will never be instead of enjoying it for what it is.
At least no one can joke the Presidents Cup is match play between the United States and Florida.
This year, only four players on this International team have homes in Florida. One lives in North Carolina, one in Virginia, another in Idaho. And it’s a home game for Jason Day of Australia, who lives about 10 miles away in Westerville and is an honorary member at Muirfield Village.
But it has nothing to do with where these guys live or where they play. Remember, the most recent Ryder Cup at Medinah was a home game for Luke Donald of England. And only two players from Europe’s team are not PGA Tour members.
The Presidents Cup can never equal the passion, pride and excessive hype of the Ryder Cup, just like The Players Championship can have all the trappings of a major championship without ever being considered one. Those vested in the Presidents Cup — mainly anyone who works for the PGA Tour — will argue that it’s only a matter of time. No one paid that much attention to the Ryder Cup when it was first starting out. Now it rivals the Masters as must-see TV.
That’s missing the point.
Europe has a real flag, not one that someone designed exclusively for a golf tournament.
More than playing for a flag, Europe plays for its tour. Padraig Harrington said it best a decade ago when he referred to the European Tour as the ‘‘country cousin’’ of the PGA Tour. It’s not as big, not as rich, not as popular. They have something to prove one week every two years. It’s the success of the Ryder Cup — and that success comes from beating up on the Americans every other year — that pumps much-needed money into the European Tour.
Golf fans from European countries build their year-round travel to the Ryder Cup, home and away. The International team comes from Argentina and Japan, South Africa and Australia. The biggest draw this week in Ohio might be Graham DeLaet of Canada, a proud golf nation and not terribly far away from central Ohio.
Safe to say there hasn’t been a big rush for tickets from Zimbabwe. Or Argentina.
So why bother with the Presidents Cup? Mainly because it’s an opportunity, and that should be enough.
‘‘When we started out with the Presidents Cup, the initial guys — myself, Greg [Norman] and Ernie [Els] — we so enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup and so wanted to be a part of the Ryder Cup-type format,’’ International captain Nick Price said. ‘‘And then the Presidents Cup came along, and that was fantastic.’’
Go back two decades to the start of these matches, and it might explain the value of the Presidents Cup — and perhaps why it has lost some steam in recent years.
The biggest stars outside of America in the mid-1990s weren’t from Europe, but from other parts of the globe. Norman was the biggest draw in golf. Price won three majors and was No. 1 in the world. Els won his first US Open at 24 and was referred to by Curtis Strange as ‘‘the next guy.’’
International players not eligible for the Ryder Cup won majors in all but two seasons during the 1990s.
The only big stars from Europe when the Presidents Cup began in 1994 were Jose Maria Olazabal (when healthy) and Colin Montgomerie. Yes, Nick Faldo won his sixth major in 1996, but that was his last big moment. Europe got its due at the Ryder Cup. And these days, Europe has the best of both — the Ryder Cup and some of the top stars. Just two years ago, the season ended with Europeans occupying the top four spots in the world ranking.
Maybe that’s why it’s hard to get worked up over this Presidents CupMasters champion Adam Scott has emerged as a global star. No other player on the International team is ranked among the top 15.
It wouldn’t hurt if the International team won the Presidents Cup this year to at least make it look like a contest. The last three have been blowouts, and the Americans’ only loss in this ‘‘competition’’ was in 1998 at Royal Melbourne. It certainly would help for the matches to be close.
It’s still an exhibition between the best players in the world outside of Europe. It’s team match play, the most engaging format in golf. It can be fun. It can be intense — Price once snapped a putter over his knee after losing a match on the 18th hole. It’s still a great week of golf.
And that’s all it needs to be worth playing.