Ryder Cup can learn from Presidents Cup

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There’s a lot to like about the Presidents Cup. There really is. It’s a fun little competition that gives us a reason to stop watching football during an autumn weekend every other year and finally gives the people of Australia, Korea, Canada and South Africa reason to be unified under one flag.

Let’s be real, though. Calling it better than the Ryder Cup is like declaring Kourtney the craziest Kardashian. Nobody this side of Fiji would actually believe it – and even the Fijians know they’re biased.

And yet, there are a few valuable lessons that Ryder Cup organizers could learn from their black-sheep cousin.

One is the idea of a four-day event. Let it breathe, people. There’s no reason to force-feed five sessions of golf into 72 hours. In today’s world, when money rules the roost – and don’t be naïve; the Ryder Cup is all about money – this would give the bean-counters an extra day of ticket sales … and souvenir sales … and television revenue. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Another is that every player competes during the first two sessions and only two from each team ride the pine during the third and fourth sessions. Got a guy on the back end of the roster you’d like to hide? Tough luck. This isn’t baseball and there shouldn’t be any pinch-hitters in the dugout. There would be gobs more intrigue to the Ryder Cup if it adopted this format.

All of which leads to the single greatest attraction of the Presidents Cup over its biennial brethren.

There is no greater drama in off-course competition than when the captains and assistants meet prior to each session and plot their players against each other. One team announces its opening pairing – or individual player, in the case of Sunday’s singles matches – and the other counters, back and forth until each lineup card is filled.

It’s like a fantasy draft. Hold the fantasy.

The Ryder Cup is a dramatic, gut-wrenching contest that doesn’t need many improvements, but this would be a major upgrade, like installing a turbocharged engine into an already souped-up sportscar.

Without seriously amending the event, it would ratchet up the importance of captains. No longer would they simply order their men from top to bottom and hope for the best, instead turning it into a game of psychology and strategy that is currently lacking from the proceedings.

Just think of all the potential entertainment we’ll probably miss at Medinah in the singles matches alone.

When Davis Love III calls on mercurial Phil Mickelson, his counterpart Jose Maria Olazabal could choose Lee Westwood in a match-up of players who have seen nearly as much success as and even more heartbreak than anyone over the past two decades.

When Olazabal puts forth volatile Sergio Garcia, Love could fan those flames by matching him against Bubba Watson in what could be a flammable pairing with plenty of gamesmanship.

And it goes on and on.

Dustin Johnson could get Nicolas Colsaerts in a match-up of Bash Brothers that would feature two of the game's longest hitters.

Luke Donald might find himself against Matt Kuchar, two of the game’s steadiest, most consistent players trading birdies and making par from everywhere.

Webb Simpson might square off against Graeme McDowell in what would have been a U.S. Open playoff three months ago had the European’s final-hole putt held its line.

Ian Poulter could see his fiery demeanor possibly extinguished by mellow Jason Dufner in the starkest contrast of styles we’ll ever witness.

And of course, the pièce de résistance: Tiger Woods versus Rory McIlroy.

I want to see it. You want to see it. Hell, even they want to see it.

Asked recently about the potential of facing Woods in singles at Medinah, McIlroy brazenly said, “I'd love Tiger to go out first and kick his ass.” When Woods was posed with a question about being ready for such a defeat, he smiled and coolly stated, “No.”

There are two ways this clash of the titans could happen. The first is by Love and Olazabal conspiring behind closed doors to ensure that each player is slotted in the same place for his team, meaning that when the lineups are revealed – surprise, surprise – they’ll be magically matched.

The other is by sheer luck.

There are 479,001,600 potential combinations of singles matches. Tiger and Rory would play against each other in 39,916,800 of them. In real terms, there’s a 1-in-12 chance of it happening – or 8.33 percent.

Expand that to having them play in a specific spot in the lineup – remember, McIlroy coyly mentioned the words “go out first” – and the odds fall to 0.69 percent.

So there you go. We have a 1-in-144 chance of each captain sending his best player out in the first singles match – or the fourth, or the eighth, or the last.

It’s a shame that odds are so low for the one individual match-up everybody is craving. There aren’t many times we can watch the Ryder Cup and glumly whine, “This would never happen at the Presidents Cup…” but this could very well be one of them.

If Woods and McIlroy are to face each other, it will have to be the work of divine fate or a back-room, wink-wink deal between captains. That’s too bad. There should be a way the Ryder Cup can give the people – and the players – what they want.