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Does the Presidents Cup need fixing?

Fred Couples
Getty Images

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

We can all agree on that, right? We’re all in accordance on the basic premise that if something is without issue, it need not be altered?

OK, good. Now comes the hard part, trying to figure out an answer to this question: Is the Presidents Cup broken?

This is a pertinent query for one lone reason. Since the competition commenced in 1994, it has been fraught with American domination, as the guys in red, white and blue own a 7-1-1 record, their only defeat coming 13 years ago.

And so once again the floodgates have opened. Observers are proffering suggestions in an attempt to shift this balance of power less in favor of the United States side.

While the rivalry has all the one-sidedness of a duel between hammer and nail, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s an issue with the basic premise. It just means – and yes, I’ve concluded this after careful examination and analysis – that one team has been better than the other.

And what’s wrong with that? Since when are the rules of athletic competitions adjusted simply to provide more equality between the two sides?

If this were the main objective, the PGA Tour could have the dozen members of both teams crowd around a coin toss to determine the biennial champion. Silly? Of course. But hey, each side would have a 50-50 chance of winning.

This shouldn’t come as a shocker, but U.S. captain Fred Couples and International captain Greg Norman differed on their views of this topic following the Americans’ 19-15 win at Royal Melbourne this past weekend.

“I was asked as soon as I walked into the team cabin tonight, ‘Could you please put down your bullet points of suggestions on what you think?’ I go, ‘OK, I'm going to give you two right now so I don't forget,’” Norman said after the event ended on Sunday. “I don't think you should start foursome, four-ball, foursome, four-ball. I think it should be the host nation's opportunity to dictate how the format is played. … I also think the International team captain should have four picks, not two.

“The base of golfers that the International team comes from, outside of Europe [is] about 300 million strong, population-wise. The captain has a much more diverse cross-section of a base of golfers to go to. And we don't get to play week-in, week-out like the Americans do with the Americans all the time.”

Granted, the Shark’s ideas fall into the category of internal tweaks rather than major overhauls, but the reasoning behind them remains. We’re not winning, so we need to change the rules in order to help us win. That rationale sounds less like an explanation than an excuse. If the International team had won the most recent edition of this competition under the exact same guidelines, such suggestions almost certainly wouldn’t have surfaced.

Producing alterations to a team competition is hardly a new maneuver. In 1973, organizers of the Ryder Cup first allowed players from Ireland to compete alongside those of Great Britain; six years later, based largely on the advice of Jack Nicklaus, the team was expanded to include players from Continental Europe, as well.

For his part, Couples wasn’t buying the idea that changes need to be incurred, only that further opportunities for the International team could result in greater performances.

“They may need to find other players to play. That's pretty simple,” the U.S. captain explained. “The Internationals need to go play another format somewhere. We play in the Ryder Cup and we play in the Presidents Cup. So do we have an advantage by playing alternate-shot? I couldn't argue that more. Greg's guys very rarely do it.

“But you know, in years coming up, maybe they will have another tournament where they play an alternate-shot or whatever. I'm not picking on Greg at any given time, but our guys are polished players - they are lucky enough, all of these guys, [to] have played on Ryder Cup teams and the Bill Haases and Webb Simpsons and Nick Watneys are going to be on Ryder Cup teams and Presidents Cup teams, and that's an advantage, no doubt.”

The consternation over the conversation all stems back to that one question: Is the Presidents Cup broken? Predictably, the Americans say no, while the Internationals contend yes. Until each side comes to agreement on the issue, neither side will know whether – or how – to fix it.