U.S. dominance puts Presidents Cup relevance on the line

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

DUBLIN, Ohio (Reuters) - A marathon week of rain delays and birdie hunting at Muirfield Village Golf Club ended with yet another United States victory at the Presidents Cup, once again raising questions about the relevance of the biennial team competition.

The Internationals have triumphed only once and been beaten eight times in 10 editions since the Cup was launched in 1994, and many feel that a change to the event's points structure is sorely needed to make it more competitive.

Australian world number two Adam Scott has never been on a triumphant Internationals team despite playing in the Presidents Cup on six occasions, and expressed concern about the imbalance between the two sides on the eve of last week's edition.

"We need to make this thing really relevant, make it a real competition, because it's got a bit lopsided the last few outings," the Masters champion said. "I think we've got a team that can win, but the only way we can do it is by playing good and wanting it more than the Americans."

Despite mounting a gutsy fightback in Sunday's concluding singles session which they dominated, the Internationals faced an uphill task in their bid to beat a potent U.S. team and ultimately lost by 18-1/2 points to 15-1/2.

While the 12-man American lineup at Muirfield Village bristled with six players ranked in the world's top 10, the Internationals had eight players from outside the top 25.

"Absolutely," Internationals captain Nick Price said when asked if the depth in strength on the U.S. team had been the most significant factor. "That's pretty apparent."

Price firmly believes that the Presidents Cup should adopt the more compact Ryder Cup format to ensure the event's survival and to create closer competition, though his suggestion has been turned down by PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.

In Price's opinion, fewer points give the stronger team less of an advantage as the weakest players do not compete as often, and he believes this would help the Internationals improve their dismal record against the United States.

"In order for the Presidents Cup to really go to the next level, it's got to become more consistently competitive," Zimbabwean Price told Reuters. "That is what's lacking.

"Until such time as that happens, I don't want to say it's going to flounder but it's not going to get to the next level. And everything needs to get to the next level to survive."

Though several Internationals players punched above their weight last week, especially Cup rookies Graham DeLaet of Canada, Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge and Australian Marc Leishman, they were heavily outgunned by more experienced U.S. opponents.

FATIGUE FACTOR

The weather delays did not help, forcing a backlog of matches and extended sessions, and fatigue was a noticeable factor for players who ended up competing in at least part of three different matches on the same day.

South Africans Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, who had been expected to flourish in partnership together as one of the top combinations for the Internationals, were among those affected.

"Of all the Presidents Cups I've been involved in, this was probably the hardest because of the weather conditions," said Price. "The hardest part was trying to figure out the pairings.

"I felt like I didn't have enough time to do the pairings. It just seemed like we were rushed a little bit. It's the same for (U.S. captain) Fred (Couples), so that's no excuse."

A popular aspect of the Presidents Cup is the fact that opposing captains can create intriguing matchups in the singles, very often when the players themselves have expressed a desire to take on a particular opponent.

Many had hoped to see world number one Tiger Woods compete against second-ranked Scott on Sunday but instead the American ended up playing against South African Richard Sterne, ranked 41st.

Price defended his strategy in deciding the order of his players.

"I did my pairings to try and win the Cup, not to put one or two together or three or five or whatever," he said. "The whole idea ... was to put what we felt was the best strategy forward to win this Cup.

"I wanted to put all the guys who are playing the best out first, who had played the strongest this week, to get some momentum for the guys at the back end."

To a great extent, Price's strategy worked as his players won 7-1/2 points out of the 12 available in the final session of the 2013 Presidents Cup.

While last week's showdown at a sodden Muirfield Village will mainly be remembered for the unseasonably heavy rain and the frustrating weather delays, it also showcased brilliant golf with an abundance of birdies being recorded on a layout which encouraged attacking play.

"If you have to count the number of birdies that was made in this Presidents Cup compared to other ones, I feel this one had a lot more birdies in it," said South African Ernie Els, a veteran of eight Cups. "The level of play was outstanding."

Asked to pinpoint the biggest difference between the two teams at Muirfield Village, Els replied: "We've got a strong team, I just thought the American team played exceptionally well, really.

"They made a lot of birdies, it seemed like they got momentum in most of the sessions, and we were trying to fight ourselves back into it.

"Maybe it's a lack of experience, but we just let some matches go here and there, maybe a tee shot here and there or a putt. The Americans putted a little bit better than us. But we weren't far away." (Editing by Frank Pingue)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

Rajasthan edge low-scoring thriller

The bowlers restricted Hyderabad to 133 for 6 before Rahane and Binny took Rajasthan over the line. More »

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

Maxwell blitz takes Punjab home

The Kings XI batsman blasted a 43-ball 95 to help his team pull off a massive chase against Chennai Super Kings. More »

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

Bangalore vs Mumbai: A battle of the big-hitters

As two of the most glamorous sides in the Indian T20 league, the focus of the match between Mumbai and Bangalore will invariably be on the middle-order… More »

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

BCCI lacks leaders to take on Srinivasan, says Manohar

Two former BCCI presidents, Shashank Manohar and Jagmohan Dalmiya, have reacted strongly to the news of the BCCI calling an emergent meeting on Sunday… More »

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Pietersen ridicules idea of day-night Tests

Kevin Pietersen has ridiculed the idea of day-night Test cricket, saying the game would be so different to proper Test cricket that we will need a whole… More »

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Beleaguered Yuvraj tees off to Sharjah's delight

Yuvraj Singh was hardly convincing to begin with against Delhi, but a big dose of crowd support and a helping of poor bowling meant he had the opportunity… More »

Stressed Trott stands down again

Stressed Trott stands down again

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) on Friday confirmed that batsman Jonathan Trott is to take another break from all cricket with immediate eff… More »

PCB starts another coach hunt

PCB starts another coach hunt

The PCB has decided to not extend the contracts of head coach Moin Khan, fielding coach Shoaib Mohammad and batting consultant Zaheer Abbas, and has invited… More »

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistan cricketers face probe

Pakistani cricket authorities have launched an investigation after a number of current international stars played in exhibition matches in the United States… More »

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

Fiery star Stokes bids to curb his temper

England all-rounder Ben Stokes admits he must keep his anger under control if he is to end his international exile. More »

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Bangalore's arsenal blazes to victory

Yuvraj Singh was back to his best in his first match for Royal Challengers Bangalore. More »

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

BCCI to meet before next court hearing

The BCCI will hold an emergent working committee meeting on April 20 to discuss the future course of action with regard to the Supreme Court hearing concerning… More »

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

Gavaskar wants a clean IPL

"Integrity is non-negotiable..." says the BCCI's interim chief ahead of Season 7 of the tainted league. More »

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Time for Chennai to enter familiar cocoon

Chennai have an emphatic 8-3 lead in the head-to-head with Punjab, with one game tied More »

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

Kallis, Narine star in KKR win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

'Yak' Kallis still on top of his game

The 38-year-old South African veteran turned it on for Kolkata Knight RIders in the opening match of IPL-7. More »

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

Rajasthan and Hyderabad face-off

A quality that defines Rajasthan and Hyderabad is consistency. Rajasthan was one among two teams to enjoy complete dominance at home last season. Hyderabad… More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

Yuvraj happy to play for RCB: Kohli

New-look RCB will play their first game of IPL-7 on Thursday. More »

IPL: News Line

IPL: News Line

A round-up of all the news from this season of the IPL. More »

Shane Watson issues moral warning

Shane Watson issues moral warning

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Johnson may quit T20s for Tests

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

Nepal players call off boycott

Nepal players call off boycott

Thaw in relations after formation of an advisory committee that would work in tandem with the Cricket Association of Nepal. More »