With all due respect to the Presidents Cup, which is being played this week at Quail Hollow in North Carolina, it ranks just a few steps behind the Ryder Cup in terms of interest for golf enthusiasts.
Perhaps that’s why losing players on both the US and international teams because the players made the jump to the LIV Tour wasn’t heartbreaking. In fact, rather than bemoan the damage done to the Presidents Cup, some experts said this is an opportunity to repair the Presidents Cup by making it a joint event.
So the absence of players like Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed may not be that significant for this week’s Presidents Cup, at least for the US team. The international squad is sure to miss players like Cameron Smith, Mark Leishman, Joaquin Niemann and Abraham Anser. The loss of these players means the international team, which has won just one of the previous 13 Presidents Cups, will attend this week’s event as a notably underdog.
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But going forward a year, and the chaos of this year’s Presidents Cup could become a similar mess in the Ryder Cup. And that could make one of golf’s main events the biggest battleground of the LIV era.
Think of what the American side might look like in a free Ryder Cup for Leaf golfers. Sure, Phil Mickelson is past playing in the Ryder Cup, but he was definitely in line for the captaincy or at least another role as deputy captain. The last time the Ryder Cup was held in 2021 with the Americans crushing the European team 19-9, Johnson did 5-0-0 perfectly in the event. Reed was a problem in the team room for the Ryder Cup, but he definitely adopted the Captain America character.
The top players are not on the field
Supposedly Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka buried their feud in the last Ryder Cup, both of whom have been on the U.S. team multiple times. Other Americans like Taylor Gotsch, Matthew Wolf, Jason Kokrac, Kevin Na and maybe even Bubba Watson could have been in the mix of robotic anchors or picking a captain from U.S. Captain Zach Johnson, who will still have plenty of talented players fighting for anchors.
The 2023 Ryder Cup European side has been in flux even without the advent of LIV golf. The Europeans were battered in Wisconsin and felt like an old team that needed new blood. So maybe losing golfers like Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter to Liv is not the worst thing for Europeans.
But the team also lost a leader, with Henrik Stenson moving to LIV and being replaced by Luke Donald. Paul Casey Ryder Cooper could easily have been 2023. And how can Donald not use the captain’s choice if necessary with Sergio Garcia?
With the European team in need of fresh blood, some players who would have paid for a berth, such as Germany’s Oliver Fischer and Austria’s Bernd Weisberger, are already out of the mix by joining Liv. Who knows who might jump to the LIV before next year’s Ryder Cup?
The international team is a big underdog this week in the Presidents Cup, but the European team in the 2023 Ryder Cup could be a big underdog if not more.
Of course, the Ryder Cup separates us from a year and a lot of things could change by then. While LIV Commissioner Greg Norman said this week that he is no longer interested in settling with the PGA Tour, it’s important to remember that the Ryder Cup is not a PGA Tour event but a PGA of America event. The PGA Tour controls the Presidents Cup.
The PGA of America had no problem with LIV players in the PGA Championship in May because LIV did not play its first event until June. With questions about what the Grand Slam will do with LIV golfers next year, it’s reasonable to ask whether the PGA will apply the same standards to the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup.
Either way, the Ryder Cup will be a huge test of where golf, the PGA Tour, the PGA of America, and LIV Golf are in one year. The Presidents Cup may be on its way to evolving into something new and different. But the history and names that have participated in the Ryder Cup over the years make it an iconic event, one that could be affected by the LIV splits.
Larry Bohanan is a Desert Sun golf writer. He can be contacted at [email protected] or (760) 778-4633. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter at @larry_bohannan. Support the local press. Subscribe to Desert Sun.