By Paul Prendergast.
Photo: Mark WIlson – Golfplus Media.
Maybe it’s ever-advancing technology, a ball than spins less, a distance debate that has dragged on for decades without resolution and an endemic social media dialogue that brings millions to the table 24/7 with an opinion, or all of the above.
As current day issues are discussed, recollections from the past and the way golf ‘used’ to be are naturally leapt to by many by way of context and contrast. We’re probably all guilty of it and unashamedly so.
Among those conversations is a recurrent ‘Seve’ vibe that purveys, with people rightfully eulogising about his influence on the game and the way he played it. There’s no doubting his magnetic charisma, the mercurial short game and swashbuckling approach and the global popularity that package of attributes generated. The fact that I can mention only his first name and no-one will be confused is a measure of his enduring impact.
However, not quite lost but certainly slightly down the list of the Spaniard’s achievements that inspire conversation today was his impact on the Ryder Cup – on and off the golf course.
Yes, his record and achievements as a player and captain speak for themselves. They and he remain an inspiration for the European team at every bi-annual gathering but we need to remember that it’s arguable that if not for ‘he’, the decision to involve continental European players may have not have occurred for some time.
Expanding from a Great Britain & Ireland-only team to ‘Europe’ in 1981 was a critical juncture in this event’s history. That decision opened the event up to Ballesteros and before too long, Bernhard Langer, Jose Maria Olazabal et al, with their success over the ensuing decades elevating the event and restoring interest in a concept that had waned under the weight of decades of U.S. dominance. Sound familiar?
As we enter 2022, a ‘Seve’ moment hangs over the Presidents Cup format as it did 40 years ago for the Ryder Cup. Truth be told, it’s probably been looming overhead for a number of years now as the U.S. have compiled an 11-1-1 record since the Cup’s inception in 1994.
I’m sure for many in the United States, the Cup rolling around inspires little more than a yawn as the domestic golf season ends and Playoffs baseball and other sports hog most of the attention. It may do for many on the other side of the fence too but the excitement to represent remains at fever pitch for the players.
That desire to compete for team, flag and country is quite possibly, one of the greatest assets the Cup possesses.
The Internationals were so very close to winning at Royal Melbourne in 2019 without being able to seal the deal over the Tiger Woods-inspired opposition on the final day. Internationals fans are all hopeful the momentum created by the core group that might return to resume competitive hostilities this September can be successfully channelled into breaking a losing duck that stretches back to the tie of 2003 and their lone victory in 1998.
Should he happen to skipper the Internationals to an historic triumph, I’d hazard that when Trevor Immelman’s name is mentioned in future that he will be remembered as much for this feat as his Masters victory in 2008.
However, with the matches scheduled for Quail Hollow in front of a partisan crowd and against a team that will likely feature Morikawa, DeChambeau, Thomas, Koepka, Schauffele, Cantlay, Spieth and Johnson, the task ahead for Immelman and the Internationals remains ever daunting. Enduring another comprehensive defeat of the Liberty National 2017-variety will have the event’s naysayers at the ready with sharpened pens ….or keyboards and memes in this day and age.
‘Should we do away with the event? How do we mix up the format even more to try to make it more competitive? Do we introduce a mixed team format?’
One things for certain. There’s no Seve in the wings crying out for inclusion although, surrounded as we have been by the emerging talents at the Australian PGA and WPGA Championships at Royal Queensland this week, it’s not too difficult to close your eyes and think of what could be in the next few years.
The names Jed Morgan, Louis Dobbelaar, Anthony Quayle, Elvis Smylie, David Micheluzzi, Min Woo Lee, Su Oh, plus a few not here in Lucas Herbert, Minjee Lee, Steph Kyriacou …..don’t all necessarily roll off the tongue of golf watchers across the world just yet but, who’s to know what their contribution to Presidents Cup campaigns might be moving forward?
Fuelled by an imagination few have equalled let alone comprehended, Ballesteros had a battery of techniques and shots he could play with the one wedge whereas we now fill our bags with a gaggle of them designed to make any situation more palatable. Times change but perhaps the memory of his deeds when injected into the Ryder Cup mix could be the creative inspiration the game’s decision makers need if there is an appetite to consider radical change to the Presidents Cup format beyond 2022.
Or, we just hole a few more putts than they do when it counts.
Cameron Smith did just that to Justin Thomas to claim the last point won by the Internationals back in 2019 and reminded us again of his class with that record-setting performance at Kapalua to topple the latest world No.1 ranked Spaniard.
Success breeds success, after all.