LET’S TEE OFF this month with a golfing quiz. Which team won last year’s Seve Trophy and who were the captains? Which team won the President’s Cup and by what score? What is the biggest win of Kevin Sutherland’s (see above) golfing career? Answer any of those correctly and you can rightly consider yourself a true golfing geek whose knowledge of the competitive professional game is immense.
The reason the vast majority of us do not know the answers is that we do not really give two hoots about the competitions involved, much to the dismay of both TV and the sponsors.
The Seve Trophy is a match play tournament contested by Great Britain and Ireland against continental Europe. The idea was to give players on the European Tour a taste of Ryder Cup style camaraderie during a non Ryder Cup year.
Despite having two Ryder Cup winning captains in Sam Torrance and Jose Maria Olazabal leading their respective teams, to say the 2013 contest failed to capture the imagination would be a gross understatement.
First of all most of the big-name players declared themselves unavailable, with McIlroy, Rose, McDowell, Donald, Westwood and Poulter giving a firm ‘No thank you’ to their invitation from GB & Ireland team. So Team GB included David Lynn, Marc Warren and Tommy Fleetwood.
Team Europe, which triumphed 14-13 was not quite so much a ‘Who’s that?’ of professional golf although there was no Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson or Martin Kaymer even though the winners were to share €1.75m. And the question most people were left asking was, ‘Do we really need this?’
On the other side of the pond the President’s Trophy is played between USA and an international team from anywhere outside Great Britain and Europe. Its one major appeal to the American public, TV and sponsors is that it gives the opportunity for the USA to win a match play tournament, something that it has been signally unsuccessful at in recent Ryder Cups.
The US President’s Cup team was of Ryder Cup strength with the big guns on parade. Woods and Mickelson both turned out against an International team that featured Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel, Els and Oosthuizen. The crowds turned out too at Muirfield Village and whooped and hollered the USA to an 18.5 to 15.5 victory.
The requirement for the Far East to produce a golfer of truly international status is crucial to the future of the President’s Trophy that is headed for Korea in 2015. With eight Korean players playing in the US during 2012, amongst them 2009 PGA winner YE Yang, the choice of venue is hardly a co-incidence. This largely irrelevant contest is following the money.
Yet in the unseemly dash for cash golf promoters face the prospect of killing the very goose that laid the golden egg in the first place as players can only play so many times a year without becoming stale or facing the prospect of injury.
Tiger Woods skipped the HSBC Champions Tournament in Shanghai so that he could play in a completely irrelevant, yet prodigiously well paid, one-off match against Rory McIlroy at China’s Mission Hills club where the latter won $1.5m without either of them ever being at their best. Their appearance money would certainly have been more than the prize.
Unless Tiger shows up very few tournaments can even be considered a tournament from the point of bringing in most crowds and sponsors. Although he can still earn $3m for simply hitting a ball across a road bridge as he did recently in Istanbul, Woods’s injuries have taken their toll and, despite his increasingly truculent behaviour, world golf is much the poorer for it.
So to ensure tournament spectators and the armchair gallery alike get the maximum enjoyment of seeing world class players at the top of their game let’s have fewer tournaments not more, especially these meaningless match play events, and try to find a contest worthy of the great name of Seve Ballesteros. Scrapping some of the endless pan-global stroke play contests for a genuinely world class, individual match play challenge would certainly be a start.
And if you are still wondering about Kevin Sutherland: he won the WGC-Accenture World Match Play tournament in 2002, which, so far, is his only win on the PGA tour. This year’s tournament was short of Woods, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson, three of the world’s top four and Accenture has withdrawn its sponsorship. Hardly a ringing endorsement.