This year’s Presidents Cup match between the United States and the International Team (i.e. the rest of the world except Europe and, as it happens, no North Korea either) was staged at the Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey, just across the Hudson River from New York City. It might even be possible to see the layout from the top of Trump Tower in Manhattan but, with or without President Trump being in power, the contest will never be a match for its 90-year-old counterpart. As José Maria Olazábal, one of Europe’s greatest-ever Ryder Cup players, once told me: “You watch the Presidents Cup and you see the Americans often laughing and joking with the other team. You would never see that in the Ryder Cup.” Well, maybe in the aftermath of Hazeltine last autumn, but I think we all know what he meant.
Donald Trump was not in attendance at Liberty National but former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did put in appearances. And they emphatically got the result they wanted. Perhaps too emphatically. There really doesn’t seem much point to a no-contest which the USA nearly always wins. This year the home team led by 8-2 after the first day and by 14.5-3.5 after day two. In other words, with 12 points at stake in the final session, the International team needed to win every one of them yesterday to deny victory to the USA. This was never going to be a Medinah redux. The final thrashing was by 19-11. Whereas the Ryder Cup was reinvigorated in 1979 by the introduction of continental European players to reinforce the GB&I team, who can the Internationals add to their numbers, given that Europeans are evidently out-of-bounds? I doubt the solution lies in North Korea.
One of the American team’s vice-captains last week was Tiger Woods. While playing on the opposite side of the Atlantic in the British Masters at Close House in Northumberland during the same week, Rory McIlroy responded to the news that Woods might possibly never play competitive golf again with a substantial tribute to the guy who indisputably used to be the main man.
“If he doesn’t play again, then he’s been the greatest player that I’ve ever seen,” he said. (I think few of us would argue with that, but we don’t have four major championships to our name.) “If this is it, he doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone. Not to me, not to us, not to himself. He can walk away from this game with his head held extremely high. He has done wonders for the game.” Not least, although I am totally sure Rory’s remarks were heartfelt, the achievements and profile of Woods are a huge reason why McIlroy & Co are playing for so much money these days.
BTW, Rory finished runner-up at the British Masters, shooting 64-63 on the weekend to end up three shots behind Paul Dunne. Let’s hope 2018 goes way better for McIlroy than did 2017. Not only does he obviously wish for that, it would be great for European golf and for the professional game in general.
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