Commentary

High time to include women in a mixed-team Presidents Cup

World No. 1 Ryu So Yeon at last month's Evian Championship. Eight of the top 10 women in the rankings would be eligible to play for the International team if the Presidents Cup became mixed-gender.
World No. 1 Ryu So Yeon at last month's Evian Championship. Eight of the top 10 women in the rankings would be eligible to play for the International team if the Presidents Cup became mixed-gender.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

No need for the Coast Guard to respond to the SOS from the luxury liner, captained by Steve Stricker and Nick Price, that ran aground on Sunday along the Hudson River, in the shadows of Lady Liberty.

The Presidents Cup, a poorly constructed idea manufactured by the PGA Tour to make boatloads of money, has been listing ever since the United States posted an eight-point victory at the inaugural event in 1994.

This year's competition was threatening to be the most lopsided of the biennial event's 12 editions, with the US nearly clinching it on Saturday night before any of the 12 singles matches had been put down on paper - much less played out at Liberty National Golf Course.

The US entered Sunday needing one full point to clinch it. By the end of the day, they had secured their 10th victory in this event, 19-11.

The Presidents Cup is in need of some radical rethinking to salvage it from the shiftless waters lapping its hull.

The obvious solution was there for all to see on the eve of the competition when Kim In Kyung, the reigning Women's British Open champion from South Korea, visited Liberty National.

She walked with her compatriot Kim Si Woo during a Wednesday practice round. She took a few swings with his clubs and asked him questions about the course. She spent some time with American star Jordan Spieth, as well.

A combined-gender Presidents Cup would help resolve the issue that Juli Inkster, the US captain for the Solheim Cup, gave voice to after that event in August, which featured sublime golf by both sides. Inkster lamented that the women too seldom receive the respect they deserve.

She was not the only LPGA player, nor the only winner this year, on the grounds that day. Cristie Kerr, a two-time Major winner who is a member at Liberty National, paid a visit, and she, too, ran into Spieth.

As she recalled, he asked her playfully if she could teach the American men "a thing or two about these team competitions".

Here's an even better idea: Make the Presidents Cup a combined-gender event in which the top six men and the top six women from the United States square off against their International counterparts.

Of the top 10 women in the world rankings, including the world No. 1, Ryu So Yeon of South Korea, eight would be eligible to compete for the International team.

No need to change the format of foursomes, four-ball and singles.

Kerr, a member of the US team that scored a five-point victory over a European squad in this year's Solheim Cup, has been clamouring for a mixed-gender event for some time.

"Anything we can do that would give us the type of exposure that the Presidents Cup has is a good thing," said the 39-year-old.

A combined-gender Presidents Cup would help resolve the issue that Juli Inkster, the US captain for the Solheim Cup, gave voice to after that event in August, which featured sublime golf by both sides. Inkster lamented that the women too seldom receive the respect they deserve.

"I just think as women golfers we always get short-changed, and it irks me," the seven-time Major champion told reporters at Des Moines Golf and Country Club after the final day of the competition.

She added: "From the PGA Tour down, I just don't think we get the respect we deserve. And I just think, hopefully, as it goes on, hopefully things start to change, especially in sponsorships."

Will the PGA Tour, which has the power to effect change - and, since it formed a strategic alliance with the LPGA last year, the mandate - respond?

It's not as if combined-gender events are unheard of in golf. From 1960 to 1966, and again from 1976 all the way till 1999, the PGA and LPGA Tours sponsored a mixed-team event in the autumn.

In 2008, Lexi Thompson, now 22 and the top American in the women's rankings at No. 3, and Spieth represented the US as teenagers in a mixed four-ball match at the Junior Ryder Cup.

Last year Spieth recalled that Thompson carried the pair, describing her as "almost unbeatable".

The PGA Tour runs the Presidents Cup, and it did not totally overlook the women. Before the event started, wives and girlfriends of several of the players from both teams squared off in a cooking competition.

As society changes, the PGA and LPGA Tours need to work together to anchor the Presidents Cup. The time for women to perform as equals alongside men on one of the grander stages in golf is now.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 04, 2017, with the headline 'High time to include women in a mixed-team Presidents Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe