Romance of peripheral competitions fails to attract top players
Seve Trophy is starting to fade into irrelevance
It’s nearly 20 years since the Presidents Cup began, piggy-backing on the success of the Ryder Cup, ostensibly allowing the rest of the world a chance of international team competition but in reality pouncing on a new commercial opportunity. The Seve Trophy started in 2000, also capitalising on TV potential while wrapping it in the near-universal affection for the late Seve Ballesteros.
But Seve’s gone and so it appears is any enthusiasm for the tournament that bears his name. Rory, G-Mac & Co are getting some heat over the absence, and it’s hard not to admire their Ryder Cup colleague Paul Lawrie after he noted, “My God, most of us are out here playing because of what he [Seve] did years ago.”
Admirable as the sentiment is, though, it ignores blunt financial realities such as TV money and a crammed playing schedule which means something has to give. And guess what, the top players have voted with their feet and sided with the real tournament deal rather than the sideshow which this week’s stuff largely represents.
That may not be very gracious and it certainly contains no nod to sentiment, but it does at least contain the virtue of being straightforward.
And it reflects the reality of how golf at its core is not a team game. The Ryder Cup is an exception in terms of relevance. But it is very much an exception, with much of it due to European chippiness at perceived American arrogance and a resultant US backlash reflective of a flag-waving urge that at least serves as an anaesthesia to more unfortunate bellicose instincts.
But trying to pin a collective ethos on to such an individual game is otherwise destined to fail. The Presidents Cup is a yawn because the Americans never lose. The international team has secured one draw in two decades. And much as the man who defined himself by the Ryder Cup is missed, the Seve Trophy is starting to fade into irrelevance.
If Europe as an entity appears to work for millions in the Ryder Cup, then splitting that team for the sake of another competition starts to look like a behind the scenes training match.
Where’s the competitive needle between players who were on the same side but now have to tag their passions to an arbitrary alignment?
Even Ian Poulter, that tabloid embodiment of British bulldog spirit, has honestly admitted that he can’t play everywhere and his absence from Paris is a brutal reminder of its peripheral status.
Poulter famously loves playing the Ryder Cup, loves the whole team vibe that goes with it. But obviously that love of team stretches only so far.
A reminder perhaps that golf really is spelt with an “I”.