The Presidents Cup may have run its course. We are witnessing the dominance of not only the youth movement in the game, but the American dominance, as well. The Presidents Cup is a great exhibition of golf. However, the game has now come full circle. There was a time when a need to expand interest in the game globally was of the utmost importance. Players from outside of the U.S. and Europe were coming to the forefront and holding positions at the top of the world rankings.
This change in tide amongst the international players’ dominance began with Ernie Els. Ernie was the Phil Mickelson equivalent, but with one difference. He could win majors. His easy-going manner and graceful swing earned him the nickname “The Big Easy.” He made the game the game look easy in every way. He could do it all and win the big events. He won four major championships, with his first coming in 1994 and his last in 2012. He won at iconic courses in the form of Oakmont and Muirfield. He also won 13 regular PGA Tour events, 22 European Tour tournaments, plus two World Golf Championships. Ernie was a superstar, the superstar who not only brought out a youth movement in his home country of South Africa, but throughout the world with his charm and style of play. The modern superstar was born, and so was the Presidents Cup in its inaugural year of 1994, ironically the same year Ernie won his first major, the U.S. Open at Oakmont in a playoff over Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts, who were, coincidentally, Ryder Cup team members.
The onslaught of young talent from outside of America and Europe soon followed. Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley and Adam Scott from Australia; Canadian Mike Weir, fellow South Africans Retief Goosen, Trevor Immelman, Charl Shwarztel, and of course Vijay Singh from Fiji, who became a fixture. Not to be forgotten were Japanese upstart Shigeki Maruyama and K.J. Choi of South Korea. Ernie Els was largely responsible for the propagation of developing international talent and the popularity of the Presidents Cup.
Something changed in 1997 with Tiger Woods’ playoff victory over Ernie at the Mercedes Championship in Hawaii and his unprecedented dominance and 12-shot victory at the Masters. Just when Ernie was gathering steam, his apparent ascendance to the throne of golf was derailed, and along with that was the beginning of the end of the Presidents Cup.
Fast forward to 2017, and Tiger’s dominance and legacy has come full circle. His swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners, fearless, aggressive and almost superhero style of play backed up by a plethora of victories over a 10-year period spawned its own interest amongst kids, but especially American youth. This was on full display at this year’s Presidents Cup. From Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler, Tiger’s legacy has arrived. Not only are they dominating the game and will do so for the next 10-15 years, but they, too, as a collective group are now inspiring a younger generation. This American train is only gathering steam. It is and will overpower the game for a long long time.
The Ryder Cup is steeped in history, tradition and a deep desire to compete amongst its competitors, and it garners as much, if not more, interest than any other event in the golfing world. Golf is now a global game, what with its re-introduction to the Olympic Games along with the World Golf Championships, and of course, the major championships. The Presidents Cup had its place in the game, but the exhibition is no longer needed.
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