INCHEON, South Korea (Reuters) - International captain Nick Price predicted a wonderful week of entertaining golf for fans at the Presidents Cup on Tuesday, but after a decade of demoralizing defeats he would surely settle for winning ugly against another powerful United States team.
Such has been the United States’ dominance in the biennial team event critics have begun to label it an “exhibition” rather than a true competitive encounter. And with eight U.S. wins and one tie in the 10 previous editions, it would be hard to argue the Presidents Cup has been nothing short of one-sided.
While the PGA Tour bristles at the exhibition tag, it has moved to level the playing field by reducing the total number of points on offer to 30 from 34, which blunts the stronger team’s advantage as the weakest players do not compete as often.
Price, returning as captain after being at the helm of the 2013 defeat at Muir field Village, Ohio, said a string of five straight defeats had had an effect on some of his players but the format change had rekindled their enthusiasm.
“Some of the veterans who have played in numerous Presidents Cups, they have had a tough time in the past... because it’s been a bit one-sided,” Price said.
”So I think that’s changed and with the points change now I think the guys are looking forward to this a lot more than any
of the previous two or three.
“I think we’ve seen in the past that the Presidents Cup needs more excitement. It needs to be more -- it needs to be more closely contested. Certainly most of us on the International Team feel that that hasn’t been the case the last five or six Presidents Cups.”
Price has the task of motivating a 12-man team made up of players from seven different countries and said the opportunities to foster team spirit ahead of the Presidents Cup had been few and far between.
“We had our first team meeting last night. It’s the first time that all 12 of the players and the captains have been in the same room at the same time,” Price told a news conference at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea.
”Of course these guys have all played a lot of golf together over the years, so there weren’t any introductions necessary.
“We all feel that this is going to be a wonderful week and we are going to do a lot of entertaining with some wonderful golf. Everyone is keyed up, the team is ready to play.”
Price and his co-captains will now sit down to discuss potential partnerships, as well as make the difficult decision of who to leave out of the opening games against the United States, who have five players in the world’s top 10.
Australia’s Jason Day is the only top 10 ranked player on the International team.
”I think when you pair your players together, there’s two things you look at. First off, are they compatible as individuals. Take away the golf, take away everything else; do they get on as two individuals?
“And the second thing is, you look at how their games match up together. Do you think that this guy playing with another guy with another guy, are they better at foursomes or would they be better at best-ball. So there’s a lot of strategy involved in that.”
The 11th Presidents Cup begins on Thursday.
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly