World Golf Hall of Famer Karrie Webb holds grave fears for the future of the Presidents Cup unless one thing happens this week: an Internationals victory.
Australia’s most prolific Major champion was one of the tens of thousands of golf fans teeming through the gates of Royal Melbourne Golf Club Saturday as the Internationals looked to build on their surprise lead in the showpiece event.
Webb, back home on an extended break ahead of February’s Women’s Australian Open, said America’s dominance of the teams event was getting to a point of no return, and that things needed to change on the scoreboard for it to survive beyond 2019.
“I think for the future of the event the Internationals just have to win this week,” Webb told Australian Golf Digest at Royal Melbourne. “If they don’t that means it will be just the one Internationals victory (1998) in 25 years. If that continues this week, the event might be up for debate about what it actually holds in the future.”
In their 12 previous meetings, the United States has hoisted the cup 10 times and the Internationals just once (there was a tie in 2003 in South Africa). Not surprisingly, the US is on a hot streak, winning the past seven showdowns. The most recent of those victories came at Liberty National Golf Club, Jersey City, in 2017, where the Americans won decisively on home soil, 19-11, triggering worldwide concern the event was becoming too lop-sided to be a long-term spectacle.
However, by the end of Saturday’s morning four-ball session Webb’s fears were somewhat allayed as the Internationals narrowly extended their lead to four and half points (9-5). Again led by Presidents Cup rookie Abraham Ancer of Mexico and Aussie favourite Adam Scott, the Internationals won the session, 2 ½-1 ½.
Asked whether a mixed-field format could help ignite the Presidents Cup flame, Webb had no doubts the introduction of the world’s best women golfers would “even things up”.
“I think a mixed team (Presidents Cup) would be a great concept,” she said. “I don’t know how many women you’d have on the team but what I do you know is if you stacked the 12 best international women up against the 12 strongest American women, you’d have a pretty strong line-up. It would basically be the reverse of the men’s line-ups when you look at the world rankings – the International players would dominate the rankings and potentially balance things up a bit on paper.
“Now I don’t know if that needs to happen to the Presidents Cup. I actually think women could have a standalone tournament, if I’m being honest. How that would fit in the ever-growing tour schedules would be the greatest challenge.”
Webb said Australia’s best female players currently only look forward to the UL International Crown, a biennial women’s team event on the LPGA Tour that welcomes the eight highest ranked countries as determined by the combined Rolex World Ranking of the top four players from each country.
“I actually prefer the International Crown format over the Presidents Cup because we get to play under the Aussie flag, wear Aussie uniforms and use Aussie-coloured bags,” says Webb.
“I think a big reason why the Internationals haven’t done so well in the Presidents Cup is because they don’t play under the same flag … even America’s Ryder Cup opposition play under the European Union colours and they know one another well from playing the same tours. The International men are pulled from all parts of the globe.”
Webb had plenty of praise for Internationals captain Ernie Els and his ability to bring his group of players together this week under a new mystery team logo.
“It’s the win we need so badly, and I actually can’t wait for Ernie to divulge more on this analytical data he’s been keeping so close to his chest.”
The US enters Saturday’s afternoon foursomes matches again without star playing captain Tiger Woods, who opted to rest himself for a second successive session in a decision that left Els shocked.
“I am surprised Tiger is not playing, especially the way he’s been playing with J.T. (Justin Thomas),” said the South African.
Woods also ran out of patience with Patrick Reed, benching the event’s pantomime villain after his disastrous 0-3 start.