Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On International Team Golf

No, this isn't a Ryder Cup post. It's a response to Ron Sirak's reporting that the question of tweaking the Solheim Cup has shifted from "whether" to "when" and "how." Nothing has been decided, of course, but I hope the deciders are considering the answer to the last question more carefully than Sirak, who points out that the Lexus Cup complicates the process, but manages to pass over the Kyoraku Cup. Since my own preferred answer involves synchronizing the U.S. vs. Europe Solheim Cup with the Korea vs. Japan Kyoraku Cup and having the winners and losers square off in the off-year, I'm particularly disappointed at Sirak's oversight.

What about the Lexus Cup? I like both its Asia-centricity and its "Asia against the world" mode, particularly since it gives golfers who are not eligible for either the Solheim or Kyoraku Cups (such as Karrie Webb, Lorena Ochoa, Angela Park, Ya Ni Tseng, and Na Zhang) a chance to play international team golf in a more dramatic format than the Women's World Cup. So I'd recommend keeping it as a stand-alone end-of-season event.

Another topic Sirak doesn't address in his brief column is the Olympics. Let's skip straight to the "how" question, because it's the most important one: if you can come up with a good format, it makes sense to get golf in the Olympics as soon as possible. If not, forget it.

Here's what I'd like to see. The first round should be handled like a college golf tournament in the U.S., with a few small twists. That is, it should be a 36-hole stroke-play event consisting of 4-player teams from all nations that can field a pair of women and a pair of men. Give individual medals to the lowest-scoring individuals of each gender, throw out the worst male and worst female score each round to determine team totals, and use the team results as a qualifier for the second round, which will consist of team match-play between the top 8 teams. For each match, put the men and women into different foursomes, break each 18-hole contest into 3 (actually 4) 6-hole mini-matches (the 1st being alternate shot, the 2nd best ball, and the 3rd and 4th head-to-head faceoffs) with the usual scoring system (1 point for a win, .5 point for a tie, for a total of 8 points at stake between the 2 foursomes), and break ties through sudden-death stroke-play in which all 8 players play a hole and their scores are totalled up. That's 72 holes to determine who's in the gold vs. silver and bronze vs. nothing matches. With that much at stake, making them 27 holes (9-hole matches instead of 6-hole ones) gets us to the nice round number of 99 holes to determine the team medals. 99 holes over 5 days every 4 years for the top 8 teams (and 36 for the rest) isn't that much of a sacrifice, is it?

If this works as it should, we could eventually expand the team match-play portion to the top 16 teams and add another 18 holes into the mix, but let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?

[Update 1 (7:24 pm): Here are Hound Dog's thoughts on Olympic golf.]

[Update 2 (8/14/08, 12:30 pm): Here's Scott Michaux's Olympics suggestion--if it flies, the LPGA Championship could mirror the PGA Championship on this.]


IceCat said...

I am of the opinion that the Solheim Cup (and the Ryder Cup, for that matter) should be expanded to Europe and Africa vs the Americas so as to involve all the players from the Western Hemisphere (Ochoa, Granada, Villegas, Cabrera, Weir, etc.) as well as the South Africans and anyone else who may yet emerge from that continent. The Lexus Cup and the Presidents Cup should be the Americas vs Asia/Pacific. That would then open up the third leg of the triangle, matches in both genders between Europe/Africa vs Asia/Pacific.

The Constructivist said...

I like your regional approach a lot, but don't think fans are as ready as you and I are to root for the teams that would result from it, nor are the 4 big tours as likely to endorse it. What I'm hoping from mine is that the existing teams are forced by the pressures of competition to regionalize further: U.S. becomes Americas, Europe becomes Europe plus Africa, Korea becomes Asian continent, and Japan becomes Pacific. The benefit there is that it happens with the full consent of everyone involved with plenty of time to work out the processes and details. Plus, you have a world championship structure built in, instead of a 3-way exhibition series.

This kind of regionalization happened for the British when they couldn't compete against the U.S. in the Ryder Cup and it may yet happen to the U.S.

sag said...

The premise of the Solheim Cup is to be as similar to the Ryder Cup as possible. I'd say the chances of the premise changing are near nil. If non-U.S and non-Euro players are to be added, it will be done in a way that absolutely minimizes any changes to the format.

The easiest thing is to add Team Asia while cutting team size from 12 to 8. Everything else would stay the same. I'm not saying I like this idea necessarily--it's just my guess of what they would do.

Forget Ochoa. If the format can't be changed until 2013, then she would only be playing once before she plans to retire anyway.

The Constructivist said...

Yeah, that's why I can't see any changes coming quickly to the Solheim Cup itself. Nor to the Kyoraku Cup. The best I'm hoping for is roping them together the way I suggest.

Good point about Ochoa's retirement making any changes too little, too late for her. From her pre-tournament interview at the CWO, it sounds like she's reconciled to Olympics changes coming too late, as well.

Waggle Room Ryan said...

I've come out and said that it wouldn't hurt to expand the US to the Americas for Solheim Cup. You're really likely to only pick up 3 players in the Americas at max. (Let's say Ochoa, maybe Uribe one day, plus another.)

I like Lexus Cup too. I posed the idea of a 3 Tour Challenge concept to Nick Price about five years ago, just when the US started getting creamed in the Ryder Cup. He said he thought that would work - Team USA v. Europe v. Everyone Else.

Taking components of what you propose and components of my idea, I think you'd have a formidable and fun event.