The recent Ryder Cup once again served as a reminder that golf fans have an appetite for team events. The raucous crowds, the fist-pumping passion of the players and the simple fact that fans don’t get to see foursomes too much all add to the sense that we are witnessing something special. Best of all, it’s clear that players love the Ryder Cup, and that filters through to the crowd, the media and, consequently, any of us watching at home. The viewing figures would back up this assertion, with only the four Majors capturing a bigger television audience.
A couple of weeks from now, the 2018 World Cup of Golf (22nd-25th November, Melbourne) is set to take place. It’s safe to say enthusiasm is nowhere near that of the Ryder Cup. Indeed, even avid golf fans would be hard pushed to recall who the current world champions are: Soren Kjledsen and Thorbjorn Olesen (Denmark) won the 2016 event. But does the event deserve a spot among golf’s already cluttered list of marquee tournaments? Perhaps, but a few wrinkles might need to be ironed out.
Event has rich history
On paper, there is no reason why the World Cup of Golf shouldn’t get a little more coverage. The event has a fair history, going back to the 1950s when it was known as the Canada Cup. But back then, the event had some serious star power. The 1966 event in Tokyo, for example, saw the USA team of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer win out ahead of South Africa’s Gary Player and Harold Henning.
Despite the money involved in the current tournament – over $2 million awaits the winning team – there is a long, long list of top players not playing the event, including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth. In fact, the highest ranked player in the event is England’s Tyrell Hatton, who is currently world number 23. Hatton partners with Ryder Cup ‘specialist’ Ian Poulter, who is always worth a watch in these big events.
Australia favourites for trophy
The England team of Poulter and Hatton are not the favourites however, with the latest golf betting odds (provided by 888sport) putting Australia (Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith) in front at 9/2. England follow on 6/1 and the USA (Matt Kuchar and Kyle Stanley) are close behind at 7/1. After that, the event features a mix of veterans and rookie players. An interesting bunch no doubt, but the media will probably pay relatively little attention.
What, if anything, has to change for the World Cup of Golf to snare the attention of the average fan? The obvious answer is to attract the world’s top players to Melbourne. However, it’s a big ask in a sport where the season looks increasingly longer each year. Of course, the sponsors could throw money at the problem, but it will also be competing with other non-Majors that have huge purses.
There are no easy answers, yet the organisers and USPGA could make some adjustments. Notably, they could fix the event’s date into the calendar, even if it is biannual, instead of the seeming randomness we have witnessed in the last decade; the event was held every year until 2009, but was then skipped in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2017. The best hope, however, may be for some organic groundswell of support coming from the players, a recognition that the game should be more than big purses and corporate sponsorship. In all honesty, that’s pretty unlikely.