It seems strange that Greg Norman, for whom the Presidents Cup was created, has decimated the very team he wanted to invent.
This year’s International team might have included Cam Smith, Joaquin Niemann, Abraham Ancer, Branden Grace, Anirban Lahiri, and Carlos Ortiz, but it doesn’t because they defected to LIV.
What’s amazing about that is in the early 1990s, Norman pushed the PGA Tour for a Ryder Cup-like contest for the rest of the world. The concept came to fruition in 1994, and now, thanks to Norman, it has started to crumble a little, at least for this year.
The Internationals could have been serious contenders. The reason we know that is because the last time the Presidents Cup was contested, the Internationals had the lead after Thursday, after Friday, and after Saturday on a team that included Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Louis Oosthuizen, Abraham Ancer, and Joaquin Niemann. It looked for all the world like they had finally found their own secret international man of mystery sauce.
At long last, The Presidents Cup was going to be a real battle.
“I think it has stung a lot. It’s been frustrating a lot. The close calls really sting,” Adam Scott added. “The couple times we’ve really been thumped is very, very frustrating.”
But now the Internationals are just looking for small victories. They face an uphill test against one of the strongest U.S. teams assembled in recent history. Despite that, it is not 100 percent certain that the U.S. squad will win, but it’s probably 99 percent.
“Being heavy favorites doesn’t give us any extra shots. Every match is going to start at even,” Scottie Scheffler said before the event started.
"“If we don’t go out and play our best golf, we’re not going to win this tournament. I think that’s the approach of all the guys.”"
Scheffler noted that International Captain Trevor Immelman had his share of challenges with the LIV defections.
Veteran International team member, Adam Scott, also mentioned it.
"“Even though maybe the international team, our struggles have been fairly well-aired over the years or documented, I think everyone becomes very invested at some point in the week. As individual competitors, we don’t like losing.”"
Scott said prior to the current matches. While he noted that golfers lose more than they win, this somehow feels different to them.
"“I think it has stung a lot. It’s been frustrating a lot. The close calls really sting,” he added. “The couple times we’ve really been thumped is very, very frustrating, and I think in saying all that, I’m the only one carrying any real baggage into this one.”"
He pointed to the team in 2019, how good it looked, and recalled the great tone that Ernie Els had set for the team that year when he captained the International squad.
Now they are clawing to grasp any points they can earn. They know they are not expected to win.
So, how did the Presidents Cup begin and what does Greg Norman have to do with it anyway?
After the excitement of the 1991 Ryder Cup — and believe me, it was exciting — Norman wanted to be a part of an event like that. He became a leading advocate for a team event for the rest of the world. The PGA Tour agreed since many international players were making a part-time home on the PGA Tour.
But by the time the first event happened in 1994, Norman was in the starting phases of what has become a more than 28-year personal vendetta against the PGA Tour. That was the year that he first threatened to start his own World Tour where only the top 20 or 30 players would participate.
The late Arnold Palmer and the great Jack Nicklaus talked everyone out of that by explaining just what it had taken to form the PGA Tour in the first place. They knew because they were the ones who had done it.
So, when it came time for the 1994 Presidents Cup, Norman withdrew, citing gastrointestinal problems. His doctor, who at the time had the same last name as his first wife, was located and quoted to certify that the medical problems were real.
However, hearing that, it was easy to recall the late great sportswriter Jim Murray’s line that Tom Weiskopf often caught the flu in a bunker.
It’s hard to tell how much Norman’s absence affected the outcome of the event, but it probably dropped the TV ratings a nudge.
Then PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said;
"“I wouldn’t want to say that one of the two best players in the world not playing in an event doesn’t have an impact.”"
But he insisted it would be a great competition even without the Australian.
Then making matters worse, Norman showed up on Sunday and spoke with Hall of Fame CBS Executive Producer Frank Chirkinian about doing some commentary, but David Graham, the International captain, quashed the idea with enthusiasm.
“The Presidents Cup is not Greg Norman’s golf tournament,” Graham said at the time. “It’s a 12-man team. It’s not Greg’s team.”
So, we should probably not be surprised that, during the week of the Presidents Cup, Norman announced he would lobby Congress to gain momentum for his antitrust claims against the PGA Tour.
Unfortunately, not all members of Congress were enamored with Norman or his ideas on that topic.
On Twitter, Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee complained as follows:
Burchett suggested that Norman was simply a highly paid mouthpiece for his Saudi Arabian backers.
Rep. Chip Roy of Texas was also critical.
“Don’t come in here and act like you’re doing some great thing while you’re pimping a billion dollars of Saudi Arabian money and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the United States,” he reportedly said.
Apparently, Roy has already sent a letter to the Justice Department saying that LIV had failed to register as a foreign agent.
Illinois Dem. Sen. Dick Durbin accused LIV “of trying to ‘cover a blood-stained hand’ with a ‘golf glove.’”
Despite the criticism, Norman viewed the meetings as positive which probably explains a lot about Greg Norman.
And now, one can only hope that the Internationals will be able to build some additional stars or up-and-comers to take the place of those who figured out a way to win on the PGA Tour and left.
It will happen in time. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another decade.