Contrary to popular belief, you can never have too much of a good thing. Especially when that “thing” is match-play golf.
That’s why it was good news on Tuesday when the European Ryder Cup team and DP World Tour added the latest offering to the growing world of match play. In a press release the DP World Tour announced the creation of a new team-style event in the vein of the Presidents Cup called the “Hero Cup.” Like its PGA Tour counterpart, the event will be competed opposite the Ryder Cup on the pro golf schedule and will serve as preparation for the Ryder Cup constituency — a group that is growing younger and less experienced by the day as LIV Golf defections mount.
The event will pit the top players of Great Britain and Ireland against those from the rest of the continent and will be played from Jan. 13-15, 2023 in Abu Dhabi. In crafting the new competition, the Ryder Cup is tapping into the geographic divides originally formed by the Walker Cup, which pits junior golfers from Great Britain and Ireland against those from the United States. European Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald will play a role in the team selection process and was instrumental in the creation of the event.
“I spoke to a number of former Ryder Cup Captains who were strong advocates of how similar events in the past have benefitted players who were pushing to make Ryder Cup teams, as well as their own captaincy journey,” Donald said in a release.
Now, with the DP World Tour and Team Europe preparing to create the first major team-style event since the formation of the Presidents Cup some three decades ago, here’s a modest list of some of the things we’re hoping to see from the new outfit.
1. Historic courses
Match-play events aren’t beholden to our ideas of what a tournament “should be,” which makes venue selection all the more fun. Length, location, par — all of these things are irrelevant as far as match play is concerned. The principle — and some would argue only — factor in picking a match-play venue should be entertainment value, and fortunately for the DP World Tour, there are no shortage of fun courses in Europe and beyond worth choosing from.
With the Presidents Cup, the PGA Tour has too often fallen into the habit of picking traditional Tour venues and blase setups in the name of profitability. That’s great if you have access to a hospitality tent, but decidedly less so if you’re one of the millions watching from home. The 2019 Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne represented a striking shift from this ethos and helped to propel what was largely regarded as the most entertaining iteration of the event ever, even with the event being broadcast back in the States at all hours of the night.
If the DP World Tour is smart, they’ll lean into the continent’s history in choosing venues for the Hero Cup. Who’s to say that Prestwick, Portmarnock, Royal County Down and other famed links courses outside the Open rota aren’t perfect fits for this event?
2. Exotic venues
Abu Dhabi is a good start, but in the years outside of the GB&I, it’d be lovely to see the event travel into some of Europe’s most exotic golf destinations. We know so little about golf superpowers like Spain and Italy, and even less about more off-the-beaten-path destinations like France, Sweden and Norway. Why not lean further into the unknown? It could be a boon not only for participation within the country, but also for tourism dollars down the line. (And while we’re talking pie-in-the-sky, yes, Icleand would be a sick host.)
3. Better teams
If there’s one thing the PGA Tour has done relatively well with the development of the Presidents Cup, it’s in building a brand identity for both sides (of course, there’s room to squabble over whether that development was the Tour’s doing, or the players themselves). The recent commitment to growing the “International” brand has paid dividends in establishing what could be reasonably called a “rivalry” between the two sides, and has provided the unusual benefit of team-specific merchandise sales. There’s plenty of room to do the same with the Hero Cup, building an environment of competition that could make for easier watching for casual fans. (And if it comes with the added benefit of an extra pro golf rivalry or two, even better.)
4a. Better broadcasts
Too often it feels like the broadcasts for the Ryder and Presidents Cups get lost trying to be a traditional golf tournament. If LIV’s growth has shown us anything, it’s that golf broadcasts can shift their tenor to match the event. I’d love to see the Hero Cup capture some of LIV’s energy while losing most (or all) of its self-promotional air.
Also, golf’s obsession with names like “fourball” and “foursomes” befuddles me. Match-play competitions are the purest form of golf entertainment for casual fans; simplifying the language (to say nothing of the scoring system) is the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. (Lest we forget that until legendary CBS Sports producer Frank Chirkinian came along, golf scores were counted in total strokes, not over-and-under-par.)
4b. Better characters
Really, what I’m asking for is for the networks to pipe in audio from the captains’ earpieces, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a more player-centric broadcast with added emphasis on on-course microphones and match-specific commentary.
5. Better uniforms
Seriously? Are these the best Team Europe could do at last year’s Ryder Cup? Let’s get Gucci and Burberry on the horn and leave these guys looking like they walked off the runway at New York Fashion Week.