Picture an animated cityscape surrounded by water. In the centre, a distinctive tower thrusts into the sky, each side an elongated isosceles. A shadow moves across the city. It’s a spaceship, possibly the one from Independence Day. From beneath the mighty ship we see a portal open. A swarm of robots spills forth, descending into the city.
They look like sentinels from The Matrix, except with golf ball heads. They’re surely up to no good. But wait, a hero appears! There’s a golf club in his hand. Leaping into the air, he bursts into green flame and, with one solid drive, sends a golf ball hurtling into the machines, Happy Gilmore-style.
The sentinels explode like they’ve been hit with an IED. Cut from the burning wreckage to a group of golfers in skin-tight suits. They’re standing on the street with prime-Schwarzenegger upper bodies. One of them has a giant steel surfboard. Another has an empty, fleshy glove for a hand. Is this a trailer for the latest Super Hero Big Squad Team 5? No, it’s just one of several amazing ads for the 2015 Presidents Cup, which tees off in a week. Don’t know much about it? Fear not, for The Spinoff has everything you need to know about this excellent and quite weird tournament.
What is the Presidents Cup?
A series of men’s golf matches held biennially since 1994 (pushed forward a year in 2001 due to the September 11 attacks). The tournament pits Team USA against an ‘International Team’, which consists of the rest of the world minus Europe. The competition plays out across four days and several formats, with singles as well as doubles golf. Each match is worth one point, and out of a total of 34 matches, the winning team must earn a minimum of 17.5 points. This Presidents Cup is not to be confused with the disc golf Presidents Cup, which takes the format of the Ryder Cup and replaces the golf with frisbees.
Where is it played?
It varies. South Africa, Australia, Canada and California are just some of the previous locations. This year the competition will play out at Jack Nicklaus Golf Club Korea in South Korea, a modern course with water hazards coming into play in more than half of the holes. Opened in 2010, Jack Nicklaus Golf Club is part of a multi-billion dollar ‘smart-city’ project an hour’s drive from Seoul, which could have something to do with South Korean president Park Gyuen-hye being made honorary Chairman for the 2015 Presidents Cup. The title doesn’t mean much though. Even Julia Gillard was honorary Chairman for a spell.
Who’s in it?
Well, Phil Mickelson for one. He’s played in every tournament since 1994. Tiger Woods has also been a Presidents Cup staple since ‘98, but he’s just had part of his lumbar spine scraped out and won’t be hitting the green this year. However New Zealand’s golfer Danny Lee makes his Presidents Cup debut this year alongside a few Aussies, as well as Thailand and India’s first Presidents Cup representatives. Lee will be anxious to put on a show after being left in the diminutive shadow of Lydia Ko for so long.
What’s at stake?
Bragging rights. There’s no cash up for grabs – very un-golf-like – with all the tournament proceeds going to charity. The trophy is particularly nice though; 25lb of gold-plated vermeil. It’s shaped like a giant goblet too, something you could actually imagine drinking from, unlike the burial urn up at the Rugby World Cup.
Who’s going to win?
The statistics would suggest Team USA. They’ve gone 8-1-1 in the first ten Presidents Cups, losing only in ‘98 at the Royal Melbourne in Australia.
What’s the Royal Melbourne?
A golf course. In the words of the World Atlas of Golf – “Great is a much-overused word, and it surely should be introduced sparingly to describe only things that are genuinely so. It can be said with confidence, however, that Royal Melbourne is one of the world’s truly great golf courses.” Or, as author John Carroll says, the Royal Melbourne is “one of only two man-made things in Australia of any worldwide architectural significance.”
What happened to Team USA at the Royal Melbourne?
Shigeki Maruyama happened. An unknown quantity before the tournament, he won five from five in ‘98, and even pipped Tiger Woods and Fred Couples in the doubles with his partner Craig Parry. When asked how he had formed such a successful partnership with Parry, Maruyama said “I just hit the ball where Mr Parry told me to.” Maruyama spearheaded the International team’s 20½ to 11½ effort over Team USA, a then-record winning margin.
And then what?
Team USA came back in 2000 and crushed the International team by an even bigger margin. They haven’t lost since. Maruyama wasn’t worried though, he’d bought a $7.6 million mansion. Later he sold it for the equivalent of his career earnings – $14.75 million.
That’s a lot of money.
To you and I, maybe. To the golfing elite it’s chump change. The tournament itself has raised over US$30m for charity and Woods on his own is worth some $600 million – more than the GDP of Tonga.
So why should I watch a bunch of rich dudes play golf with no cash on the line?
A few reasons. For one, it’s fun to cheer for the underdog, and with Team USA missing Tiger ‘Clutch’ Woods, the International team are in with a serious chance. There’s also a Kiwi in the mix, so if the Internationals win, we can claim victory as our own. But more importantly, you should watch because the Presidents Cup is an opportunity to see some of the best in the game play across several different formats over four days of competition. The Presidents Cup takes all the intensity and excitement of a regular golfing open, ups the ante with quasi-patriotic fervour and throws the participants into a format where victory depends on the team and not the individual. With pride and reputation on the line, every shot counts.