Can Golf’s International Game Compete with the World Cup?

Adam Scott and Jason Day, World Cup of Golf, image: asiantour.com

Adam Scott and Jason Day, World Cup of Golf, image: asiantour.com

Well played, Germany. Except for a few uninspired minutes against Ghana and Algeria, the Germans were the best team on the field from beginning to end at the 2014 World Cup.

Germany has also won the golf World Cup; twice in fact. What, you didn’t know there was a World Cup for golf? They have only been playing it for over 60 years. Still doesn’t ring a bell? If you answered yes, you’re not alone; international team golf continues to be overshadowed, making us wonder when the day will arrive that this exciting event will finally get the spotlight it deserves.

While golf is the most individual of games, soccer is completely opposite. Golf has most famously been forced into a team sport with the biennial Ryder Cup matches. At first it was just a private get-together between England and the United States, but when the Americans began winning too much, the rest of Europe was invited to the party.

The Ryder Cup isn’t the answer

What makes the FIFA World Cup a site to see is that it only occurs every four years. The Ryder Cup had a bit of that aura because it wasn’t played every year, but with the introduction of the President’s Cup in the “off years,” the event lost a its luster.

There would seem to have been the possibility for a sorting out of the international game into a world tournament, but that has failed. The max-hyped Ryder Cup has grown too big to allow for additional games. To that point, no new World Cup format would challenge the supremacy that is the current Ryder Cup.

Golf is headed to a world where the professional tours do not look like what we are familiar with, but one solely of “big events.” After all, when stars like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson play more than one regular tour stop, it’s considered headline sports news. What’s more, golf is somewhat unique in that there is more than one championship game; football has the Super Bowl, baseball has the World Series, and golf has the Masters Tournament, US Open, Open Championship, PGA Championship… the list goes on and on.

Now the Olympic Games have wiggled onto the golf calendar, appearing in the international showcase again for the first time since 1904. An Olympic gold medal seems to pale in comparison in the golf world to a British Open Claret Jug, or a U.S. Open Championship Trophy, but there is no denying that it is yet another happening the World Cup will have to compete with. With the plethora of opportunities to shine that are available to top athletes, it’s no wonder that many star golfers have actually turned down the opportunity to participate in the golf World Cup.

Why the Golf World Cup is important

A rejuvenated golf World Cup event holds promise as a stimulant for interest in international golf. Despite the presence of American superstars most years, the United States has actually won less than half of the World Cups staged. What makes this a viable global championship is that 15 different countries have taken home the World Cup. Even the small Philippines have notched a second place finish in the World Cup. One could argue that this tournament provides more global representation than any other in the sport.

There are not many countries where the depth of golfing talent goes deep enough to field a Ryder Cup-style competitive team. However, there are scores of countries that can come up with two players good enough to make a go of it for four rounds against any country’s best. Nurture something like that in the golf World Cup and you just may find some soccer World Cup-like enthusiasm percolating on the links.

Brad Pecot

Director of Marketing, Golfballs.com

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