By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
November 10, 2011
During Thursday’s opening round coverage of the Australian Open (which aired on Wednesday night in the States), a Golf Channel commentator observed that the Thursday crowds around The Lakes in Sydney rivaled a normal Sunday throng, that it looked like half of the city had called in sick to come out to the course to watch Woods in his first tournament in Sydney in 15 years. (Woods shot his first bogey-free round of the year on Thursday, which put him in the hunt and bodes well for record crowds Friday and into the weekend.)
Across the country in Melbourne, largely because of the presence of Woods, a late season Captains Pick for the team by Captain Fred Couples, organizers at Royal Melbourne Golf Club are expecting record crowds as well.
The Presidents Cup, being played for the ninth time in 2011, was developed to give the world’s best non-European players a chance to compete in international team match-play competition.
A biennial event held in non-Ryder Cup years, the first Presidents Cup was played in September 1994 at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia. The U.S. Team, captained by Hale Irwin, defeated the International Team, captained by David Graham, 20-12.
In 2009, the Presidents Cup was held at San Francisco’s Harding Park Golf Course, where the squads were captained by two of the most dominant players on the PGA Tour during the 1980s and 1990s, American Couples and Aussie Greg Norman. As first-time captains, Couples and Norman each led strong teams as they competed in front of record crowds. The U.S. Team retained the Cup, winning by a score of 19-14.
This year, the International Team wants its revenge.
As the event has grown, so has its prestige among international companies. The 2011 Presidents Cup claims Citi and Rolex as its global partners, with a strong regional presence from BMW, Crown Lager, Quantas, Schweppes, and Greg Norman Wine Estates. Despite the great distances between venues, the Presidents Cup has also become a popular event for corporate hospitality (and a lucrative revenue stream for its backers) with Trophy Club packages this year starting at $7,000 Australian for a single day and the 120 person Presidential Suite costing $240,000 for the week. Daily tickets for spectators start at $60.00.
The 2013 Presidents Cup will be back in the U.S., at Ohio’s Muirfield Village. Created by golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, the venue, where the Memorial Tournament presented by Morgan Stanley has been held annually since 1976, has also hosted several national championships and international team competitions including the 1986 U.S. Junior Amateur, 1987 Ryder Cup, 1992 U.S. Amateur, and the 1998 Solheim Cup. The location of the 2015 event has not yet been decided, but PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem dropped a strong hint earlier this week.
"When you look at the Olympic date sitting there in 2016, and everybody is gearing toward that, you’ve sort of got to draw some conclusions as to where we’ll be in 2015," Finchem shared with golf media on Tuesday, alluding to the 2015 Cup being staged in South America.