This is one of the busiest weekends of the year on the sports calendar, with both college football and NFL joined by the MLB postseason. It rivals the spring run of MLB Opening Day, March Madness and the Masters for the best time of the year in sports. It's not quite the Masters, but golf will throw its hat in the ring this weekend in the form of the Presidents Cup.
The Presidents Cup does not have the appeal, hype, or competitiveness of the Ryder Cup but it does have a better format. It's hard to hide players in the Presidents Cup, with the full 12-man team playing on three of four days. Only Saturday, which doubles up with two sessions, allows a captain to sit two guys down for a round. It's also an extra day for fans and TV coverage, with the Ryder Cup starting only on Friday and doubling up the first two days of competition before Sunday singles.
There are 34 points up for grabs, and lately, the USA team has put things away before Sunday's singles even begin. The order was switched a bit this year, to the advantage of the International team in an attempt to make things more competitive. The change comes at the top on Thursday, with the Four-ball format in play on the first day as opposed to Foursomes.
Four-ball is the format in which each player plays his own ball, with the best ball of the two-man team smashing against the best ball of the opponent. Foursomes, on the other hand, is a much more unique format where players alternate shots playing one ball. This creates all sorts of problems for golfers who are control freaks about every circumstance surrounding every shot. The biggest issue is using the partner's golf ball, which can be a huge change for players who are used to the feel and distance of their own ball, particularly on iron and approach shots.
The International team has much less experience in Foursomes (as opposed to the USA, which plays it every year), and the team has less reps overall playing together -- in any format. The turnover every two years can be dramatic on the International side, while the Americans often keep the same core group from the 12-month period between the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
In the past, the International team would fly in from all over the globe, and then get just a couple days of practice and camaraderie before leading off with the most difficult format. This almost always resulted in a USA whitewash and forced them to constantly chase and try to make up ground for the rest of the weekend. And that never went well.
So the change to Four-ball on the first day is significant, and could be a big boost for the International chances. Here's the full schedule for the week, including match play formats and TV broadcast times.
Thursday, Oct. 3 (6 points)
Six Four-ball matches -- tee times from 11:45 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. ET
TV coverage: Golf Channel, Noon to 6 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4 (6 points)
Six Foursomes matches -- tee times from 1:10 p.m. to 2:05 p.m. ET
TV coverage: Golf Channel, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. ET
Saturday, Oct. 5 (10 points)
Five Four-ball matches -- tee times from 7:33 to 8:29 a.m. ET
Five Foursomes matches -- tee times from 1:21 p.m. to 2:05 p.m. (estimated)
TV coverage: NBC, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET
Sunday, Oct. 6 (12 points)
Twelve Singles matches -- tee times from 12:04 p.m. to 2:05 p.m. ET
TV coverage: NBC, Noon to 6 p.m. ET