By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - For the biennial Presidents Cup to survive, it requires an overhaul of its points system to make it more closely contested and should adopt the structure used by the Ryder Cup, says International captain Nick Price.
A total of 34 points is on offer at the Presidents Cup, which pits a 12-man team from the United States against a line-up of international players from outside Europe, while 28 points are available at the Ryder Cup, where the U.S. take on Europe.
In Price's opinion, fewer points give the stronger team less of an advantage as the weakest players do not compete as often, and he believes this would help the Internationals improve a dismal record of just one win against the U.S. in nine editions.
"In order for the Presidents Cup to really go to the next level, it's got to become more consistently competitive," Zimbabwean Price told Reuters at Firestone Country Club ahead of this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
"That is what's lacking. Until such time as that happens, I don't want to say it's going to flounder but it's not going to get to the next level. And everything needs to get to the next level to survive."
Price, a veteran of five Presidents Cup as a player, has long felt that the Ryder Cup format of four fourball matches and four foursomes encounters on each of the first two days before the concluding 12 singles is more desirable.
"When you've only got four pairings and you've got 12 guys to choose from, that's a lot easier because you take your best players," said the 56-year-old, a three-times major winner.
"American players have always been a little bit anti at the Ryder Cup, saying, 'Oh, the Europeans are sitting out those players because they are not playing very well.' Well this is the glass half-full, half-empty syndrome.
"The Europeans, they put out the eight best players they can against the strongest golfing country in the world. It would be really interesting to see if the Ryder Cup was played under the Presidents Cup points system what the outcome would be."
Price and South African Ernie Els, who is poised to play on his eighth Presidents Cup team in October, tried to persuade PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to consider switching the points system to the Ryder Cup model.
"Initially he (Finchem) was (receptive) and then he phoned me back three weeks later and said he wasn't prepared to change," said Price. "He didn't think it needed a change. Ernie and I were really disappointed with the outcome.
"The International teams that I played on, we were never revered like the European Ryder Cup teams because we keep getting beaten. And they (critics) say, 'Oh well, the Europeans are more motivated and they are a closer unit.'
"Please don't tell me for one minute that a Spaniard and a Swede playing together are more motivated to beat an American team than an Australian and a South African."
For Price, the Presidents Cup format of six foursomes matches on the first day, six fourball encounters on the second day and a mix of five foursomes and five fourballs on day three "plays into the hands of the stronger team".
"We've got our work cut out," he added. "It's hard because our bottom four players play more than the bottom four players in the Ryder Cup. It's a different format, but it's all about momentum.
"When we won in Australia, it was a huge momentum change for us on that second day, and we just parlayed that into the weekend. That's what basically won it for us down there."
The U.S. have established a virtual stranglehold at the Presidents Cup, winning the trophy at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia in 2011 for the seventh time in nine editions.
The only success for the Internationals came in 1998 when the event was first staged in Melbourne. In 2003, the teams battled to a 17-17 draw in South Africa.
"We are all competitors and the Presidents Cup has got to be more closely contested," said Price. "Play it like the Ryder Cup, then you can compare on an apples-to-apples basis.
"Four-four matches the first two days, then do 12 on Sunday. That would be a really wonderful way to go."
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)