The real reasons behind why the Ryder Cup was scheduled for early October
I WONDER if I was alone in feeling a little sorry for Joe Steranka, the chief executive officer of the PGA of America, when, together with the European Tour’s chief executive, George O’Grady, he was hauled before the media during one of the rain delays at Celtic Manor and asked to explain the logic of staging the Ryder Cup in Wales in October.
Steranka looked a lot like the proverbial rabbit caught in a headlight, as well he might, not just because the weather outside was foul, but because he knew, I knew and almost all of the assembled journalists knew that he was in no position to do anything about it.
What’s more, we also understood that, unless he does a deal with the PGA Tour, he will be equally bereft of power when it comes to affecting a change in date for the 2014 match, scheduled to be staged at Gleneagles, Scotland, at around the same time of year.
The reason for Steranka’s discomfort was simple but probably needs to be explained, lest he is labelled as a blithering fool who didn’t understand the consequences of staging the Ryder Cup, the world’s third largest sporting event, in Wales at a time of year when rain or fog was almost inevitable. He did, I can assure you, and was simply unfortunate that his worst fears proved founded.
The man with the power to arrange a change in dates is not Steranka but another leading US golf administrator, who wasn’t present – Tim Finchem.
Steranka is the top man in the organisation that nominally runs the Ryder Cup in America but, when it comes to selecting dates for the contest, and indeed for providing the players to compete, he is about as powerless as a rowing boat caught in the teeth of a violent storm.
The man with the power to arrange a change in dates is not Steranka but another leading US golf administrator, who wasn’t present while the other two were being flailed by the media, but had good reason to use the situation to get what he wants.
A few years ago, that man, the PGA Tour commissioner, Tim Finchem, was approached by a group of TV moguls and told, in no uncertain terms, that his end-of season schedule needed to be jazzed up if it was ever to compete with the start of the NFL season.
That was why the FedEx Cup was created. It was also the sole reason the 2010 Ryder Cup was moved back two weeks to October.
Finchem has now seen the FedEx Cup develop into something resembling a success and, for that reason alone, might be loathe to yield to pleas to disrupt it in order to facilitate a change in date for the Ryder Cup.
However, he also has another even more compelling reason not to budge. A few years ago, the European Tour wrested overall control of the Ryder Cup from the British PGA and, in the process, inherited a cash cow which subsidises many of its other activities.
In America, however, the situation is different. The Ryder Cup, and its vast income, is still owned by the PGA, not the PGA Tour, much to the disgust of the latter who I suspect sees the date as just one battleground in a war aimed ultimately at gaining control of it.
What we have is a classic power struggle. One side, led by Steranka, would love to change the date but does not want to cede any control to their rivals in order to achieve it. The other, presided over by Finchem, might compromise, but not without getting something tangible back in return.
In other words, we have reached a stalemate, one that’s not going to be resolved simply by the media stating a return to the old date is necessary for the good of the game.
No wonder Steranka looked so glum.