By Mark Lamport-Stokes
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - For International captain Nick Price, the future of the Presidents Cup is hanging in the balance and could hinge on the outcome of a meeting in Akron, Ohio this week with PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
Price has long argued that the biennial team competition, which has been dominated by the United States, should overhaul its points system and playing format and contest fewer team matches by adopting the structure used by the Ryder Cup.
Two years ago, Price and South African Ernie Els, a veteran now of eight Presidents Cups as a player, found Finchem initially receptive but the Tour commissioner phoned Price back just three weeks later to say he had changed his mind.
Consequently the status quo, where 22 team matches are contested before Sunday singles, and U.S. dominance at the Presidents Cup, continues.
"We have a meeting with the commissioner on Wednesday at the WGC-Bridgestone tournament and that's to discuss some of the changes that we have been trying to get," Zimbabwean Price, 58, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I am still optimistic that we will change it, that we will change the points. I just don't know by how much. It's such a huge difference. I don't think the Ryder Cup would have been as successful if they had the Presidents Cup format.
"Those 22 points in the (Presidents Cup) team matches make it very easy for one team to get so far ahead that it takes all the excitement out of the Sunday singles," said Price, a three-times major winner.
A total of 34 points is on offer at the Presidents Cup, which pits a 12-man team from the U.S. 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 10 editions.
"With the structure of the Presidents Cup as it is right now, you have a chance where it could be 16 points to 6 going into the last-day singles, or 17-5 or 15-7," said Price, whose U.S. counterpart, Jay Haas, will also be at the Akron meeting.
"Or as in the case at Muirfield Village in 2013, it was 14-8. A six-point difference doesn't sound like much but in a nutshell we, the Internationals, had to score 9-1/2 points to win the Cup, and that's a very tall order against a team that has the might of the Americans."Price captained the Internationals for the first time at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio two years ago where his team ended up losing by 18-1/2 points to 15-1/2, their fifth successive defeat at the Cup.
"What is fair?" asked Price.
"Is it fair that the strongest team win all the time, or is it fair that you have a great competition that we all look forward to every time?
"If you want the strongest team to win every time, then make as many points as you want, play everyone every day and then the Americans are probably going to win 90 percent of the time."
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".
"For it to be a wonderful competition, we have to play it like the Ryder Cup," he said. "The Ryder Cup is one of the premier sports events ... and so often it has come down to just one point and one putt on the Sunday."
The Presidents Cup, being played this year for the first time in Asia, will be held at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Incheon, South Korea, from Oct. 8-11.
(Editing by Larry Fine)