With Ryder Cup on tap, golfers mull traditional rules on ties

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GUIDONIA MONTECELIO, Italy — Rory McIlroy watched Sunday’s dramatic finish at the Solheim Cup in Spain, where Spanish golfer Carlota Ciganda pulled off a couple of epic shots to defeat American star Nelly Korda and clinch a tying point for the European team.

Even though the match ended in a 14-14 tie at Finca Cortesin, the European team retained the Solheim Cup because it was the defending champion.

“Obviously, there were huge celebrations when Europe got to 14 and retained the Cup,” McIlroy said. “I thought to myself, ‘Geez, they are celebrating a lot for a draw.'”

Then McIlroy remembered how much the European team had celebrated after earning a 14th point to retain the Ryder Cup in 2012 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. The Europeans had rallied from a 10-4 deficit going into Sunday singles, then won 8½ points out of 12 in singles and took the Ryder Cup outright when Tiger Woods conceded his match for a 14½-13½ victory.

“I think retaining it means something, and there’s certainly a historical and traditional element to it,” McIlroy said. “I don’t know. I do like traditions of the game, and this competition has been around since 1927, and that’s the way they have always done it. Does that mean that’s the way they always have to do it? Probably not. But it’s nice to keep some of the tradition around the event.”

It was the first time the Solheim Cup ended in a tie in its 18-event history.

U.S. team captain Stacy Lewis wouldn’t call her team’s performance a loss and suggested that it might be time to change the rules. Lewis discussed the issue with LPGA Tour commissioner Mollie Marcoux Samaan during closing ceremonies.

“We were talking about when it is a tie, should it be a playoff? Should it be [to] retain the Cup?” Lewis said. “I don’t know. I mean, it obviously would be better TV. It would be a better experience for the fans, whether it was a team playoff or something like that. I think that would be pretty cool.

“But if you want to stick with the history of the event and history of what the men do as well, you probably stick with retaining the Cup. I don’t know how I feel about that either way, to be honest.”

There have been two ties in 43 matches at the Ryder Cup. The U.S. retained the Cup after a 16-16 tie with Great Britain in 1969, when Jack Nicklaus famously conceded a 3-foot putt to Tony Jacklin on the final hole. Twenty years later, after players from continental Europe were made eligible to compete, Europe kept the Cup after a 14-14 draw.

American golfer Max Homa said he’s not in favor of ties and retaining the Cups in the biennial international matches because team rosters turn over every two years and the same players are not competing each time.

“I’ve never liked ties,” Homa said. “They don’t make sense to me. The whole point of any competition is to see who wins, so I do not like ties. I do not like the retaining thing. I understand why they do it, but I’m not a fan of it. You have a completely new team, for instance, at the Solheim Cup, and they tied. Someone should play a playoff.”

England’s Tyrrell Hatton is also in favor of playing extra holes to decide the winner.

“I think that would be a lot more exciting than just, ‘That’s a tie, like, oh, such-and-such retains the Cup,'” Hatton said. “I don’t think that’s the best thing. I would say tying is probably not ideal. I think it would be quite interesting if there was a way of putting in a playoff, if that was to happen.”

England’s Justin Rose called it “kind of an interesting debate,” adding, “History is so important, I think. But it is quite nice to wrestle it back fair and square.”

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