Cup swings away from reserved Memorial
Take what you know about attending the Memorial Tournament as a patron and forget it.
The Presidents Cup is a different beast.
Central Ohio has welcomed the Memorial every year since 1976 as a marquee event on its sports calendar. Led by Jack Nicklaus, who has modeled his event after the Masters Tournament, the Memorial takes on a different, more regal feel than a typical PGA Tour stop.
Fans will quickly find the only similarities between the Memorial and the Presidents Cup are the 18 holes at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
The Presidents Cup features 24 golfers in a four-day match play competition instead of the more than 120 in a four-day stroke play event. The manual scoreboards are gone. In its place are 21 electric screens. Bleacher seating has increased from 1,800 seats to 6,600. Instead of 11 concession stands throughout the 18 holes, the Presidents Cup has 15 stands in addition to various mobile concessions carts. Two 13,000-square foot tents located just outside the Muirfield Village gates are for fans to buy merchandise, enjoy food and beverages and partake in a variety of interactive displays. Finally, fans now have to park at the Columbus Zoo instead of onsite.
Inside the gates, the fans are expected to cheer, and cheer loudly, for their side -- U.S. or International.
"Have fun with it," said Matt Kamienski, the executive director of the 2013 Presidents Cup. "You want to get behind the team, and that's what they players want, too. They want people supporting them as an overall team."
Hearing a Cup account first-hand
In 2003, Jason Snell's health club job moved him from his native Australia to San Jose, Calif. Six years later and with Snell still living in the United States, the Presidents Cup was held at the TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. Snell didn't waste the opportunity to attend to root on his fellow countrymen on the International Team.
"I liked seeing a very different side of golf," said Snell, 35. "From a spectator standpoint, it was more enjoyable. In a typical PGA Tour event, you've got to keep quiet and there isn't has much cheering other than the final round.
"Being such an individual sport, it's very serious and there isn't as much celebration. But in events like the Presidents Cup, you see a different side of the players and it feels more competitive."
Ian Knight now works as the executive director for the Champions Tour's Charles Schwab Cup Championship, which takes place at Harding Park in November. In 2009, he was the director of sales for the Presidents Cup.
"When you work inside a golf tournament, you are hyper-critical of everything," Knight said. "My friends tell me after they attended the Presidents Cup here that it was the most wonderful sporting event they've attended. They were proud to be apart of something like this."
Snell enjoyed the experience in San Francisco so much, he attended the next Presidents Cup two years later when it was back in his home country of Australia.
"The best thing about the Presidents Cup is that for me being Australian, I can see golfers from my country compete," Snell said. "When it comes to Australian sports, athletes who are in the top 10 in the world in anything are put on a pedestal. We are a small nation of only 20 million people so when you can achieve that it shows all of us that you can go on to do great things."
Viewing tips for spectators
Unlike the Memorial where every golfer plays 18 holes, that isn't the case in a match-play format. Not every match will last 18 holes so camping out behind the No. 18 green may not be the best way to watch the Presidents Cup.
Knight recommends finding at spot at the first tee.
"It's a really special experience to stand on that first tee and watch the players get announced," Knight said. "They get nervous and there is a really special vibe on that tee as the players hear their names associated with their country. You can also see it in the eyes of players like Phil (Mickelson) and Tiger (Woods) that this really matters."
Snell took an aggressive approach at Harding Park. He began at the par-4 first and stood at the midway point of the hole to watch all the groups come through and hit approach shots into the green.
From there, he went to the par-3 11th to catch the groups coming through again. Once the groups passed by, he skipped around the back nine as the matches reached their conclusions.
Snell maximized his golf-watching experience. Kamineski was quick to remind regulars of the Memorial that from a fan experience, there isn't a lot of golf.
"There is six hours on Thursday, six on Friday, about 10-12 hours on Saturday with two sets of matches and about six to seven hours on Sunday," he said. "There isn't a lot of golf when compared to the Memorial that goes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day."
While Knight cautions against leaving early as to not miss out on the intensity of the final holes of a match, he also recommends checking out the practice rounds and attending the opening and closing ceremonies.
"The practice rounds are really special," he said. "You see world class players in a relaxed format. We had Bill Clinton and Michael Jordan play a practice round one day.
"The opening and closing ceremonies are wonderful and give you a special feeling. With Mr. Nicklaus being the host, I'm sure they'll be a lot of tipping of the hat to him."