Europeans Make Strong Ryder Cup Showings

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04 Ryder CupIRVING, Texas -- A birth certificate from Sweden isn't enough. Neither is putting the Union Jack on your golf bag. Want to play for Europe in the Ryder Cup? Come play in Europe.
 
Ryder Cup players must be a European tour member, a policy that already knocked Jesper Parnevik out of the mix. The Swede doesn't want to spend at least two months hopping from Scotland to Ireland to Holland to play his minimum of 11 tournaments, just so he can even be considered for a captain's pick.
 
'It's tough to alter your whole year just because of one week,' he said.
 
Luke Donald of England might be faced with the same decision.
 
The former NCAA champion at Northwestern has made the PGA Tour his home since turning pro. Already a winner on tour - something neither Colin Montgomerie nor Padraig Harrington has done - Donald believes he is being punished for choosing to play against better competition for more money.

'Europe might not get the best team, which is a shame,' Donald said.
 
Oh, as if that ever mattered.
 
Europe supposedly has had the lesser team for the last two decades, but it has won the Ryder Cup six out of the last nine times. The Americans have Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Davis Love III. Europe counters with Ignacio Garrido, David Gilford and Phillip Price. No contest.
 
The reason for this policy is to protect the European tour. Already, some of its best young players have become regulars in the United States - Donald, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose - and the tour would suffer immensely if its stars only made cameo appearances at home.
 
'What's working against them is the strength of our tour, the allure of our tour,' Brad Faxon said. 'If you want to be considered a top player, you have to come over here and play a lot.'
 
What makes this a good policy is that it protects the spirit of the Ryder Cup.
 
'At the same time,' Faxon continued, 'the Ryder Cup always surprises you, doesn't it?'
 
Faxon, who played in the '95 and '97 matches, was beaten in Sunday singles at Oak Hill in 1995 by Gilford, an unheralded Englishman who hasn't been heard from since. It was one of five pivotal matches decided on the 18th hole, four of them in Europe's favor, allowing it to win the cup.
 
Price, a Welshman who was No. 119 in the world ranking, battered Mickelson in a Sunday match that was crucial to Europe's victory at The Belfry. The winning point came from Paul McGinley, who took down Jim Furyk.
 
This is what makes the Ryder Cup so compelling.
 
Woods is best buddies with Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn, but for the most part, the Americans don't socialize with the Europeans because they don't see them very often.
 
If the Ryder Cup ever gets to the point where Europe's best players are spending the majority of their time on the PGA Tour, the Ryder Cup runs the risk of becoming the Presidents Cup: the United States vs. Orlando.
 
'It's much more of an 'Us vs. Them' than the Presidents Cup,' Jay Haas said. 'The Presidents Cup is almost exclusively guys that play the U.S. tour. The European team is a mix of guys who play over here, but there is always half of their team you don't get to see a lot.'
 
Philip Walton comes to mind. He's the Irishman with a beet-red face and squeaky voice who scratched out a bogey on the 18th hole at Oak Hill to beat Haas and give Europe the winning point.
 
'I don't want to say they have a chip on their shoulder,' Haas said. 'But they have something to prove.'
 
Europe already has made one compromise for the Sept. 17-19 matches at Oakland Hills outside of Detroit. The top five players will come from a world ranking points list. The next five will come from a European tour money list that began in September. Bernhard Langer gets two captain's picks, as long as they are European tour members.
 
Lee Westwood of England has been among the most vocal critics of the membership rule.
 
'The last time I checked, the Ryder Cup was between Europeans and Americans, not the European tour and the U.S. PGA Tour,' Westwood said.
 
But in some respects, it is the PGA Tour against the European tour. That's why there is so much pride, not to mention pressure, riding on every shot at the Ryder Cup.
 
It's not asking too much for European-born players to get in their minimum 11 tournaments. If they're good enough, they should be eligible for the four majors and three World Golf Championships, which count as European tour events. That leaves only four regular tournaments to fit into their schedule.
 
The problem for Parnevik and Donald is that neither qualified for the Masters or the Match Play Championship, and both still have to qualify for the U.S. Open and British Open.
 
'When I look at the big picture, top 50 in the world is the number,' Donald said. 'And if I'm not in the top 50, I'm not good enough to be playing in the Ryder Cup, anyway.'
 
Instead of Jesper Parnevik, Europe might have Raphael Jacquelin, Brian Davis or Carlos Rodiles. They will be on the team because they're playing good golf.
 
Besides, history has shown it doesn't matter whom Europe brings to Oakland Hills.
 
Related links:
  • Current Ryder Cup Standings
  • Full Coverage - 35th Ryder Cup

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