The European Tour has an interesting conundrum regarding their Ryder Cup team. Competitors for each team are selected based on points garnered on their team's home tour. Americans accumulate points based on top 10 finishes in PGA Tour events and majors, Europeans earn their points through prize money won an European Tour events and majors.
With the dramatic escalation of PGA Tour purses, an unavoidable problem has arisen. Top European stars and sure Ryder Cuppers can no longer afford to turn their backs on the huge riches available in the States in an effort to support their home tour. They must now earn almost all of their Ryder Cup points from the majors and World Golf Championships, because they only play a handful of European Tour events.
Under the European qualification system, points are earned based solely upon money earned in European Tour events, World Golf Championships and major championships. Money earned at PGA Tour events or any events on other tours around the world does not count towards Ryder Cup points. The final date for earning European Ryder Cup points is September 2nd, at the conclusion of the BMW International. The obvious intention is to reward those who play on the home tour and, in the process, keep the European Tour strong. But alas, the problem is a weakening of the European Ryder Cup team.
The money on the PGA Tour has become so disproportionate in comparison to the European Tour that top players such as Sergio Garcia, Jose Maria Olazabal, Jesper Parnevik, Bernhard Langer and Nick Faldo have come to play in America almost exclusively. None of these players would qualify for the European team based on points earned. Almost all of these players have better World Rankings than the player in the 11th position, Paul McGinley (66). Luckily, Colin Montgomerie snapped his recent slump with a win last week in Ireland. He had been hovering around 12th place and would not have qualified for the team on points; he would have needed a discretionary pick.
If nothing changed between now and the end of the qualification period, European Captain Sam Torrance would find himself in the following position. Prior to his two discretionary picks, none of his players would be in the top 6 in world rankings and only 5 in the top 25. His highest ranked player would need a pick (Garcia 5). For his final pick, he would have to choose among four players in the top 55 (Parnevik 21, Langer 34, Miguel Angel Jimenez 44 and Olazabal 53). He would have to use four players ranked 50th or higher (Phillip Price 50, Andrew Coltart 70, Robert Karlsson 78 and Andrew Oldcorn 95). At the same time he wouldnt have the services of longtime Ryder Cup hero Nick Faldo, who seems to be getting his game back into shape. On the other side, the top 10 American qualifiers consist of 5 players ranked in the top 10 and 9 in the top 25 before Curtis Stranges two discretionary picks.
There are some big purses between now and the end of the BMW International. More importantly there are two majors and a World Golf Championship where the PGA Tour Imports can earn points, so things could change somewhat. It is improbable, though, that all of the top European golfers will be able to make this years Ryder Cup team through the combination of points and captains picks. There are simply too many European Tour players who have made the American Tour their priority.
Golf is a much more global game than it was only a decade ago. When Samuel Ryder underwrote the first matches in the 1920s, he sought to pit the best American golfers against the best British golfers. It had nothing to do with various tours and points: your best against our best. It would be nice to get back to that. Ease some of the heartache and stress in the life of Sam Torrance. Either increase the number of discretionary picks or use an independent standard like the World Rankings. Dont use a system that forces players to support a tour that cant support them.
Read Part 1 - 'The Quest to Play in the Ryder Cup'
Full Coverage of the 34th Ryder Cup Matches