One Year Should be Plenty for US Cuppers


Now that the PGA of America has shocked us all by naming Tom Lehman captain of the Ryder Cup team, they ought to stun us again with another change. Isnt it about time we do away with this business of selecting the U.S. Ryder Cuppers over a two-year period?
The two-year qualification might have had some justification in the past when you wanted to reward someone for excellence over a longer period. But we have the Presidents Cup now, which is played in the Ryder Cups off-year. That means that every year players have a chance to qualify for some kind of international play. A hot player next year will most likely make the Presidents team. After the Presidents Cup, under this scenario players would qualify all over again for the Ryder Cup.
I know, I know the Ryder Cup addresses this issue, in part, by making the Ryder Cup year the bigger year in points. Points carry twice as much weight if they are accumulated the year of the Ryder. But even though the non-Ryder years count only half as much as Ryder years, why have them at all?
This wouldnt have made a scintilla of difference this year, agreed. The Europeans won by a whopping nine-point margin, and I dont care if you had 30 people who qualified to play their 12 ' the Europeans still would have won. It was as if the PGA Tour were playing the Hooters Tour. But the question remains, why have the two-year qualifying period at all?
Would it make much difference in the team personnel? Only marginally ' this year it might have meant Kenny Perry or Fred Funk gave up his place for, say, Todd Hamilton. Im not going back through all the results of this year, but the fact remains that it wouldnt have been a major change. But in many years, one player could sway the result by two or three points. And a two-or three-point swing usually means the difference in winning and losing.
Paul Azinger said it Wednesday: 'In the end, what America needs to do is not get the right captain but get the right point system to get the hottest players; not the best, because they're all great, but the hottest players.'
I know the argument that some have advanced ' why cut it off at a year? If you want the hottest golfer, why not make it six months? One month? Heck, the hottest golfer of the moment would probably be the one who shoots the best score this day.
But you obviously have to have a cut-off point, and one year seems reasonable. And every year everyone would start out with zero points, even-steven, if the Presidents Cup would change their requirements also.
The Presidents Cup, of course, carries on with this two-year silliness, too. But its ranking this year is for 2004 only, and the list of those in the top 10 raises a few eyebrows. John Daly is No. 10. Zach Johnson is No. 8, Steve Flesch is seventh. And way up in the fifth spot is Hamilton.
That is what the Ryder Cup rankings might have looked like for this year. Absent from the top 10 are Funk, Jim Furyk, Chris Riley and David Toms. Those guys would still be eligible for a captains selection, of course, if the captain felt they could make a difference.
Of course, it wont make any difference if the United States doesnt have the best golfers ' and I mean the golfers who can meld together as a team. Hal Sutton was criticized unmercifully for this years debacle, but maybe we were expecting too much. Lets face it ' Hal might have had an inferior team ' period. If that was really the reason, then Lehman is doomed to a similar fate, and it wont matter a whit how great a captain he is.
But consider this year an anomaly ' and if youre a U.S. fan, you better pray that it is. If the next Ryder Cup is normal, it will be decided by a couple of points. And a couple of points might well be provided by the hot golfer.
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