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Misguided move to switch qualifying order

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Iain Carter | 17:26 UK time, Tuesday, 8 February 2011

European golf is no doubt patting itself on the back for changing its Ryder Cup qualifying system to ensure more higher-ranked players make the team for the 2012 match against the United States at Medinah near Chicago.

The move means that the leading five earners on the European Tour during the year-long qualifying period take the first five places on the team. The next five in Jose Maria Olazabal's team will be the five players who have earned most world ranking points. That leaves the Spaniard with the two wildcard picks.

For the last four Ryder Cup contests, the European players that have accumulated the most world ranking points have been the first names on the team sheet.

But had the new system been in place for the match at Celtic Manor, Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald would not have needed a wildcard to make Colin Montgomerie's team, while Justin Rose would have joined them in the Scot's 12-man line-up instead of being overlooked. Paul Casey would almost certainly have been given a captain's pick, too, but Ross Fisher, Peter Hanson and Miguel Angel Jimenez would have all missed out.

So where's the drawback? It all makes perfect common sense, doesn't it? Well, yes and no, because I am not sure there is much back-slapping going on in the offices of sponsorship executives who currently plough millions into European Tour events.

Justin RoseRose would have made 2010 Ryder Cup had new format been in place. Photo: Getty

The new system guarantees that the European players who perform best in the four majors and World Golf Championships will qualify by virtue of the euros they glean for those performances. Those events all count on the European Order of Merit.

So that's five big-name players automatically into the side. But what about the other five? Those places are more likely to go to the guys who make America their home and rack up world ranking points with their displays on the PGA Tour.

At a stroke, the incentive to come back to Europe and support events like the Czech Open and Johnnie Walker Championship - the last event European players can gain Ryder Cup qualifying points - is removed and the Lake Nona estate agents are left to rub their hands at the prospect of more ex-pat business coming their way.

But no-one returned for those events last time anyway.

Having said that, are the likes of Harrington, Donald and Casey prepared to put their fate in their captain's hands again after seeing what happened to Rose when Montgomerie was making the decisions?

Are they not more likely to follow the lead of Hanson and Jimenez, who went the extra mile to make sure of their spots on the European team, especially with only two captain's wildcards available?

Still, there is a danger that next year's match could involve one set of PGA Tour players competing against another.

Graeme McDowell took up PGA Tour membership this season but the US Open champion said he would probably revert to a European schedule in 2012 because of the Ryder Cup. He doesn't need to now. As it stands, he can play a mere half dozen tour events (several in Asia) on top of the majors and WGCs and still make the team.

Lest we forget, the top three players in the world - Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Tiger Woods - are teeing it up on the European Tour in Dubai this week. This is where European golf is at the moment, a growing force that produced three of the four major winners last season - Kaymer, McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen.

In my opinion, the decision to revert to two picks is a good one. Montgomerie was always going to give himself a headache by requesting three selections.

But I am less convinced by the decision to switch the qualification order. European golf should have stuck with the system that helped win the 2004 and 2006 Ryder Cups by record-breaking margins.

Then it would have deserved a proper pat on the back for challenging the continent's biggest names to commit more to its schedule not less.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ian: great blog. The error on the BBC story about Olly's changes is to imply that putting the Euro list first gives it 'primacy' whereas in fact it achieves the opposite, as Olly well knows. But, to counter that, it is interesting and really encouraging to see guys like Steve Stricker coming to European Tour events this year stating that they are doing so simply BECAUSE OF THE POINTS ON OFFER. This implies that the two Ryder Cup lists might (with Westwood / Kaymer etc on top of world rankings) be much more similar because the way to make WORLD points might well be on the European Tour! Again, a sign of the times.

  • Comment number 2.

    There is a really simple answer to this, just pick alternately from both lists.

    1st Euro
    1st World (assuming not already picked)
    2nd Euro (assuming not already picked)
    2nd World (assuming not already picked)
    and so on

    We would have had
    Qual: Name (World Rank/Euro Rank)

    1E: Lee Westwood (1/1)
    1W: Rory McIlroy (2/3)
    2E: Martin Kaymer (3/2)
    2W: Graeme McDowell (4/4)
    3E: Ian Poulter (7/5)
    3W: Edoardo Molinari (5/10)
    4E: Ross Fisher (-/6)
    4W: Luke Donald (6/-)
    5E: Francisco Molinari (10/7)
    5W: Padraig Harrington (8/-)

    The next best on this criteria are Justin Rose and Miguel Angel Jiminez, probably the two I would have taken as captain's picks under those circumstances, though Paul Casey also comes into the equation of course.

    Either way I think this is the fairest method.

  • Comment number 3.

    I am more of a Ryder Cup fan than a European Tour fan, so would rather see a system that picks the best players in the world and gives Europe the best chance of winning. I don't see why the team selection should be primarily a tool to promote the European Tour or any other organisation or brand.

  • Comment number 4.

    it's always a chestnut trying to work out the criteria. what about supporting the euro tour when the ryder cup is on this side of the pond and changing to the new system when we are over there. if we have a slightly weaker team then that is offset by home advantage etc. when we go over there then we have more players in the team playing those years on the pga tour giving us more experience of US golf when we perhaps need it more.

  • Comment number 5.

    hackerjack. How do I vote for you for Chairman / President of the Ryder Cup committee?

  • Comment number 6.

    Given that the next Ryder Cup is in the US, doesn't it make sense to pick a system that rewards the players that perform best in the States.

    Revert to the opposite system when the Ryder Cup is in Europe.

  • Comment number 7.

    The reason the Ryder Cup should help promote the European Tour is that a weak European Tour will encourage more and more young Europeans to seek their fortunes in the US where they will be swallowed up by the plenitude of similarily talented Americans.
    If these players stayed on the European Tour they would have time to develope their talents in a slightly less dog-eat-dog environment.
    Call me a tired old reactionary but I'd like to see the the top 5 on the European tour chosen 1st, as in the new system, but with moneys earned on the European tour only.
    In my top 5 earnings garnered at the 3 US Majors would not count.

  • Comment number 8.

    The best team would be 12 picks. It would also make the captaincy mean something.

  • Comment number 9.

    No Time for Questions...Hackerjack has my vote! Make it happen!

    Perfectly sensible way to select, and looking at last years order, seems to create the exact team I would pick if I had 12 picks!

    Maybe an elite World tour, incorporating both European and PGA tours, could be created, with the top players from each tour qualifying for the World Tour, and then the Ryder Cup teams are simply the top 12 players on this tour...Obviously Hackerjack would be first president of the new tour!

  • Comment number 10.

    Not sure Paul Casey would agree with Hackerjack for president given that he has ignored him on the world rank list and put E Molinari and Harrington ahead of him! He was 9 in the world!

  • Comment number 11.

    At #10...

    E Molinari qualifies as 7 in Europe, and Harrington as 8 in world (on Hackerjacks propose alternate scheme) Casey at 9 in world therefore doesn't qaulify! he'd be 12th pick if there were no wild cards though!

  • Comment number 12.

    At 11 - he has alternate picks from the euro and world list. E Molinari and Harrington are shown as picks off the world list even though Casey was 9 in the world at the time (not Europeans only) and therefore would make the team ahead of them on this system.

  • Comment number 13.

    It's a terrible article but a commendable decision by the European Tour, which I always assumed their self interest would veto, so well done Olly and our Tour. This decision is virtually identical to that suggested by Ian Poulter in 2008; so he'll be tweeting "I told you so" I expect.

    Hackerjack's is not a bad alternative but I think you'll find he got his team wrong (for the time the 2010 team was announced). Casey's omission was Monty's 'criminal act'; Justin Rose and Harrington wouldn't have got in automatically under any system and, like E. Molinari, would have had to rely on a Captain's pick.

    What fans should always bear in mind is that the Ryder Cup was conceived as a competition between British (now European thanks to Jack Nicklaus' foresight) and American players - not European Tour v American Tour. I'm not against captain's picks but three was always too many, as Monty nearly proved to Europe's cost.

    The World Rankings (with it's unjustifiable, but reducing, USA Tour bias) is certainly not perfect, but it is better than assuming the two Tours' orders of merit are in some way relatively equal to each other. If the World Rankings are adjusted to a 'last twelve months' basis, they could certainly be used to pick the ten automatic places, especially as they are already 'weighted' in favour of the last three months form, which should be important to captains.

    Yes; this is good week for European golf with Lee (finally - after Kaymer?) getting his lifetime membership plus a far more sensible approach to Ryder Cup selection. A very good start Olly.

  • Comment number 14.

    10. At 1:31pm on 09 Feb 2011, NIreland1-0England wrote:
    Not sure Paul Casey would agree with Hackerjack for president given that he has ignored him on the world rank list and put E Molinari and Harrington ahead of him! He was 9 in the world!

    Yes, Casey didn't make it, actually he doesn't make it on any of the three systems (world first, euro first, alternates).

    Not sure I was looking at the right lists if Casey was 9th, or perhaps I just missed him out accidentally. Anyway the point was the system not the team itself.

  • Comment number 15.

    #12 & 14
    Check out:

    (I searched 2010 world ryder cup points list)

    Hackerjack is correct, E. Molinari was ranked 5th in World Ryder cup points (these are not simply taken from the PGA tour money list, and as far as i am aware the Ryder cup team for Europe never has been picked on the PGA tour money list) and likewise Harrington was 8th. Paul Casey was nowhere to be seen in either top ten European or World Ryder cup points lists. The quoted numbers are correctly shown above.

    Casey was in fact 12(W) and 11(E) on these lists.

    Paul Casey is obviously a fantastic player (and personally I would have picked him over Harrington pre-tournament), but did not have the season to justify a pick for the Ryder Cup, and i cannot see how anyone can complain about his lack of selection in view of the fact Europe won.

    My only point was Hackerjack's suggestion seemed to make perfect sense, and generated what seems to be a perfectly good team (i.e leaving out Hansen and leaving monty the option of picking Casey!)

    Either way it's not going to be implemented unfortunately.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sorry to return so quickly but have been checking Hackerjack's team (#2) and I'm afraid there are too many errors to go into detail, so assume he was looking at the wrong lists (Casey would have been IN by the way!). However, I agree with his latest post (#14) it's his 'system' that is interesting and has some merit.

    Whilst checking the lists, it did occur to me that a refinement may be to add the actual positions on both lists together and select the ten lowest totals, plus the two 'picks' of course. That would have made a difference to last year's team and the one Hackerjack suggests but it would overcome the 'if not already picked' condition, necessary in all the other schemes.

    If the above is adopted, can I be vice-president?

  • Comment number 17.

    LOL No i'm the vice-president because I seem to be the only person looking at the correct lists. :-)

    Hackerjack is entriely correct on the current lists utilised by the Ryder Cup selection process. check the wesite above. You must be simply looking at the PGA tour money list and Race to Dubai lists to get the ranking you're suggesting and these are not the one's which are used.

    I think the main difference is the World Ryder Cup list includes all compititions on any 'federated tour' not just US and i beleive E molinari and a few top 10 finishes on the Asian Tour last year resulting in his 5th place

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry to go on...

    These are the qualifying results of E. Molinari:
    Best qualifying performances:
    1st - 2009 Kazakhstan Open (Challenge Tour),
    1st - 2009 Italian Federation Cup (Challenge Tour),
    1st - 2009 Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Golf Tour),
    1st - 2010 The Barclays Scottish Open,
    1st - Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles,
    2nd - 2009 ECCO Tour Championship (Challenge Tour),
    2T - 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (US PGA Tour),
    3rd - 2010 Nordea Scandinavian Masters,
    4T - 2010 South African Open Championship,
    4T - 2010 Omega Dubai Desert Classic,
    4T -2010 The Celtic Manor Wales Open,
    6T - 2009 Dutch Futures (Challenge Tour),
    7th - 2009 Apulia San Domenico Grand Final (Challenge Tour)

    Which kind of justifies his selection by Monty. It's only because the 4 from the world list were selected first and then european list in the 2010 ryder cup that he missed out if it had been the other way around he would have been the 5th pick (as the top 4 on both lists were the same)... but still say the alternate option seems to work best!

  • Comment number 19.

    Those complaining that Casey should be on Hackerjack's world list are showing their ignorance on the subject.

    The World rankings are compiled over a two-year period (Casey's excellent 2009 keeping his ranking high throughout 2010). The Ryder Cup qualification is based on World Ranking points gained DURING THE QUALIFICATION PROCESS. Edoardo Molinari earned more World Ranking points during Ryder Cup qualification than Casey - even though his World Ranking was lower.

    Iain - slightly surprised by the tone of the article given I seem to remember you advocating this system when it became apparent that at least one of Harrington/Casey/Donald/Rose would miss out.

    I think come the BMW PGA at Wentworth we will see whether power has truly shifted towards the European Tour - there is a top 50 World Ranking exemption but I can't remember too many US PGA stars coming over in recent years. Will the World Ranking points tempt any come May?

  • Comment number 20.

    I'd say hackerjack appears to hit the nail on the head, but it would be worth running some "regression testing" to see if the method would have been as neat in previous events.

    I agree with the player rankings in this feature:

    and would say that Peter Hanson didn't belong in the team.

  • Comment number 21.

    Two things ..E. Saltman found guilty of cheating but still allowed to play in lower ranked tournaments ...that seems ridiculous...surely it makes life intolerable for his playing companions and he is either guilty or he is not....second T. Woods spitting ...all agreed disgusting and he is to be fined ...hurrah...he's been spitting for years ...will he now stop? Let's hope so but seems would be massive if we could get football players to stop spitting ..can we get a campaign going for that ...fining them for doing so?

  • Comment number 22.

    you know what. I read all the tweets of the likes of poulter and westwood etc. these two guys seem to be doing their fair share of practice, it comes thru in the teweets they post. I raed ory Mcilroys tweets and he seems to be doing everything else in life but practice. if this is how he plays while not gettng 4 hours a day work done then then the kid is just off the planet here is the thing,,,, I remember we had another prodigy son of the emerald Isle called Ronan Raferty,, awesome talent at 17 won everything, was just unbelieveable talent, how many majors ???? nil who cares about him anymore of talks about him??? if Mc Ilroy could just do the following . 1 Work his butt off 4hours a day on the course, 2, get Tiger Woods coach to takeover now..sorry Mr Bannon but he has to move on. 3 Dont set your sights at $3mill per annum prize money, set them at one major a year for the 19 years..LOL


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