Don't change Ryder Cup system to suit stay-aways
Paul Casey's near miss in the final play-off event of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup series served to highlight that Europe will be going into next month's Ryder Cup without their strongest team.
Indeed, it was already abundantly clear that the current system for selecting the continent's team did not produce the best possible line-up when the likes of Casey and Justin Rose were left out of the Celtic Manor clash.
This was an issue when captain Colin Montgomerie was deciding which three players should accompany the leading four qualifiers from the world points list and the five highest earners on the European Tour money list to make up the dozen who will face the US on 1-3 October.
With hindsight it clearly made sense to flip the order of the selection criteria. But only if the be all and end all is victory by putting together a side that consists of the 12 best European golfers.
At first glance that would seem to make perfect sense, but now - thanks to an observation by Tiger Woods - I have changed my opinion.
If the selection is done with the lists in the opposite order the net result is that you guarantee places for more of the highest accumulators of world ranking points. Performances in the rank and file European Tour events outside majors and WGCs count for less.
So in this case Monty would not have needed to pick Padraig Harrington or Rose and there would have been room for him to select Casey as one of his wildcards.
It creates a stronger looking team, but it also weakens the Ryder Cup. Here's what Woods said when he was asked to compare the Euro-American clashes with the Presidents Cup where the US takes on a Rest of the World team.
"The biggest difference between the two cups is the players on the Presidents Cup team all play on the PGA Tour full time. Last year Ryo (Ishikawa) was the only player who didn't," Woods observed.
"Ryder Cup is different. A lot of players play over here but a lot of them still play in Europe. So it's a little different atmosphere. I've played in three away matches - in Spain, England and Ireland and certainly the atmosphere is great. It's fun to play in front of crowds that are that excited."
And why is there such an excitable buzz about the Ryder Cup? Well ultimately because it is about us versus them. It is harder to achieve that concept when all 24 players play the same "skedule" (as they all call it), play "good" rather than well and when roughing it constitutes having to share the same courtesy car.
It's also one of the reasons why the Seve Trophy matches don't have a similar passion as a Ryder Cup. It's the same blokes who see each other week in week out having a match together rather than a clash of continents and cultures.
That's why it is important to have Miguel Angel Jimenez in Monty's team even though the three-time winner this season has a lousy Ryder Cup record. The same applies to unproven rookies Peter Hanson and Francesco Molinari - players who would have found it much harder to make the line-up if the qualifying tables were turned.
The Ryder Cup loses a lot of its lustre if it simply becomes a match between our PGA Tour players and theirs.
It is vital for the health of the European Tour that its players can be shown to be competitive in environments like the Ryder Cup and it was equally important that the message was sent to our American-based players that there are no guarantees of playing in it if you stay away from counting events having not qualified.
And let's face it, 2010 is already one of the proudest years in the Tour's history and will be regardless of the result at Celtic Manor. Graeme McDowell (US Open), Louis Oosthuizen (the Open) and Martin Kaymer (US PGA) are living proof that the schedule orchestrated on this side of the Atlantic is perfectly capable of spawning major champions.
Sadly for the Tour, all three major winners are likely to take up PGA Tour membership in the wake of their successes. The result could be that someone like Kaymer will be contesting the play-offs next season rather than defending the Dutch Open title he has just won.
This is not to blame the German - he is perfectly entitled to chase a $10m pay day. But were he to make such a decision, can it be construed as good for the European game?
This is why the bosses at Wentworth have to stand up for themselves, and in so doing the European Tour's most potent weapon is the Ryder Cup. It is imperative that they maintain a qualifying system that discourages players from becoming, well, too American.