Misguided move to switch qualifying order
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.
Rose 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.
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.