World ranking points system 'a joke', says European Tour's Andy Sullivan

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Rory McIlroy and Andy Sullivan
Sullivan (right) partnered McIlroy on the opening morning of the 2016 Ryder Cup but the pair lost their match

English Ryder Cup golfer Andy Sullivan has branded the decision to award world ranking points for tournaments on the American PGA Tour as an "absolute joke", "completely unfair" and "ridiculous".

But the player, who partnered Rory McIlroy on his debut for Europe at Hazeltine in 2016, would back a move to postpone this year's Ryder Cup which is scheduled for Wisconsin this September.

Sullivan was speaking to BBC Sport alongside fellow European Tour professional, Paul Waring. The two golfers stage a charity pro-am at Worplesdon Golf Club in Surrey on Thursday.

Waring cannot play due to recent back trouble but for Sullivan it will be his first scoring round since the Qatar Masters in March, the last event on his home tour before lockdown.

"It feels like an age since we last pegged it up so any sort of competitive golf is welcome at the moment," Sullivan said.

But the 34-year-old midlander, a three times winner on the European Tour, is furious that his counterparts in the United States are earning ranking points while he remains powerless on this side of the Atlantic.

"It's obviously massively frustrating," he said. "A lot of the goals we set are around world rankings and getting into majors and WGC's (World Golf Championships events).

"And you do feel like your opportunities are being taken away with us not playing for a month and a half and they're ahead of us."

Sullivan has fallen seven places since the restart of the PGA Tour through no fault of his own.

"They're getting points while we are just sitting down watching them just take our points basically," said the current world number 145.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't absolutely fuming and I just think it's an absolute joke. It's completely unfair. It's a world ranking system not a US tour system so I think its ridiculous."

Sullivan says he does not blame American-based players for the situation but holds responsible global tour officials who decided to award points on the US circuit. European Tour chief Keith Pelley was the only one who voted against the move.

The PGA Tour restarted on 11 June at the Colonial event in Texas. "I'd go a bit further and say I think they've always been a little bit biased towards the US and that is just proven tenfold with this decision, really," he added.

Waring, who last played at the beginning of March, has slipped six places to 83rd in the world since the restart and admits the situation is "frustrating".

The 35-year-old from Birkenhead saw the 2020 season as an opportunity to push for a Ryder Cup debut. He won his first European Tour title at his 200th attempt at the 2018 Nordea Masters and the upward curve was continuing.

"I was feeling really confident about my game," he said. "Last season I had my highest Race to Dubai finish and went into the world's top 100 for the first time, I thought I could have really pressed on.

"I was looking for that next win. I had Ryder Cup in the back of my mind given how strongly I'd played in 2018, so it is a little bit disappointing that has been taken away from me."

There is growing speculation that this year's match against the United States, which would potentially be played without spectators, will be postponed until 2021. Waring says such a decision would make sense.

"You see some amazing things in Ryder Cups, you see players pulling off the most amazing shots, going on silly birdie runs, like Ian Poulter did at Medinah," he said.

"It happens because the players are so ready to play, so want to play well in front of the crowds and if you take that away I think you'd end up having quite a flat Ryder Cup. It just wouldn't be the same."

Sullivan agrees. "The pressures would be there, the adrenalin would be running," he said. "But there is nothing like getting the abuse off the crowd, getting the roars off the crowd, that's what makes that event so special."

Both players believe a delayed Ryder Cup would also lead to a fairer qualification period for Padraig Harrington's European team.

"You'll have players coming out and having another season of playing well, developing and getting into that team," Sullivan said.

"I felt sorry for Padraig having to try and pick a team pretty much straight out of lockdown. What does he do in that situation? That would have been incredibly difficult."

To be a factor in the captain's thinking, Sullivan knows he would need to reverse his tumble down the rankings from a career high of 28 in early 2016. And he believes lockdown has been therapeutic and potentially beneficial to his career.

"I've had the time to address some problems in my game and problems elsewhere and it's really helped me," said the man from Nuneaton. "I think the mindset has completely changed.

"I've just gone back to being a bit more carefree at golf instead of constantly thinking about trying to get a win."

For Waring the priority is repairing his lower back which locked up after tweaking it during a recent range session. Current coronavirus restrictions have curtailed the physiotherapy he requires.

But, like Sullivan, he is excited by the European Tour's six event UK swing which starts with the British Masters at Close House on 22 July.

"I remember listening to Nick Faldo talking about what it used to be like with a run of events in the UK," Waring said. "It would be great to see if that can continue into the future."

In the meantime he travels to Worplesdon as a non-playing ambassador for the pro-am. It is a mixed event which features the likes of 2018 Women's British Open winner Georgia Hall and fellow Solheim Cup winner Charley Hull.

Ryder Cup stars Colin Montgomerie and Ross Fisher are also playing the competition which will benefit causes including the Rainbow Trust Covid-19 Emergency Appeal.

The idea for the tournament came from golf agent Brendan Taylor, who realised there would be a gap between the resumption of recreational and competitive action.

"He said 'why don't we try to put on a little tournament so we can put a card in some players' hands'," Waring revealed. "So we decided on a charity pro am to raise money for some good causes.

"It's going to be a really strong field so they're really going to know where their golf game is by the end of it."