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Ryder Revolution
The Ryder Cup selection process badly needs a revamp, argues Dr David Malcolm

Sam Torrance must feel that fate has smiled on him after Langer's win in Holland. He must, however, hope that fate develops a broad grin and ties Garcia and Parnevik at the top of the NEC Invitational leaderboard.

Unless such an unlikely event occurs, one or both of them may not be contesting the Ryder Cup at the Belfry this year. It could have been worse had Langer not had contractual commitments to play in Holland and Germany.

For reasons best known to the European Tour moguls, all but two places in the 12-man team are automatic selections based upon the earning points table in European Tour events. Other events count, like the Majors and one or two others including the so-called World Championship NEC Invitational in Ohio.

But only the top 12 European Tour players are invited to Ohio, so that excludes Olazabal, Woosnam and Jimenez, all of who should be in the Ryder reckoning. There are five events remaining before things are wound up after the BMW in Munich in September.

Of these, only the USPGA will include the US based Garcia and Parnevik as well as the home based Olazabal, Woosnam and Jimenez.

A home based player's win in the Scottish PGA at Gleneagles could alleviate things and if Parnevik and Garcia could take the NEC and the USPGA between them all would be well. Not, however, likely.

It is ridiculous that a team purporting to comprise the best in of European born golf should not contain Parnevik and Garcia.

Of that there is surely no question.

There may be an argument against Jimenez, Olazabal and Woosnam but it would have to be a good one for not only are they hardened and seasoned campaigners but they also showed that they are forces to be reckoned with at Lytham.

Niclas Fasth is in sixth place in the team rankings after his Lytham finish. It is madness that second place finish in a single event can propel a player into this position.

Fasth could have had his purple patch coinciding with a lesser event that would have had a lesser effect on the rankings. His Open performance was about as likely as snow in summer and about as welcome to everyone who cares about the outcome of the Ryder Cup.

Fasth is certainly concerning but so too is Fulke. He is where he is in the rankings because of his performance in a single event in Australia at the start of the year when everyone else refused to play. His purple patch netted him one million dollars, guaranteeing him a place in the team.

This has to be ridiculous!

It was an even less likely event than snow in summer and more in line with the Mediterranean freezing over in July. He did find a gear for two good rounds at Lytham before crashing with a final round 83; now that speaks volumes. Is this the sort of stuff on which Europe should be pinning its Ryder Cup hopes?

Lee Westwood is currently ranked in fifth place. One is loath to look too closely at Westwood's recent play.

All that can be said is that he has routinely turned up with his clubs of late and routinely gone home again. He was obviously reluctant to leave home in the first place.

Westwood should take the rest of the year off and start all over again next year with a clean slate. Europe needs Westwood with his mind intact and his determination focused and this is currently clearly not the case. Concern about the Ryder Cup team composition is not new. The selection process may be considered fairer and more democratic than that for the Walker Cup, but does the team fairly represent the best of Europe? Clearly it does not.

Torrance is not unlikely to face a torrent of abuse irrespective of his Captain's picks. Should he take Garcia and Parnevik after their public expressions of indifference about the event he will be slated in some flag waving quarters.

Should he not include Olazabal, others will have something to say for he, more than any other is perceived to carry the Ballesteros spirit. It would certainly be inconceivable to mount a modern Ryder Cup team without including a Spaniard after all that has gone before.

In this respect, it is not unlikely that Garcia and Olazabal will be asked to carry the can. It is surely the case that Olazabal, Garcia, Parnevik and Woosnam should be representing European professional golf and that Fulke, Fasth and Price should not for they are simply not yet ready to carry that level of responsibility.

Playing the tour for a Ryder Cup place may be the meritorious and democratic way to team selection. It is certainly one way to attempt to keep the best at home and to encourage sponsorship for the Tour. But the system does produce anomalies and results in solid journeymen players making the team when the inspired hard men are what are required.

The selection system requires renovation and this may well follow in consequence of this year's Belfry event.

©    30 - JULY 2001

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