News & Opinion

U.S. needs world view of Ryder points list

Golf is one of the most global of games. The sport’s expansion worldwide during the past 20 years has been exponential and continues to develop.

With the advent of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986, the World Golf Championships in 1999 and golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016, the game increases in popularity worldwide.

The PGA Tour and PGA of America have recognized golf’s growth but unfortunately have ignored the game’s worldwide popularity with American players in determining Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. That’s especially significant as the 42nd Ryder Cup, to be played Sept. 28-30 at Le Golf National near Paris, draws near.

In years past, American professionals were not known for playing extensively overseas, other than the British Open and WGC events. More recently, many Americans have seen the benefits of playing overseas. 

Justin Thomas was among five Americans who played the HNA French Open, and Matt Kuchar, Luke List, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed were among the 12 Yanks who competed in the Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

In last week’s Porsche European Open on the European Tour, Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed were among seven Americans competing in Germany. The Ryder Cup points inequity came to the forefront on Saturday night when DeChambeau was leading after 54 holes. Although he faded to a tie for 13th on Sunday, DeChambeau would not have accumulated any U.S. Ryder Cup points whether he had won or finished last. Results in overseas tournaments that are not on the PGA Tour schedule do not count for Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup points (Ryder Cup list).

When informed of this issue in the past, the PGA of America, which administers the Ryder Cup, has maintained that the captain can take a player’s overseas results into account when making his four captain’s picks.

But why should a player who clearly is playing well enough to earn a spot have to rely on a captain’s pick?

Phil Mickelson ran into a similar situation in 2014. After he tied for second at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship on the European Tour in January, he struggled on the PGA Tour into mid-summer, failing to record a top-10 result and falling outside of the automatic qualifiers – it was the top nine then – on the Ryder Cup points list. He had only the PGA Championship left to accumulate enough points to make the team.

Fortunately for Mickelson, he tied for second at the year’s final major championship, earning a spot on the team and not needing a pick by captain Tom Watson.

Mickelson surely would have made the team as an at-large selection, but why should Watson have been forced to use a pick when Mickelson should have earned it if his total resumé had been considered?

In 2004, the European Tour instituted two points lists: world and European. The tour recognized that its players compete worldwide, with many dividing their time between the PGA and European tours.

In the biennial Presidents Cup, which is administered by the PGA Tour and played in years opposite the Ryder Cup, even the International team uses a points list that considers players’ participation and success outside of the PGA Tour.

It’s clearly time for the PGA Tour and PGA of America to address this inequity.  

The best team should be part of any Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. More importantly, a player should qualify for the team based on his play worldwide and not have to trust that a captain will pick him.

Alex Miceli is the founder and publisher of Morning Read. Email: alex@morningread.com; Twitter: @AlexMiceli