The ET finally announced the changes to its team selection process for the next Ryder Cup.
To be honest, there weren't any surprises. And I didn't expect any.
Most of the changes simply brought their process into line with the current US selection process, which is pretty much standard. It happens frequently -- either the US changes to match Europe, or vice versa -- sometimes because the other side wins, but often because a new problem in the process is exposed. Nothing stays the same forever, after all.
At the last Cup, Europe ended up with a large number of rookies, who didn't perform as well as I expected. The recent explosion of young players caused this unexpected turn of events, so the increase in Captain's picks from three to four (matching the current US process) just makes good sense. We needed to give the Captain a bit more flexibility in configuring the team, and now Thomas will have the same.
Just as a side note, this number has gone up and down repeatedly for both sides over the years. As I said earlier, little adjustments have been common as the teams have searched for the best compromise -- in this case, to balance "earned" spots with "felt need" spots.
Last time, the big change for the US team came with the establishment of the Ryder Cup Committee, to increase the players' voice in the choice of Captains and such. This "leveled the field" somewhat, as the Europeans had handled things that way for years. The big change for the Euro team this time is the change in requirements for European Tour membership, which have been lessened by one tournament and should help the Euros better match the US selection process.
While the reasons are probably clear to my Euro readers, they may be lost on my US readers. Simply put, the US team has full access to all our potential players because we don't have the Tour membership restriction. For example, if Jim Furyk decides he wants Peter Uihlein on our team next time, even though he's a European Tour member, he just makes him a Captain's pick.
Personally, I'd like to see the Euro team given the same freedom but I understand why they don't. They're concerned with keeping players on the Euro Tour -- there are good financial reasons for that -- but it does limit them. Because of that restriction, players such as Paul Casey and Carl Petterson aren't currently eligible for the Cup because they play the PGA Tour. Reducing the number of ET events they would have to play in order to be eligible makes dual membership less burdensome for those willing to try. (Remember, it's not just the number of events; it's the increased air travel for US-based ET players.)
You can read the full text of the changes at this link to rydercup.com and in this summary of the changes at cbssports.com.