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Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Euros Begin Their Ryder Cup Race

At the time I'm writing this, the final round of the M2M Russian Open hasn't begun -- Lee Slattery has a two-stroke lead, in case you're interested -- but it will likely be underway by the time you read this post

13th Fairway at the Skolkovo Gofl Club

However, the M2M Russian Open isn't a huge event. It doesn't have an all-star field. It doesn't have a huge purse.

What it DOES have are the first Ryder Cup points to be awarded to European Tour players.

Now, here in America that may sound a bit strange. For example, Jordan Spieth already has 5,306.789 points (he's our leading points getter so far) after 8 events. Dustin Johnson is in second place with 2,396.366 points. I don't claim to understand why we have points calculated to three decimal points, but there it is. My point is that we've already been awarding Ryder Cup points for quite some time now.

Yet the European team -- which most Americans believe eat, drink and sleep Ryder Cup -- is only beginning to award points this week. And when you realize that several of the events coming up are Race to Dubai playoffs -- which means only certain European players will compete -- it becomes clear that the Europeans approach Ryder Cup qualifying much differently than we do in America.

Is there any evidence that one approach yields a better team than the other? Not necessarily. Although the Euro team has played better over the last few Ryder Cups, I think that's just a matter of the US team wanting it too much. But it does raise an interesting question: Do you get a better team by accruing points over a longer period or a shorter period?

And here's something else to consider.
  • The Ryder Cup European Points List only provides four of the participants. Another five come from the Ryder Cup World Points List, which is based on OWGR points gained globally, and the other three are Captain Darren Clarke's wild card picks.
  • The US Ryder Cup Points List is based totally on the PGA Tour Official Money List (one point for each $1000) with an early focus on the majors. Nine players come from that, and the other three from Captain Davis Love's picks.
Perhaps the US team might want to put more value on having team members who play around the world rather than just on the PGA Tour. Perhaps playing on a variety of course conditions in many countries might be better preparation for an international competition where half of the events are played in other countries on a variety of course conditions.

Especially since this plan of attack hasn't helped the US team very much, even when playing on our own turf.

And perhaps that's why the Euro team takes five of its members from the OWGR, which includes events played in other parts of the world where their own tour doesn't go, and only four members from events played on its own tour -- which is also why they can afford to accrue points over a shorter time and begin at a smaller venue like the M2M Russian Open.

I'm just saying...