Originally created 09/05/01

Europe doesn't need any help



The Ryder Cup is three weeks away, and Europe already is complaining that an outdated selection process keeps it from fielding its best team.

Europe seems to be doing just fine, no matter which 12 players take on the Americans. For some reason, most of the focus this year is on who won't be at The Belfry.

Jose Maria Olazabal, who has accounted for 15 1/2 points in six Ryder Cup matches, was not selected to the team for the first time since 1985.

Former Masters champion Ian Woosnam played well enough to make the team on his own, except that his caddie failed to notice a 15th club in the bag at the British Open. The two-stroke penalty might have kept Woosie out of the top 10.

Miguel Angel Jimenez finished 12th in the standings. He might have been a captain's pick given his strong play at Brookline, but Sam Torrance only had two selections and took the highest-ranked players available - Sergio Garcia (No. 7 in the world rankings) and Jesper Parnevik (No. 22).

"It's pretty bad when we have to use a wild card to pick the No. 7 player in the world," Nick Faldo said.

With more top Europeans spending more time in the United States, several players are demanding that the system be changed. Instead of taking the top 10 based on European tour earnings and two captain's picks, suggestions range from taking the top 12 in the world ranking to giving Europe additional picks.

"We need our best 12 players to beat the Americans," said Bernhard Langer, the only European who played a heavy PGA Tour schedule and still earned his way on the team.

"The system has to change with the times," he said. "At the moment, it favors guys who play 35 times in Europe. We need the best players, not those who play the most."

Save the sympathy.

The last anyone checked, Europe has held the upper hand in the Ryder Cup since it won in 1985 to end 50 years of American dominance. It has gone home with the 19-inch gold chalice five times in the last eight matches.

It could have been seven out of eight except for two putts - a 6-footer that Langer missed in 1991 and a 45-footer that Justin Leonard made in 1999.

Change Europe's selection process to make it fair? The Europeans have managed to get by just fine.

Two years ago, they had seven rookies on the squad and were beating the tar out of the Yankees until captain Mark James' tactical error. He planted three guys who had never played a Ryder Cup match into the heart of the lineup, allowing the Americans to build momentum that reached a crescendo when Leonard made his miracle putt.

The last time Europe had three captain's picks was in 1985. The result was a 16 1/2 -11 1/2 victory over the Americans, its biggest rout in Ryder Cup history.

Even U.S. captain Curtis Strange has bought into Europe's so-called misery.

"Hopefully, they will revamp their entire system to where they have the best 12 players every Ryder Cup in the future," Strange said.

If the world rankings had been used, then Olazabal would have replaced Phillip Price, but just barely. The same scenario likely would have played out if Torrance had an extra captain's pick.

Europe now has nothing to lose. If the United States retains the cup, Europe can always blame the system and claim it was prevented from fielding its best team.

The reason so many players want the selection process revamped is because of money. Garcia, Parnevik, Olazabal, Langer and Jimenez spent most of their time in the United States playing for prize money twice as great as they can find in Europe.

John Daly won the BMW International Open and earned about $270,000. That's third-place money in most PGA Tour events.

The European PGA wants to keep the system the way it is to avoid even greater defections to the United States. Now, there is an incentive to play more in Europe because it helps a player's chances of making the Ryder Cup team.

To rely exclusively on the world rankings - and by the way, more ranking points are available in United States - could mark the end of the European tour. To allow for an additional captain's pick or more would be unfair to the players who earned their way on the team.

To do anything now would be a mistake.

One suggestion is to take the top six players from the European tour money list and the next six from the world rankings.

But wait until Europe really needs it.

Torrance, at least publicly, has no qualms about the system. When asked if he favors an overhaul of the way Europe selects its Ryder Cup team, his answer was telling.

"When we win back the cup, we'll reassess it."