Ryder Cup Logo Ryder Cup: Team USASeptember 22-24 2006, The K Club, Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland
Story Image Brett Wetterich has played his way into Ryder Cup contention. (Photo: Getty Images)

Talking Points

While some critics already are arguing to reevaluate the U.S. Ryder Cup points system, AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson believes we should see how this year plays out before any changes to the procedure are contemplated.

Doug Ferguson, AP Golf Writer
August 01, 2006

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Two players who will be wearing U.S. uniforms at the Ryder Cup won tournaments last week, a development that would have thrilled Tom Lehman except for one minor detail.

They were his assistant captains.

Corey Pavin won his first PGA Tour event in 10 years at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee. Across the ocean, Loren Roberts captured the Senior British Open in a playoff at Turnberry.

Both are expected to be carrying radios, not golf clubs, at The K Club in September. As for the 12 Americans who will try to end two decades of European dominance, that remains a work in progress.

There is no shortage of suggestions how to fix a new selection process that some see as a big problem, although shouldn't we wait until the matches are over before deciding whether it's broken?

This is the 21st time the criteria for the U.S. team has been changed since the Ryder Cup began in 1927, either an overhaul or minor adjustment. What the PGA of America did this time was reward those playing the best golf in the year leading up to the matches. The current year was worth four times as many points, majors counted double and there was a 75-point bonus for winning.

It sounded good on paper. But it supposedly became a question when Brett Wetterich got hot in May, winning in Dallas and finishing second at the Memorial.

J.J. Henry, who previously tied for second in Phoenix (seven shots behind) and tied for fourth in Atlanta (14 shots behind), then won in Hartford and climbed all the way to No. 7.

And then two weeks ago, John Rollins cracked the top 10 by winning against an ultra-weak field at the B.C. Open, earning more points than Chris DiMarco got for finishing second to Tiger Woods at the British Open.

Even the captain has his doubts about the new system.

The PGA of America awards points only through 10 places on the PGA Tour. Because of the burgeoning number of international players on tour, Lehman has been keeping his own chart the last two years that lists only how the top 10 Americans fared.

"With 90-plus international players, the downfall is that all of our points don't get given out," Lehman said. "Some weeks, there are three American players in the top 10. Sometimes, it's five or seven. No weeks are all in the top 10. There's a huge difference when you include the top 10 Americans versus just top 10."

Pebble Beach winner Arron Oberholser is 18th in the Ryder Cup standings. But if he were awarded points compared with other Americans in the field, he would be No. 7. One spot behind him would be Stewart Cink, who is 19th in the real standings.

That, too, sounds good on paper.

But it's not like the international players showed up overnight. The PGA of America considered foreign influence when it revamped the points system in 2004, and President Roger Warren came to a sound conclusion.

"The reason we reward points in the top 10 is it becomes difficult to look at a player who finishes 24th and 25th," Warren said. "And if there's a lot of European players in the field, those are the players they're going to compete against in the Ryder Cup."

If the Americans can't beat these guys during the season, why should they get points? So they can lose to them in the Ryder Cup?

The last thing golf needs is for mediocrity to be rewarded.

"Play harder. Play better," Warren said, and he sure didn't invent that clich?.

If we learn on Sept. 25 that the system is broken, there are a couple of alternatives.

One is to use raw world ranking points (very little math involved). Not only would that account for the strength of the field, it would award points beyond the top 10; 11th place would get a fraction less than 10th, instead of nothing. Europe uses this format to determine five of its 10 selections.

The second option is to use PGA Tour earnings. The most important tournaments have the largest purses, and the range of other PGA Tour events is $4 million to about $6 million, not enough to skew the standings. Opposite-field events only pay out $3 million.

The problem? That's how the Presidents Cup team is selected.

The only other choice is to allow Lehman to pick his entire team -- that's right, 12 captain's picks. Put your best guys on the field.

To help Lehman along, or perhaps to annoy him, 18 golf writers were asked to select who they thought were the 12 best Americans to play in the Ryder Cup.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, David Toms and Chris DiMarco were named on every ballot, while Chad Campbell and Scott Verplank were named on 16 ballots. The rest of the team was Cink, Zach Johnson, Fred Couples and Davis Love III, with Oberholser and Lucas Glover tied for the 12th spot with nine votes each.

That team sounds as good as any.

Henry received two votes, Wetterich got one and Rollins got zero.

Then again, Love and his experience (he has played every Ryder Cup since 1993) was left off the ballot by eight writers, and there were a total of 27 players mentioned on the 18 teams.

Even though they were not tied to a point system, more than one writer came to this conclusion while struggling to fill out the final four spots on the 12-man team.

"We're going to get hammered, aren't we?"

Maybe. But if the Americans win, the new points system undoubtedly will be the best ever.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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