Ryder Cup Europe has announced some major changes to its qualifying process for the 2018 matches in Paris.
Following a 17-11 loss to the Americans at Hazeltine last October -- Europe's first loss since 2008 and only its third since 1999 – the Europeans are doing everything they can to help Captain Thomas Bjorn compile the best team possible for 2018.
Here are the major changes:
- Instead of three captain's picks, Bjorn will have four. The addition would have been welcomed for Russell Knox in 2016. The Scottish-born Knox was not a member of the European Tour when he won the 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions. He later won the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour in the summer of 2016 but was passed up by European Captain Darren Clarke in favor of Thomas Pieters, a player from Belgium who spent far more time competing in European Tour events.
- More points will be earned at events in the latter stages of qualifying to ensure that in-form players have a better chance of making the team. That would have been huge for Alex Noren in 2016. Instead, his late-season charge came too late to make the team.
- No Ryder Cup qualifying points can be earned at tournaments staged on the PGA Tour in the same weeks that the European Tour's newly introduced Rolex Series -- a group of eight events that will have enhanced status and prize money – are played. Previously, points were awarded to European Tour members at any event -- PGA Tour or otherwise -- where world ranking points were available. PGA Tour points still will be available to European Tour members if the events don’t conflict with the Rolex Series.
The 2017 Rolex Series consists of the BMW PGA Championship, the HNA Open de France, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation, the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the Italian Open, the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship.
Europe appears to be taking a page from the USA playbook with the revisions. Over the years, the U.S. has tweaked its process, going from no Captain's picks to two, to three and -- recently -- back and forth from three to four. The changes by Europe are an attempt to get the hottest players on the Paris squad.
Traditionally, the U.S. has closed its points race after the PGA Championship. In 2016, with the season's final major played earlier to accommodate the Olympics, players still could pick up points through the Barclays, a month before the start of the Cup.
Then, instead of making all the captain's picks after the Deutsche Bank Championship -- the second of the PGA Tour's four Playoffs events – U.S. Captain Davis Love III used just three of his picks. He saved his final pick for the end of the Tour Championship, which finished the Sunday of Ryder Cup week.
That proved beneficial for Ryan Moore, the final pick. Moore, who lost a scintillating four-hole playoff at the Tour Championship to Rory McIlroy, secured the Ryder Cup-clinching point for the USA seven days later.
New Ryder Cup USA Captain Jim Furyk could make changes to the qualifying process for the USA this time around, though nothing has been announced yet. Should any changes be made, it's likely to be announced before the start of the WGC-Mexico Championship in the first week of March.
Two other stipulations -- not points related – have been reaffirmed or put in place by Europe:
1. As has been the case for years, Ryder Cup Europe players must be members of the European Tour. England's Paul Casey (a three-time Ryder Cup participant) was playing well toward the end of 2016 on the PGA Tour but deemed ineligible for the Cup team because of his failure to take on European Tour membership.
2. From 2018 onward, players cannot be a future Ryder Cup captain or vice-captain if they decline membership of the European Tour or fail to fulfill the minimum obligation of playing at least four events on tour each season.
The qualification process for 2018 Ryder Cup Europe begins at the Czech Masters in Prague from Aug. 31-Sept. 3, 2017. The 2018 Ryder Cup will be played Sept. 28-30, 2018, at the Albatros Course of Le Golf National, a staple on the European Tour and host venue of the Open de France, the oldest national open in Continental Europe.
The U.S. has not won a Ryder Cup on foreign soil since 1993.
WATCH BELOW: Jim Furyk named 2018 Ryder Cup USA Captain