Ryder Cup qualification begins in Moscow
With 394 days to go before the first ball is struck at Hazeltine National in The 2016 Ryder Cup, the race to qualify for the European side kicks off at this week's M2M Russian Open.
Over the next 12 months, the race will traverse the globe and it is Skolkovo Golf Club, on the outskirts of Moscow, that has the honour of hosting the first counting event towards playing in a side to be captained by European Tour legend Darren Clarke.
"I am delighted that we are getting qualification for the 2016 European Ryder Cup team under way,” said the Northern Irishman, who was unveiled as European captain on February 18.
"This signals the start of what I know will be an intense and exciting period for me personally and for everyone involved with The European Tour." - Darren Clarke
Next year's Made in Denmark tournament, to be staged from August 25-28, 2016, will be the final counting event after a qualification process which will be operating under the same system employed for the 2014 edition.
To recap, that means the first four players bound for Hazeltine National in Minnesota in September 2016 will come from The Ryder Cup European Points List – based around points gained from events on The European Tour’s Race to Dubai – with the next five players coming from The Ryder Cup World Points List – based around Official World Golf Ranking points gained globally.
That will leave Clarke the task of choosing three wild cards to complete The 2016 European team in the days after the conclusion of the 2016 Made in Denmark tournament.
“The qualification period is a truly global affair now and many of the players that will make the team will do so by playing in many tournaments around the world,” added Clarke.
“However, as I said when I was announced as captain, I’m focused on assembling the best team possible to represent Europe and I think this system gives me the opportunity to do just that.”
Two players with prior experience of competing in the revered transatlantic clash have made the trip to Russia for the opening event of the 2016 points race, namely Dane Søren Hansen and Italy's Edoardo Molinari, and the latter says the memories of his Ryder Cup debut in the 2010 edition of the event still burn bright.
"The Ryder Cup is a very unique experience," said Molinari, who won one point from three matches in Wales five years ago. "Especially so in golf, because we don't get to play a lot of team events. It has so much history and tradition and the environment is like nothing else. The atmosphere is unreal.
"I have very fond memories of Celtic Manor, obviously playing together with Francesco was a highlight of the week, and hopefully one day I can be back on the team because it is very special."