The race is on
Get excited: qualification for next year’s Ryder Cup has begun.
The course has been chosen, the captains selected and, at the start of this month’s Czech Masters, the race to represent Europe in the 2018 Ryder Cup will officially begin. It is an exciting time for our Continent’s top players and European captain Thomas Bjorn, who gets to see the qualifying tweaks he lobbied the European Tour Tournament Committee to pass in action. “I believe these new regulations will benefit the team in 2018 without compromising the strength or importance
of the European Tour,” says Bjorn. “These changes are the first step on the journey to regain the Ryder Cup. Hopefully they will help me to have the 12 best European players available.”
Of the new regulations, the first change was designed to ensure that every single membermembe of Europe’s team is in form in the run-up to the Ryder Cup. It sees a 50 per cent increase in the number of World Points List and European Points List points available to players between the 2018 BMW PGA Championship ata the end of May and the end of theth qualification race in late August or early September (the European Tour’s 2018 schedule is yet to be fully confirmed).
The second update is slightly more controversial, as it is less about the strength of the team and more about protecting the European Tour’s new big-money Rolex Series events. It states that no Ryder Cup points will be available at any tournament, anywhere in the world that clashes with a Rolex Series event in 2017 or 2018. This will damage the qualification bids of European stars who are predominantly US based, but on the flip side these players’ hopes of making the final 12 are boosted by the fact Bjorn has upped his captain’s wildcards from three to four. “You have to look at how the world of golf moves and try and adapt the system,” he explains the Dane. “I felt like an extra captain’s pick would help me pick somebody who was winning a worldwide event that wasn’t necessarily a Rolex or European Tour event.”
The new stars
Somebody like 22-year-old Spaniard Jon Rahm. The Arizona State University graduate was ranked 131st in the world when Europe and the United States last clashed. Now, he is in the world’s top 10 and a winner on both sides of the Atlantic. “The Ryder Cup is the ultimate goal in life for me,” he reveals. “It is every golfer’s dream... something I truly want to be a part of.”
Also somebody like Tommy Fleetwood. “I wish the Ryder Cup points could have started a few months ago,” smiles the 26-yearold, who so far in 2017 has won in Abu Dhabi, finished 4th in the US Open and jumped into the world’s top 20 after securing the HNA Open de France title over 2018 Ryder Cup course Le Golf National. “To win and show good golf on the course that the Ryder Cup is going to be on is a great omen,” he continues. “Hopefully I’ll be there.”
The US team
If Fleetwood and Rahm do make it, they’ll come face-to-face with a vibrant American side led by nine-time Ryder Cup veteran Jim Furyk. Like his opposite number, Furyk has begun his tenure by ushering in some modifications to his team’s qualifying process. The first of these amendments will see Furyk dish out his fourth and final wildcard after the PGA Tour’s 2018 BMW Championship rather than the season-ending Tour Championship, a week later. His second involves reducing the number of bonus points US players are awarded for making the cut at 2018’s major championships by 50 per cent, placing greater emphasis on
‘The cold fact of the matter is that the USA hasn’t won a years. “Some see that as a negative,” says captain Jim
winning PGA Tour events than merely contending in majors.”
The good news for Furyk is that 21 American players have won on the PGA Tour so far this season. The bad news is that the last time the US won in Europe was all the way back in 1993. “I am well aware of the fact that our team hasn’t won away from home in 25 years,” says Furyk. “Some people look at the negative, but I view this as an opportunity. We have some momentum and success under our belt from last time and one of our goals is to win on foreign soil rather than just at home.”
Strong words, but if Thomas Bjorn is concerned about Furyk’s intentions, he isn’t showing it. “I can’t do anything about what’s on the other side,” he smiles. “I have got to prepare myself and our players as well as I can, and that is what I am looking at.”
Ryder Cup on foreign soil for 25 Furyk. “To me it’s an opportunity”’