The race is on

Get ex­cited: qual­i­fi­ca­tion for next year’s Ry­der Cup has be­gun.

Golf World (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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”’

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