Should Europe have Ryder Cup wild cards?October, 2011
A former European captain and NCG's editor debate the issue
YES, says former Ryder Cup captain Bernard Gallacher
THE reason Tony Jacklin wanted wild cards in the first place was that a number of our top players were playing in America and it wasn’t easy to qualify them through the European system.
We didn’t really have an accurate world ranking system then and when I came along that was still the case.
The world ranking system now is pretty fair and up to date and I feel there really is no case these days for having wild cards – it was brought in to help the likes of Seve, Faldo, Olazabal and Woosnam as they were playing a lot in the States.
With the Race to Dubai and world ranking system I don’t think there is a very strong case for having any picks, you might have one in case someone gets ill but I would go for six players from the European list and six from the World list. A captain wants the players to qualify, he wants them to strive to make the team and to make his job as easy as possible.
The reason the Americans have wild cards is that we were beating them with our selection process and they wanted to change things. So they now have four whereas next year Jose Maria will have two.
Colin Montgomerie had one of the toughest tasks last year when he left out Paul Casey and Justin Rose but he shouldn’t have had that dilemma. At the outset he said he wanted more wild cards so I had to have a wry smile as, when it came down to it, Colin discovered that it is one of the most difficult decisions to make.
It is a personal choice, it is one guy over another and it should be the players’ choice. If the player is good enough and playing well they should qualify and make the team.
I really don’t get the thinking of having more wild cards, or even 12 straight picks.
Some captains don’t want to have to make difficult choices but there’s no need for any, the system should work out the team and the captain should then be able to just get on with it.
It is a professional sport and it is unprofessionalism to have wild cards. You want to lay down the ground rules like getting into the Masters or Open Championship, and it is then simple. Everyone knows the rules and, if you don’t get in, you have no gripe.
The hardest decision I had to make was to leave out Eamonn Darcy in 1991, he failed to make the team by a few pounds and then didn’t play in the last counting event in Germany. I just felt that everyone else was there, playing their heart out and I just thought that one of them should get a pick. It became a very inexperienced side at Kiawah Island so I went for Mark James instead. Then picking Faldo and Woosnam in 1995 was never going to be very difficult.
But, as I said, things have changed since those days.
• Bernard Gallacher is an ambassador for Golf Care, the UK’s No.1 specialist golf insurer. Visit www.golfcare.co.uk
Some captains don’t want to have to make difficult choices but there’s no need for any, the system should work out the team.
NO, says Dan Murphy – the problem is a fiddly qualifying system
CALL me a purist, but, as I understand it, the European Tour’s role in the Ryder Cup is to get the strongest possible European team together.
And little more than a year ago, we went to Celtic Manor without the man then ranked sixth in the world, Paul Casey. You might also argue that Justin Rose deserved a place, but let’s stick with Casey for the moment.
There were reasons why Casey did not qualify automatically, and also reasons Colin Montgomerie did not award him a wild card. But if you were picking the team on merit, I do not see how Casey would not be a part of it.
In other words, the qualifying system is flawed. And no matter that it has since been tweaked, it will be flawed for next year’s match at Medinah as well.
Because our team play all over the world, on different tours, in different events and in different continents, any attempt to compare their performance is to some degree apples and pears.
So, if you have faith in the captain, and he, after all, is the man who will put together the pairings and stand or fall by the result, then why not let him pick the team as well?
If he wants a team of Spaniards, that’s up to him. If he wants to go with the best performers in the most recent Majors, so be it.
But in reality, that is not going to happen. Does anyone really think that Jose Maria Olazabal would do anything other than pick what he believed were the 12 best players in Europe?
That Montgomerie would leave out a Lee Westwood or a Rory McIlroy or a Luke Donald. Of course they wouldn’t.
Because they want to win.
This way, they would have a team in which, by definition, they were happy with every single player.
It might not be the exact 12 that you would choose, or that I would, but it would be the one the captain, selected by his peers for his expertise let us not forget, would happily stand or fall by.
The European Tour are currently engaged in a balancing act, if not a conflict of interests.
In an ideal world, the organisation responsible for looking after the continent’s main professional tour would not also be in charge of the Ryder Cup team.
Wearing their Ryder Cup hat, they know as well as the rest of us that most of our best players spend a decent proportion, often the majority, of their seasons not playing in European Tour events. And what does that matter?
But wearing their European Tour hat, they want to encourage the best players to stick with the tour and show that you can get on to Ryder Cup teams without having to play extensively in America.
Don’t hold your breath, the qualifying system will not go away. Just don’t expect that it will necessarily produce the strongest possible side.