Golf: Europe retains Ryder status quo

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The Independent Online
Hardly a day went by prior to the last Ryder Cup when someone did not call for a change in the European team selection procedure. As Andy Farrell reports, the winning, and whining, formula remains largely unchanged.

Seve Ballesteros, the victorious Ryder Cup captain, may have got everything his own way at Valderrama, but he has failed in his attempt to change the selection procedure for the European team to defend the Cup in Brookline in 20 months' time.

In his letter of resignation as captain to the Ryder Cup Committee, Ballesteros called for points to be collected only in the year of the match, for only the top 15 in each tournament to earn points and for the captain to have four wild card choices. None of those proposals have been accepted. Instead, the Cup Committee has endorsed the views of the players' own Tournament Committee and the European Tour's board of directors for the system of 10 automatic qualifying places and two wild cards to remain.

Since Europe has won the last two matches , it has proved a winning formula. It has also been a whining formula. Such was the disquiet last year a ballot on whether Ballesteros should be given more picks mid-term was ruled out only on legal grounds.

One change in the regulations requires the two wild card picks to be members of the European tour. This would have ruled out Jesper Parnevik, a member of the US Tour, last year.

However, players who qualify for all four major championships and the three new World Championship events in 1999 will be able to include them in their minimum of 11 tournaments needed for tour membership. Such a player need only then play in four other tour events.

Prize-money from the new World Matchplay Championship in February 1999 will be counted for Ryder Cup points, and for the first time from '99 money from the US Open, the USPGA and all the World Championship events will be included on the European Order of Merit.

By keeping the basic system, the Cup Committee have left themselves open for a repeat of the scenario last year whereby a player, Miguel Angel Martin, due to lack of form and injury, made only one cut in the last three months of the qualifying. Ballesteros's successor will be announced prior to the start of the qualifying period in September.