Two weeks ago, I wrote a piece for “It's Your Honor” in which I said the difference between the PGA Tour and other major sports is that the tour rewards a player for what he's doing now, whereas other sports’ guaranteed contracts reward a player for what he’s done in the past (“It’s Your Honor,” August 21 GGP). The selection of Justin Thomas to the U.S. Ryder Cup team shoots a big hole in that comparison (“No apologies: Struggling Thomas makes Ryder Cup team,” August 29, GGP+).
Let’s face it: The Ryder Cup has become a fraternity in which popularity overshadows accomplishments. Keegan Bradley (two) and Lucas Glover (two) have between them three more wins in the past 12 months than Thomas (zero), Jordan Spieth (zero) and Rickie Fowler (one) combined. It also figured that, regardless of performance for the rest of the year, those three would be all in when they were pictured together this summer at Wimbledon.
I suggest three options for the future:
1. Eliminate points and let the captain pick all 12 players. Not a big change because it's halfway there at six and six. Have no eligibility criteria for the captain or the players. The Ryder Cup is “owned” by the PGA of America, but U.S. captain Zach Johnson never won the PGA. In fact, there is only one PGA Championship victory among the captain and his five vice captains (Davis Love III). Neither of the two most recent U.S. captains, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk, won the PGA. (Meanwhile, Larry Nelson, who won two PGAs and a U.S. Open and served in the Army in Vietnam, never got even a sniff. But that’s another story.) Let the PGA of America turn the Ryder Cup, except for the revenue, over to the PGA Tour. Make it all a popularity contest.
2. Create a points vehicle that adjusts the weighting of the tour events and go back to making the top 10 on that list automatic qualifiers. That would reward someone for working his tail off and not being bumped because he’s not a member of the fraternity. It still would give the captain two wild cards.
3. Create a hybrid. Just by the size of the purse, the PGA Tour sees its season-ending Tour Championship as its biggest prize. If it’s that important, why not make performance in it count toward the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup? Keep the six automatic qualifiers, but slots 7-10 would be filled by the highest finishers in the Tour Championship who are not in the top six. That still would leave the captain with two wild cards.
At the very least, create criteria for selecting a captain. Then maybe a Larry Nelson would be in the mix.
Golf is supposed to be a gentleperson’s game, not an Al Davis “just win, baby” event. It's weird rooting for someone one week and a month later rooting against him, even though he lives in the United States. Maybe Rory McIlroy was right in 2009 when he said the Ryder Cup is just “an exhibition game.”
I would like to see the Ryder Cup return to what it used to be: a friendly exhibition.
The tribal rivalry that has developed has overtaken the event and is, for me, a bit contrived. All of the focus on captain’s picks, strategy, unruly galleries, etc., is tiresome.
Any captain should be quite happy with a team composed of the top 12 in the points list, and a suitable reward for those who qualified over a very long season. Whether they play well or not cannot be predicted, and is beside the point.
On the other hand, a Justin Thomas pick will be seen by many as orchestrated by his buddy Tiger Woods, adding to the lack of transparency and increasing elitism of the PGA Tour.
On my previous recommendation to make the minimum loft of a driver 22 degrees (“It’s Your Honor,” July 24 GGP), I smiled while watching the final round of the Tour Championship. The announcers were reporting the players using that loft in order to avoid the bunkers. The tee shots were in the range of 245-255 yards. Longer courses or a tour ball not needed.
Pace of play: If the PGA Tour could offer the entire field a disincentive to go over an agreed to pace of play, it would encourage all players and not penalize a single competitor. The “disincentive” could be for every minute over the agreed pace of play, 1 percent of the purse is returned to the sponsor. This could be made up the next day with swifter play. You would have all ready to go such as how eventual winner Viktor Hovland was right after Xander Schauffele hit his approach shot on the 18th.
Orange Park, Florida
None of my golf-nut friends, including me, likes the FedEx Cup scoring with the leader starting the Tour Championship at 10-under.
How about this for a thought: Starting with Memphis at 70 players down to 50 at BMW and the final 30 at East Lake, why not have the winner be the player with the lowest cumulative score for those three tournaments? 216 holes should identify the best player to win the FedEx Cup.
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