Sweden’s Jesper Parnevik and England’s Luke Donald have surrendered their 2004 PGA European Tour membership, and with it any hope of playing in this September’s Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills.
Because both Parnevik (No. 121) and Donald (No. 81) currently rank outside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, neither will gain exemptions into this year’s majors. Neither will they earn entry into the three World Golf Championships events, which are counted as European Tour events and help European Tour players who compete outside of Europe to meet the 11-event minimum required to keep tour membership. A player must be a European Tour member to be eligible for the European Ryder Cup team.
“Well they have this 11-tournament rule this year and there’s no way I can, even if I went over after the U.S. Open and played three months straight, it would still be too tough of a schedule,” Parnevik said.
Parnevik, who played the last three Ryder Cups as a captain’s pick, has been a mainstay for a European team that has captured two of the last three matches.
When Parnevik’s game slipped (the past two seasons he has finished 63rd and 118th on the PGA Tour money list), his world ranking fell along with it. He started this year ranked 197th, but already has four top 10s this year and is 42nd in earnings.
The rule requiring European Tour membership as a requirement to be on the European Ryder Cup team was one of the changes made last May to the Ryder Cup qualification process.
At the same time the tournament committee included the Official World Golf Ranking in the qualification process. The first five players on the European team are eligible from a list of world ranking points. The next five come from a European money list that started last September. Bernhard Langer also has two captain’s picks.
Last week during the British Masters, the tournament committee met to discuss the changes instituted last year and unanimously upheld the changes including the 11-event minimum.
“The likes of Luke Donald has always set his stall out to play on the U.S. Tour,” said Lee Westwood, who favors dropping the 11-event requirement. “Why should he be penalized for doing that and living his dream, and not being able to play in the Ryder Cup?
“He considers himself English, he plays out of England and has an English flag on his golf bag. I thought the idea was to put out our best side. If he qualifies through getting enough World Ranking points but not playing 11 events in Europe, or counting on the European Tour, I think it would be a shame.”
Darren Clarke disagreed.
“It’s unfortunate for Europe because Jesper and Luke are very, very strong players,” Clarke said. “But they do need to exhibit a commitment to the European Tour in some shape or form if they want to be part of the Ryder Cup team.”
Donald, a former Walker Cup standout in his third year on the PGA Tour, has not played in a Ryder Cup. In fact, he has played few European Tour events, but he wanted to keep his card in Europe and have a chance to play in his first Ryder Cup this fall.
“I’m in exactly the same boat he is,” Donald said of Parnevik. “I’d love to play a Ryder Cup, but if I’m not in the top 50 in the world rankings, there’s no way I can even think about playing 11 events in Europe.”
Both Donald and Parnevik have talked to Langer, and though Langer is sympathetic to the plight of both players, he is powerless to do anything.
“He’s disappointed he can’t pick the team he wants,” Parnevik said of Langer. “You could have guys that could actually win five times from here through the rest of the year and still not make it.”
However, the European Tour released a statement after the tournament committee met last week stating, “Bernhard Langer has been at one with the Tournament Committee on this decision making and, furthermore, he would like it to be known that any suggestion that he has approached the Ryder Cup Policy Board about relaxing the 11-event rule is totally incorrect.”
Spain’s Sergio Garcia has partnered with Parnevik in the last two Ryder Cups. Though he doesn’t have a problem keeping his European Tour card, he is disappointed by the loss of Parnevik.
“It’s going to be hard not to see him there,” said Garcia. “More than anything, if he plays well enough to qualify it’s going to be something pretty painful.”