Long race for European Ryder Cup unnecessary

European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie received his Captain's Golf Buggy in August.

European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie received his Captain's Golf Buggy in August.

On your marks, get set, crawl!

The runners are off in the European Ryder Cup race. The starter’s pistol echoed through the mountains overlooking Crans-sur-Sierre, venue for this week’s Omega European Masters.

The only problem is, hardly anyone heard the gun go off Sept. 3 as the European Masters got underway, the first tournament in the European Ryder Cup points race.

Talk about milking something to death. We need to wait another year before we find out the nine players who make the European Team on merit. This is a marathon, not the quick sprint it should be.

I bet two weeks, a month, even three months from now you could walk into any clubhouse in Europe and ask any handicap golfer if he or she knows who’s atop the European Ryder Cup standings and you’ll get a blank response.

This is one race that is many laps too long. It’s a race that should start next year and take about six months instead of a year.

Only four tournaments between now and the end of the year have any real chance of impinging on the eventual points list. And one of those could throw a huge wrench into the plans of European captain Colin Montgomerie.

The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Barclays Singapore Open both come with purses of $5 million. The WGC-HSBC Champions event carries a prize fund of $7 million. Anyone who wins one of these events will do wonders for his chances of playing in the Ryder Cup.

However, the Dubai World Championship will have an even bigger bearing on who makes the team. If the announced prize fund of $10 million survives the credit crunch that is decimating Dubai, then the winner of that championship is virtually guaranteed a place on the European team.

Montgomerie has written down the 12 players he wants to captain next year. He has the list locked away safely in a drawer at his home in Scotland.

I bet the names Danny Willett (60), David Drysdale (59), Christian Cevaer (58), Gareth Maybin (56), Oskar Henningsson (54), Jeppe Huldahl (53) and Damien McGrane (52) are not on that list. Yet one of the seven could conceivably find himself on the team if he happens to have the week of his life and win the Dubai World Championship.

The top 60 players qualify to play in Dubai, and right now, the seven players above are in the field for the European Tour’s final event of 2009 over the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. (The numbers beside the names above designate their positions in the Race to Dubai.)

No disrespect to the seven players, but they are hardly Ryder Cup material at this point in their careers. Yet with one good week they could find themselves facing the United States at Celtic Manor next year.

Imagine if one of those players does win in Dubai and then fails to back it up next year. It would mean Monty going to Celtic Manor with 11 strong players and one weak link.

The best way to put together a strong Ryder Cup team isn’t over a 12-month period. Form going into the match is all-important, which is why the race should start, say, in April with the Masters and end as close to the match date as possible.

Actually the best way to decide a team is to give the captain 12 picks, which is what Montgomerie has always wanted. Imagine telling Manchester United manager Sir Alec Ferguson or New York Yankees boss Joe Girardi that they couldn’t pick their starting line ups?

We’d actually get a better idea of how good Ryder Cup captains were if they had to pick all twelve players. Of course that isn’t going to happen. Despite Monty’s desire for 12 picks instead of three, the European Tour needs as many reasons to get players to play in Europe as possible.

A 12-month Ryder Cup race isn’t exciting. This is one race that won’t heat up until about July next year. Until then it is just a slow, tedious crawl.

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