PGA Tour

Next job for Ryder Cup task force?

2015-03-04 09:05
Phil Mickelson (AFP)

Doral - Now that players on the task force have solved their Ryder Cup problems, the next job is to repair damage to their own tour.

One week ago, Davis Love III was introduced as the next U.S. captain for the 2016 matches at Hazeltine. That was the decision from an 11-member Ryder Cup Task Force, five of them active players on the PGA Tour, who shared other results from their two meetings.

Love was the right choice.

Requiring two of the assistant captains to already have been Ryder Cup captains can't hurt. Waiting until five days before the opening match to make the final captain's pick? That doesn't make much sense, though whoever it is can make it a moot point by making a bunch of putts.

Where the task force failed was in the qualifying process.

Majors still count double for each year. And there's nothing wrong with offering a half-point for every $1 000 to the 30 Americans at Doral this week for a World Golf Championship. It will be the same for the other three WGCs and The Players Championship. And then next year, it's a full point for all PGA Tour events.

But that's next year, not next season.

Left out of the equation were the five tournaments in the fall that kick off the 2015-16 season. All offer full FedEx Cup points. Augusta National recognizes them by offering a spot in the Masters to the winners.

Phil Mickelson, however, made them sound like second-class citizens when he eagerly explained the reasoning.

He mentioned how top players would be competing just about every week this summer through two majors, a WGC, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Presidents Cup, and then they would stop for a break just as the new season was getting started.

"If you count money for those last three or four months, you're giving the bottom half of the tour a three-month head start over ultimately the top guys," Mickelson said.

Never mind that these "top guys" have failed to win the Ryder Cup seven of the last nine times.

Two of those fall events had fields that were as strong or stronger than five tournaments in the "regular" part of the season last year. Mickelson probably didn't realize this because he has never played in any of them.

Ryder Cup points are based on money. Did anyone on the task force realize that all but one of those "bottom half" fall events offered more money this season than the opening three events in January, and a total of eight tournaments in the "regular" season?

That's what prompted Duke Butler, president of the Open, to send a letter of appeal of PGA of America chief Pete Bevacqua. The Open won't count toward the Ryder Cup in October, even though Rory McIlroy is expected to play.

Butler doesn't understand the concept of a head start, not when only 30 Americans are at Doral, and that's the highest U.S. representation of all the WGCs.

Justin Thomas isn't in them. Neither is Daniel Berger, who lost in a playoff at the Honda Classic. Brooks Koepka might not be on the PGA Tour right now if not for the Open in 2013, where he tied for third behind Walker. They are part of a growing group of young Americans who might soon take over the tour.

"I don't understand it," said Adam Sperling, tournament director of the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. "It was a big deal for a number of us to go from the Fall Series to the FedEx Cup. That was key to the continuation of our support. And it was evident in the investment our title sponsor made in the purse."

Las Vegas had a $6.2 million purse. Ben Martin won. The top 10 featured Koepka, Webb Simpson, Jimmy Walker, Hideki Matsuyama and Brandt Snedeker. Place that in April instead of October and does anyone notice?

Love, a task force member and now the captain, has one of those fall tournaments at the McGladrey Classic. He should use his position to persuade Bevacqua to reconsider. Because the real damage is not about who makes the U.S. team for an exhibition it can't seem to win. It's about the health of a tour that should be its first priority.

The fall tournaments were in danger of going away when they were perceived as second-tier events. To save the some $25 million in prize money, the tour went to a wraparound season and elevated them to regular FedEx Cup status.

With one decision by the Ryder Cup Task Force, those tournaments are treated differently again.

What's to keep Augusta National from following suit and no longer offering a spot in the Masters to winner? And if those tournaments go away, does the PGA Tour become even more of a closed shop and a time when it's hard to keep track of all the promising young Americans?

Most disappointing is the silence of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, except to commend the PGA of America for including his players in the process. It was just over a year ago that Finchem and former PGA president Ted Bishop shared the stage and boasted of a new era of cooperation between the two organizations.

Now is the time for that. It's not too late.

Read more on:    ryder cup  |  phil mickelson  |  davis love iii  |  golf

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