European Tour

EPGA chief open to Ryder Cup eligibility changes

2016-11-05 18:48
The Ryder Cup (AFP)

Belek - European Tour CEO Keith Pelley hinted there could be changes to the eligibility rules for future European Ryder Cup teams in the aftermath of their six-point defeat at Hazeltine.

A number of losing European Team players, including Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, suggested following Europe's heaviest Ryder Cup defeat since 1981 that the selection criteria was flawed.

In particular, McIlroy and Westwood singled out England's Paul Casey, who elected not to join the European Tour in a goal to focus more on the PGA Tour -- he would have easily qualified for the team had he simply been a member.

McIlroy said Casey's absence "definitely hurt our side".

There was also the scenario of Russell Knox's 2015 WGC-HSBC Champions victory not counting towards Hazeltine selection as he was not a member of the European Tour at the time.

Knox later joined the Tour and despite finishing as the highest non-qualifier was overlooked by captain Darren Clarke.

Pelley has suggested changes to the qualifying process could mean players who are clearly in form -- as Casey had been in the weeks prior to the Ryder Cup -- are considered for selection whether or not they are a member of the European Tour.

"We are always talking to our players and we are always listening to what they have to say as we also want to have the best possible team at the Ryder Cup," said Pelley in a news conference at the Turkish Airlines Open on Saturday.

"We are having discussions regarding the qualification system now and we will continue to have them.

"We will adjust the Ryder Cup qualification if we feel that we need to. We won't be afraid to make the changes.

"I would say that part of our job at the European Tour is to get players to come and play because it is a terrific place to play.

"So it is our job as gatekeepers of the Tour to provide bigger prize purses, greater experiences and greater courses so that the players want to play here and play more than they need to just to stay a member and so be a Ryder Cup player.

"The Ryder Cup is a critical component of our Tour and it is a sensational event but it shouldn't be the only reason why someone wants to be on our Tour. That's our job at hand right now."

Any decision to change the qualifying criteria is expected to be discussed at a meeting hosted by Pelley just prior to Christmas to appoint the 2018 European Team Captain.

Those also set to be present at the meeting will be the past three European Team captains in Jose Maria Olazabal, Paul McGinley and Clarke along with Henrik Stenson, who will represent the Tournament Players Committee.

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