Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Team Europe hopes to avoid '10 repeat
By Bob Harig
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- The European Tour will change the day that captain Jose Maria Olazabal names his two at-large selections in order to avoid a conflict with the PGA Tour's Barclays tournament in August.
The tour and Olazabal announced the switch Tuesday during a news conference at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where the two-time Masters winner is competing.
The European team will be made up of the top 10 points earners -- five coming from a points list based on European Tour finishes, another five coming from a list of points compiled using the world rankings -- at the conclusion of the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, Scotland. Olazabal will make his picks the next day, Aug. 27.
The change was made due to the awkward situation that occurred two years ago, when several candidates for captain Colin Montgomerie's picks were competing at the Barclays. Paul Casey and Justin Rose learned during the final round that they had not been chosen. Padraig Harrington, who was playing with Casey that day, was picked.
"It was not a comfortable situation for anybody," Olazabal said. "I think it would be fair for anybody that is playing in the States that might be on the verge of winning the tournament and making a chance on his possibilities of being in the team. It would be completely unfair to name those two picks before the guy even tees off."
The Barclays event, however, will not have its world ranking points count toward those who automatically qualify for the team.
At Gleneagles in 2010, Italy's Edoardo Molinari won the tournament, thus earning a captain's pick from Montgomerie -- along with Luke Donald and Harrington (this year the picks are being reduced from three to two).
The picks were made upon the conclusion of the event, and with a five-hour time difference, came just as the final round of the PGA Tour event was getting under way.
"It was a tremendous finish last time with Edoardo winning, and it almost was sort of buried in the Ryder Cup news," European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said. "This way, the tournament gets a fair shot, and the captain can see the conclusion of the American event that night on television, if he wants to, look at the results and make a considered view.
"It's not saying it's going to be like this for all time, but it's what the captain wants now, and it works for us as well."
The U.S. team has eight automatic qualifiers who are decided at the conclusion of the PGA Championship. Captain Davis Love III will make his four at-large selections after the Deutsche Bank Championship -- or three weeks prior to the Ryder Cup, which will be played at Medinah Country Club near Chicago from Sept. 28-30.
Bob Harig is ESPN.com's senior golf writer.