EUROPEAN Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke has resisted the temptation to make any changes to the qualifying system for next year’s Ryder Cup, which will get under way at the M2M Russian Open on 3 September.
Clarke hinted in March that he was more likely to reduce his wild cards from three to two rather than increase them, but has decided to keep the same format used to determine the team for Gleneagles in 2014.
That means nine players will qualify automatically, with the first four coming from the European Points List – based on points gained in European Tour events – and five from the World Points List – based on world ranking points – with Clarke then selecting his three wild cards. “I went into comparisons of what teams would have been like under different systems but my overall feeling was that, with the team Paul [McGinley] assembled at Gleneagles and how successful they were, it would have been very foolish to make any changes,” said Clarke at a press conference ahead of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Royal County Down.
“I’m focused on assembling the best team possible to represent Europe and I think this system gives me the opportunity to do just that.”
The final counting event has yet to be determined but is traditionally held at the end of August, with the Ryder Cup itself due to take place from September 30 to October 2 at Hazeltine in Minnesota.
Clarke’s conern this week is attempting to win the Irish Open for the first time at the 24th attempt.
Clarke has recorded just two top-ten finishes in his previous 23 appearances, finishing second to Colin Montgomerie in 2001 and third in 2006, when he fluffed his pitch to the 18th and then three-putted for bogey.
However, he emerged with enormous credit that year after an incident on the ninth when play resumed on the Monday following a weather delay.
The Northern Irishman had pushed his tee shot into heavy rough before play was suspended on Sunday evening, but found the ball in a much better lie the next day.
Clarke refused to take advantage of any misguided intervention and, instead of going for the green, which he was entitled to do, chipped out sideways, eventually taking a bogey five and going on to finish two shots behind winner Thomas Bjorn.
“It’s one event I’ve always aspired to play really, really well in,” Clarke added. “Unfortunately, more Irish Opens than I can count, I’ve been first off on the Saturday morning which meant I was not involved in the business end of the tournament. Hopefully this week will be a little bit different.”
Clarke has not recorded a top ten on the European Tour since winning the Open Championship at Sandwich in 2011, but comes into the event on the back of a closing 66 in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth on Sunday.
“I played really nicely all week, just made some silly mistakes,” Clarke added. “In terms of my ball striking it was really, really good again. Hopefully, I can bring that with me this week and just kick on from Sunday.
“We are on one of the best courses in the world, it’s playing very fast and it’s going to be a really, really tough challenge. Some of the shots you’re going to have to land 30 yards short to keep it on the green.
“I think the course is going to stack up very well against modern technology. It requires a little bit more guile and patience than most courses do. It’s still a sensational test, irrelevant of technology, how far it has moved on. It’s about draws and fades, hold it against the wind, use the ground.”