European Tour chief open to Ryder Cup eligibility changes

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley with Lee Westwood and the Englishman's caddie, Billy Foster, in Turkey this week. Picture: Getty Images
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley with Lee Westwood and the Englishman's caddie, Billy Foster, in Turkey this week. Picture: Getty Images
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European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley insists he will not be afraid to change the rules regarding Ryder Cup eligibility following last month’s defeat at Hazeltine.

Only European Tour members can play on the team, a regulation which meant captain Darren Clarke did not have the option of selecting world number 12 Paul Casey, who gave up his membership to concentrate on the PGA Tour.

The chance to play in the Ryder Cup has long been seen as one of the key ways the European Tour can try to prevent its top stars from playing full time on the more lucrative PGA Tour.

But Pelley believes it is his job to make the Tour an attractive enough proposition that players will choose to play on this side of the Atlantic, rather than be forced to do so.

“We are always talking to our top players,” said Pelley, who was responding to calls this week from Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy to change the eligibility criteria. “We are always listening to what they have to say. We also want to have the best possible team at the Ryder Cup.

“We are having discussions regarding the qualification system now. We will continue to have them. We will have them with our players. We will have them with our tournament committee and our board over the coming weeks and months.

“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 Tour is to get players to come and play because it is a terrific place to play. We play at world-class resorts, like here in Turkey. We play on great golf courses in great cities. To be a world-class player, the European Tour is a fantastic place to be.

“Our job as the gatekeepers of the Tour is to provide bigger purses, greater experiences and greater courses so that the players want to play here and play here 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.”

Pelley conceded that the topic may have only resurfaced due to the 17-11 defeat at Hazeltine, Europe’s heaviest in the biennial contest since 1981.

McIlroy told the No Laying Up podcast that Casey’s absence “definitely hurt us” and Westwood agreed with his team-mate’s assertion that the best 12 players should feature on each side, regardless of where they play.

‘’At the end of the day, you’re still European and you still have the passion to play for Europe and represent them,” Westwood said.

“If you prove that you’re world class on, say, the PGA Tour and not the European Tour, why should that have any bearing on whether you can play or not?’’

Speaking during the third round of the Turkish Airlines Open, Pelley also revealed there would be changes in how future Ryder Cup venues are selected, with Turkey a possible host.

Italy beat Spain, Germany and Austria to the rights for the 2022 Ryder Cup after what the Tour itself described as an “exhaustive and comprehensive bid process.”

“The challenge I had with the process was that all of these organisations host tournaments for us and there is one winner and three losers,” Pelley added. “The three who were not awarded the Ryder Cup are still our partners. That I found was not a good way forward.”