Major absences in the PGA Championship?
For years, one of the perks of making the Ryder Cup team was an automatic spot in the PGA Championship, as both are run by the PGA of America.
Starting last year, the PGA changed its criteria so that Ryder Cup members of the most recent team must be within the top 100 in the world ranking. And with a change in the Ryder Cup selection process to allow for four captain’s picks, that could have ramifications this year for as many as four American players.
Boo Weekley, last seen galloping down the fairway at Valhalla in the Ryder Cup, has plunged to No. 166 in the world with only three top 10s in the last two years. He has not played in a major this year.
Justin Leonard is No. 98 in the world, while Ben Curtis is No. 97 and Chad Campbell, who did not qualify for the British Open, is No. 93.
“As the process of the Ryder Cup team has changed—the captain now has four picks—there’s more of a chance the players picked are not highly ranked,” said Kerry Haigh, championship director of the PGA. “So those four players had no trouble getting into the PGA Championship last year.”
This year is a different story.
Leonard has yet to finish in the top 10, with his best result a tie for 14th in the U.S. Open. He lost in a playoff the last time the PGA Championship was held at Whistling Straits in Kohler in 2004. Curtis, a runner-up in the PGA Championship two years ago, has only one top-10 this year. Campbell started the year with a tie for eighth in the Sony Open, and didn’t have another top 10 until Hartford.
The deadline for being inside the top 100 in the world is Aug. 2, after two more PGA Tour events.
Even if those players fall out of the top 100, that doesn’t mean they will be shut out of the PGA Championship. The top 70 in PGA points automatically get in, and Leonard is 76th. The points are based on money earned on the PGA Tour since the last PGA Championship.
Plus, the PGA retains the right to invite whoever it wants.
“It depends on how they’re playing, but they’ll get all due consideration,” Haigh said. Asked if a player from the most recent Ryder Cup team would get more consideration for an invitation, he replied, “Absolutely.”
Justin Rose won two strong PGA Tour events in a span of three starts, putting him at No. 3 in the FedEx Cup standings. But it’s still not enough for him to qualify outright for Europe’s Ryder Cup team.
Such is the strength of European golf at the moment.
Four of the top five players on the world points list have won in America this year—Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter. Then there’s Paul Casey, who played in the final group at St. Andrews, yet is still not eligible. Neither is three-time major champion Padraig Harrington or Henrik Stenson, who tied for third in the British Open.
“I’ve got some headaches, but I’ve got some good headaches,” European captain Colin Montgomerie said last Sunday. “I can pick two teams here that can beat each other on any given day. That’s the strength and that’s the depth of European golf, especially this year.”