Men Without A Country
Carl Pettersson, Martin Laird, Fredrik Jacobson and other Euros who play most of their golf in the U.S. have little chance of making the Ryder Cup team
Carl Pettersson drove home to Raleigh after shooting 62 in the opening round of the Wyndham Championship, crashed on his couch and took a well-deserved nap. They say being in contention week after week is more exhausting than being outside the top 100 and Pettersson should know. He's been in both positions this year and would now be deserving of discussion as a captain's pick for the European Ryder Cup team except for one important proviso. The Swedish-born, North Carolina-raised Pettersson declined the opportunity at the beginning of the year to be an affiliate member of the European Tour, thus he is not eligible to be a captain's pick.
"I was 110th in the [World Ranking]," Pettersson said, explaining why he wasn't thinking about the Ryder Cup in January. "I wasn't eligible for the majors or the World Golf Championships."
Pettersson not joining as an affiliate member might have been an oversight, but the heart of the issue -- an issue that could affect the European Ryder Cup team in future years -- is that Pettersson didn't consider signing up as a full European Tour member because it would require playing a minimum of 13 events on that circuit. "That was not an option for me," Pettersson said. Not with two young children at home and a desire to play the PGA Tour full time.
With his dual citizenship Pettersson has become a poster child for the tour players from Europe who have established home bases in the United States. The expatriate didn't grow up yearning to play in the Ryder Cup but has certainly made a strong case for being on José Maria Olazábal's 2012 team after a win at the RBC Heritage, seconds at Hawaii and Houston, a T-3 at the PGA and a T-4 at Wyndham. But as Englishman Justin Rose said last week before a break in practice for the PGA Tour Playoffs, "There's a feeling in the locker room that [the Ryder Cup] isn't Europe against the United States. It's the European Tour against the U.S. [PGA] Tour."
Rose can speak to that point because in 2010 he registered quality wins in the United States at the Memorial and the AT&T National. But those triumphs could not sway captain Colin Montgomerie into making him a wild-card selection. Monty picked Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald and Edoardo Molinari to round out his team. "You come to the realization there's only one way to make the team," Rose said. "And that's by rights."
Rose, who will play 13 Euro events in 2012, liked the change adopted by the circuit which made the European money list the priority over the World Ranking -- the top five players on a Euro money list, then the top five players on the World Ranking list not already exempt make the team, which means going deeper on the world list. But it turns out that with his win at the WGC-Cadillac Championship, a T-2 in BMW PGA and a T-3 in the PGA, Rose would make the team no matter which points list was the priority.
"When you play good golf these things take care of themselves," Rose said. "I was motivated to make it on my own this time around."
So was Martin Laird. The Scotsman living in North Carolina with his American wife became a member of the European Tour in January but admits he didn't play well enough to deserve a look by Olazábal. The argument could be made that he's been in more pressurized situations in the last three years than countryman Paul Lawrie, who is likely to make the team on points. Laird has playoff losses at the Barclays and Las Vegas in 2010, a win at the 2011 Arnold Palmer Invitational and seconds this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Players.
The Scotsman's high draw would set up well at Medinah, a big hitter's course, but he goes into the FedEx Cup playoffs resigned to watching the Ryder Cup at home. Olazábal will announce his picks the Monday after the Barclays and the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. "The way the European Tour is now, you have to play great to get on that team," Laird said. "As of now, it's off my goal list. Even if I won the Barclays, I don't know if I'd get a pick unless it was remarkable."
Fredrik Jacobson thought he had a remarkable year in 2004, when he was one spot short of qualifying for the team, in his second year of splitting time between the U.S. and Europe. Bernhard Langer didn't take him. "It's a disadvantage when it comes to collecting points," said Jacobson, who won the 2011 Travelers but has just one top-10 this year. "You have to time when you're playing well. I'm happy with my consistency. I just haven't had any huge weeks."