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Two veteran European Ryder Cup members voice concerns about crammed September timeline

September 10, 2021

Graeme McDowell (right) and Lee Westwood speak in a press conference in 2018.

Richard Heathcote

VIRGINIA WATER, England — Quite apart from the destination of the BMW PGA Championship title, the prestigious trophy and the €1,123,300 ($1,329,376) winner’s check, there’s a lot going on at Wentworth this week. Too much, in the opinion of at least two influential figures involved with the European Ryder Cup team that will travel to Whistling Straits in defense of the trophy later this month.

According to former World No. 1 Lee Westwood and 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, the amount of stress and strain being endured by those in contention for either an automatic qualifying spot or a wild card pick is excessive. With only 12 days between the climax of the European Tour’s “flagship event” and the first day of the Ryder Cup, both men feel like those involved would have been better employed taking such things one at a time.

“I'm here to try and win the BMW PGA Championship,” said Westwood, whose chances of making what will be his 11th appearance in Europe’s colors remain under mild threat. “And Sunday night, if you're in the team, then you start thinking about the Ryder Cup. But the way we've set up the qualification this time around there are too many variables.

“This tournament is too heavily loaded compared to everything else we've done (double points are available),” he continued. “It's something to maybe look at in the future. Some of the guys turning up here don't need this week right now, knowing what the Ryder Cup is like. They don't need this two weeks before a Ryder Cup. It is going to be draining for a few, and you want to be going into the Ryder Cup fresh. You can see how players are reacting to it out on the golf course. There are people shooting scores who clearly have other things on their minds.”

McDowell is sympathetic to that point of view. An assistant—alongside Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald and Robert Karlsson—to European captain Padraig Harrington, the Northern Irishman was making similar noises at the conclusion of a second-round 69 that leaves him four under par at the halfway stage.

“I’m not sure I’d have wanted as many variables if I was the captain,” he said. “I’m not sure I’d have wanted so many question marks cropping up two weeks before the match. Obviously it is fantastic for Wentworth and the BWW PGA Championship, but I’d liked to have had eight or nine of my guys locked in by now and let the picks get after it this week. But hey, it’s exciting stuff.”

Then there is the fact that Harrington and his men are likely to be faced with the prospect of making a relatively hasty decision come Sunday evening. There will only be a short time available to them between the end of the championship and the announcement of the three wild-card selections.

“I think Padraig wanted to have a quick get-together tonight just to have a mid-tournament review of what is going on and what the potentials are,” revealed McDowell. “But all we’ll be doing is the same as everyone else is doing. It’s all ifs and buts and maybes.”