Men Without A Country
Pettersson's strong play in 2012 includes a T-4 at the Wyndham Championship but won't get him a spot on Europe's 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."
despite winning twice on the PGA Tour that year.
Photo: J.D. Cuban
Going forward, the tour could face a problem. As the children of Rose, Luke Donald and Ian Poulter get older and as Lee Westwood establishes a base in Florida and commits to the PGA Tour full time, will Euros living in the United States play in the Euro Tour's mandatory mininum of 13 events? If not, it would impact who makes the Cup team.
"The Ryder Cup is a huge incentive," Pettersson said. "But the home tours still want your support. Going forward with the new schedule it might be harder to justify going to Asia at the end of the year when the FedEx Cup season has started."
Rose, for example, has played 10 Euro events and needs to pick up three more after the playoffs and Ryder Cup. "With guys like Westwood making the move to the States, it'll mean big changes to the golfing landscape," Rose said. For now, though, the Ryder Cup landscape remains unchanged, and Carl Pettersson is not on it.
Following the lead of Jack Nicklaus 32 years ago, Lee Westwood brought in a former tour player to coach him on his short game. Eyebrows were initially raised when Nicklaus hired Phil Rodgers, until he helped the Golden Bear win two majors in 1980. Can Tony Johnstone, the Zimbabwean who grew up close friends with Nick Price, provide a technique and confidence that will get Westwood over his major-championship hump? A wise choice," said Price. "[He's the most] underrated short-game player ever. I'm so happy for him and I am sure he will help Lee a lot." Their five-day trial began last week at The Bear's Club in Jupiter, Fla., and continued at Bethpage Black during practice sessions for The Barclays. In wanting to give him a simple "go-to" chip shot, Johnstone was amazed Westwood picked up the technique so quickly. "I've always been a fan of Westy," Johnstone said. "To be honest, it's always driven me a bit doolally [him] not winning majors because of his short game."
Claude Harmon III's work with Ernie Els was not lost on Trevor Immelman, who made a call after his countryman won the British Open and began work with his new teacher before the PGA Championship. The 2008 Masters champion has been set back by a recurring wrist injury, but responded quickly at Kiawah Island, where he was in contention for three rounds and in the next-to-last threesome on Sunday (before shooting 76 to finish T-27). Immelman followed that with four rounds in the 60s (the only time he's done that in 2012) at The Wyndham Championship. "Hopefully we can get him back to winning tournaments again," Harmon said. "We're going back to what he did from 2002-2005, when I thought he had one of the best golf swings in the world."