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Ryder Cup Points System

8/27/2006

Raise your hands if you've heard of Brett Wetterich. Raise your hands if you think he's one of the top 10 golfers that should be representing the U.S. in the upcoming Ryder Cup. Yeah, me neither.

Nothing against Brett Wetterich. I'm sure he's a nice guy. But there's no way that he should've qualified for this team. He had to sweat it out during the PGA Championship as he missed the cut with guys like Stewart Cink and Davis Love off to decent starts and an opportunity to take over his shaky 10th slot. But none of the contenders finished in the top 10 in the PGA to get any points, and Wetterich was in. Captain Tom Lehman select Stewart Cink and Scott Verplank (sorry Trip) the following day.

The PGA's points system is to blame. It's only one step up from the villified RPI used by the NCAA tournament committee. Here's the description on pgatour.com:

"The 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup Team is chosen on the basis of points accumulated from Aug. 22, 2004 (World Golf Championships-NEC Invitational) through the PGA Championship, which concludes Aug. 20, 2006. Points are awarded for top-10 finishes at PGA TOUR co-sponsored events as follows: 2004 and 2005 PGA TOUR events: 75, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5; 2005 majors: 450, 225, 200, 175, 150, 125, 100, 75, 50, 25; 2006 PGA TOUR events: 375, 180, 160, 140, 120, 100, 80, 60, 40, 20; 2006 majors: 675, 360, 320, 280, 240, 200, 160, 120, 80, 40. The top-10 finishers on the points list qualify for the 12-man team, and U.S. Captain Tom Lehman will select the two final players to complete the team."

The change in the system was designed to reward those golfers who were playing well recently, by heavily weighting performance in 2006 over 2005. Definitely a good idea, but the system has quite a few flaws:

1. Treats all PGA Tour non-majors the same. Everybody knows there are three types of PGA tour events 1) those that Tiger plays in, 2) the ones that Tiger doesn't play in, and 3) the ones that run opposite of the ones that Tiger plays in. So John Rollins can earn 375 points for winning the BC Open when all of the world's best golfers were competing in the British Open. Rollins earned more points that week than Chris DiMarco, who was the only guy to give Eldrick a run for his money at Hoylake. And Rollins win at the BC is worth as much as a win at the Memorial or the Western. Doesn't really pass the sniff test, does it?

2. Only gives points for the top 10. Seems logical on paper until you realize that finishing 11th in the US Open is worth the same amount of points as missing the cut in the Chrysler Classic in Tucson...zero. Plus with the slew of international players on Tour these days, it's quite possible that only 2 or 3 guys actually earn points in a given week.

Because of that, only 746 total points would get you in the top 10. That’s little more than a 2006 win and a couple of top 5’s. And that’s how you end up with Brett Wetterich on the Ryder Cup team. Overall, Wetterich has had a career year, including an impressive win at the Byron Nelson and a second at the Memorial. All of his points were earned in a six week span that also included a T4th and a T6th. Other than that, he has missed the cut in 9 of the other 15 events he has played in, including 5 of the last 8. And add to this the fact that Wetterich had to go back to Q-School after a 2005 season where he missed the cut in 17 of 27 events.

Compare Aaron Oberholser’s record to Wetterich’s the last two years and decide who you think is more deserving of a Ryder Cup spot.

Player Events 1st 2nd 3rd TOP 10 TOP 25 Made Cut Cut WD
Ober06 18 1 -- -- 3 9 15 2 2
Ober05 21 -- -- -- 4 6 13 6 2
Wett06 19 1 1 -- 4 6 10 9 --
Wett05 28 -- -- -- 2 5 10 17 1

Despite a more solid and consistent performance over the last 12 and 24 months, Oberholser was 16th in the Ryder Cup standings and not even on the Lehman’s short list of potential captain’s picks.

Or how about Lucas Glover? The guy has 13 top 10’s and 21 Top 25’s and he finishes 13th in the Ryder Cup standings.

Player Events 1st 2nd 3rd TOP 10 TOP 25 Made Cut Cut WD
Glov06 24 -- -- -- 6 12 16 8 --
Glov05 28 1 -- 1 7 9 16 12 --

So, how do we fix the system? I think the PGA of America could use a golf version of the JCI, something that factors overall performance relative to a golfer’s ‘strength of schedule’. Beating Tiger is worth more than beating Matt Kuchar. Thankfully, I don’t even have to do the legwork because Golfweek already has something similar in its Sagarin rankings, which combines performances of all of the major tours worldwide and ranks performance over the last 52 weeks. Certainly they could tweak it to suit the PGA’s needs by looking at the last two years while still overweighting the last year. Here’s what the Ryder Cup team would look like if they used the Sagarin ranking as it’s expressed today:

Automatic Qualifiers:
1. Tiger Woods
3. Phil Mickelson
6. Jim Furyk
8. Arron Oberholser
15. Scott Verplank
16. Chad Campbell
22. Vaughn Taylor
23. David Toms
30. Bo Van Pelt
31. Stewart Cink

Surprisingly, Chris DiMarco ranks 93rd. But this list puts Cink and Verplank on as automatic qualifiers (along with Oberholser and Bo Van Pelt), replacing DiMarco, JJ Henry, Zach Johnson, and Brett Wetterich. Lehman would’ve been able to pick amongst DiMarco, Love, Glover, Johnson, Ben Crane and others for his captain’s picks. Either way, I think it leads to a stronger team with a better chance of reclaiming the Cup in September.

Brett Wetterich’s rank in the Sagarin? 208. Right in between Brett Rumford and Todd Fischer. Here’s a telling statistics…here’s a comparison of each player’s win-loss record head-to-head against other players in the top 100 over the last year.

Player W L T Win%
Arron Oberholser 469 293 26 0.612
Bo Van Pelt 685 540 69 0.556
Zach Johnson 639 572 54 0.526
Ben Crane 560 505 42 0.525
Davis Love III 580 529 45 0.522
Lucas Glover 606 720 56 0.459
Brett Wetterich 342 612 51 0.366

Other golf notes:

I played golf on Friday out at Prairie Landing to help celebrate my buddy Wego's birthday, which is quickly becoming an annual tradition. Last year, we played 36 holes at Foxford Hills. This year it was the PL, although I had to bail after the first round (actually after 22 holes). This year's feature foursome was Wego (16 handicap), Zorn (15), Clooney (17) and myself. To make things interesting, we had a little match play going where it was me versus their best ball. Despite Clooney piggybacking his teammates with a stellar 40 on the front nine, Jimmy C again asserted his dominance with a 9 straight pars on the front en route to a 76 and a 3 and 2 victory.

Playing on Wego's birthday seems to suit me, because I always seem to play well. Last year I dropped a 75/73 on Foxford Hills, and my 76 at Prairie Landing was pretty solid from start to finish. Next year, Wego's birthday is on at Saturday, so there's talks of a potential weekend trip. Stay tuned.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Kohler with my buddy Jefe for a day of 36 on Meadow Valleys and the Irish Course at Whistling Straits. They were offering 2-for-1 deals for a limited time, and it took Jefe and I a combined 2 nanoseconds to decided we were going to do it. Can't wait. The Irish Course owned me both times I played it, so I'm definitely looking for a measure of revenge. Look for some pics later this week, as well as Jim and Jeff's compilation 18 holes of the best of the four Kohler courses.

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