For Immediate Release February 6, 2008
The Western Golf Alliance rejects request to field U.S. Ryder Cup team
Board decides to focus on WGA events, sincerely wishes luck to PGA pros
LAS VEGAS. The Western Golf Alliance formally notified the PGA of America today that they respectfully declined the opportunity to field and manage the 2008 Ryder Cup team. The WGA's decision came after several hours of deliberation at the annual winter meeting of the Board of Directors, being held at The Bellagio.
"We are honored that the PGA of America would seek our assistance with their current challenge. However, our members respectfully decline this request as we find it beneficial to keep our golf games focused on the WGA tournament schedule," said Brian Gray, WGA president, in a prepared statement.
Throughout the process there were issues between the WGA and the PGA of America. While initial discussions focused on having the WGA field the United States Ryder Cup team, other conditions emerged over time. Items discussed included only sending the top eight finishers in the 2008 WGA Open, that Tiger Woods would be included as a player-captain, and that the PGA of America may deny to cover certain expenses like casino stipends and bar tabs.
All along, the two issues that were never addressed were how the WGA members could prepare for multiple major golf events, and whether the "captain's picks" would be WGA members. With the Western Golf Alliance Open in August, the consensus among members was that they planned to have their games "peak" for that tournament, and they did not believe they could be at the tops of their games for both the WGA Open and the Ryder Cup.
Tim Finchem, PGA commissioner, has stated on several occasions that the Ryder Cup selection process is the business of the PGA of America, and will not comment regarding the negotiations with the WGA.
Though never publicly stated, the implicit reason for the initial request was the lack of success by the U.S. team in the last few Ryder Cups, and the belief that the WGA could field a more competitive team. Many golf industry insiders believe the real problem is not the quality of the PGA players, but the inability of the PGA of American to construct a rational selection formula. This shortcoming was most evident in 2006, when the process yielded three "qualifying" players who were ranked higher than #60 in the world rankings, while leaving four players who were in the top 35 in the world to become captains picks (Stewart Cink #23, Davis Love III, #25, Kenny Perry #32, Scott Verplank #34). The result was a humiliating - and widely predicted - 18 1/2 to 9 1/2 drubbing by Europe.
This issue continues to fester in 2008, as the U.S. team standings include players who are little known and have had little success. The published team standings dated February 3, 2008, include PGA Tour journeymen like DJ Trahan and JB Holmes. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson - ranked #2 in the world - would as of this date not currently qualify for the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Another concern involves conflicts between the PGA Tour schedule and the Ryder Cup. The FedEx Cup - the PGA Tour's wildly over-hyped and ill-conceived attempt at a playoff system - began in 2007. Top players are expected to compete in the final four tournaments of the season, ending in mid-September at the Tour Championship. In 2008, the Ryder Cup begins just five days later.
In the end, the WGA declined to participate in the Ryder Cup because its members wish to remain focused on the Western Golf Alliance Open, and the members do not want to give their country less than their best effort.
"We have full confidence in the ability of the American pros on tour, and wish them the best of luck against the Europeans," Gray said in concluding his comments.
# # #
About the Western Golf Alliance: The Western Golf Alliance is the premier golf organization in the United States. The WGA exists to further the greatness of this grand sport of golf through the improvement of golf play by its members, the promotion of golf rules, etiquette, and tradition, and the ability to gather together from time to time for golf events and tournaments. The regional organization spans five western states, and is organized into nine geographic regions. Further information is available at http://www.westerngolf.org/. About the Ryder Cup: Begun in 1927, The Ryder Cup is one of the most spirited, exciting and compelling events in sport- involving the greatest players in the world and producing some of the greatest moments in the game. The biennial event brings together the finest American professionals and those of Europe in a match-play format. The competition is conducted in the U.S. by The PGA of America. For more information about the 2008 Ryder Cup, visit www.rydercup.com.