Could LIV golfers qualify for Team Europe in the Ryder Cup? We found out more today

Sergio garcia ryder cup

Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm and Luke Donald during last year's Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

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The first indications of what the 2023 Ryder Cup will look like have started to take shape as Europe announced important changes to its qualification process Tuesday. 

For the 2023 Cup, captain Luke Donald will make SIX captain’s picks, double what previous captain Padraig Harrington was allotted in 2021. The European team will feature six automatic qualifiers in addition to those six picks via its long-used European Points and World Points lists.

The move to six captain’s picks was first made by Steve Stricker during the 2021 Cup for the USA, which was widely praised as it helped result in a record-setting 19-9 victory for the Americans at Whistling Straits. The U.S. will maintain the same system with the upcoming 2022 Presidents Cup, captained by Davis Love III.

“These changes to the qualification process for Team Europe follow in-depth analysis with the team at Ryder Cup Europe and with Thomas [Bjorn] and Edoardo [Molinari],” Donald said in a press release. “I’m delighted that when we presented our thoughts to the Tournament Committee, they were 100 percent behind them.”

The decision comes amid great consternation over who will be involved with Europe, considering the recent launch of LIV Golf. It was just last month that Henrik Stenson was the European captain but lost his position with the team when he signed with the upstart league. Donald assumed the post just 12 days later, saying, “Some of my best experiences in golf have been in the Ryder Cup and I would not swap those for anything.”

A major question follows if LIV golfers will be able to qualify for the team. It can be reasonably expected that, at this moment, LIV golfers will not earn a captain’s pick from Donald. But can they still qualify on points? There is no announced stipulation barring them from that path onto the team.

At next week’s BMW Championship, where Ryder Cup qualifying begins, there will be 18 LIV golfers in the field. If, say, Sergio Garcia wins that event, it will go a long way to his qualifying for the 2023 Ryder Cup. The same goes for major championships in 2023, which will award the most points (6,000), followed by the Rolex Series events, which are played on the DP World Tour. But European Points will only be awarded to active DP World Tour members who maintain their membership, and World Points (distributed via the World Golf Ranking) will not be awarded to events held during the same week as a Rolex Series event. (In other words, LIV Golf’s schedule of events would want to be wary of the DP World Tour’s biggest events as well.)

But yes, on paper, a high-performing LIV golfer who is also a DP World Tour member, hails from Europe and plays well in Rolex Series events and major championships will seemingly have a chance to qualify for the Ryder Cup team. There is zero specific wording in Team Europe’s press release that bans LIV golfers from qualifying. That said, the competition for those spots has always been fierce, and now there are just fewer spots to go around.

The top three players on the European Points list in 2021 were Jon Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton, who each played very well on the DP World Tour that summer. The top three others on the World Points list were Rory McIlroy, Viktor Hovland and Paul Casey. Since that World Points list is compiled via world ranking points, mostly dominated by PGA Tour events, which LIV golfers are suspended from playing, it is highly unlikely a LIV golfer would qualify via the World Points list.

More plainly, for a LIV golfer to qualify automatically, they’d need to be one of the three best European players in DP World Tour events and major championships. But many of them are running out of time. Their world world golf rankings continue to decay over time by not competing on a tour that awards them. The Masters tournament awards lifetime exemptions for its past champions, many of which are LIV golfers. But the PGA Championship, U.S. Open and British Open entry qualifications are not as favorable.

To continue the aforementioned example, could Sergio Garcia outperform Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Matt Fitzpatrick and many other of the best European pros in the world in specific events that reward qualification points, littered across a schedule that also includes double-digit LIV golf events? Of course it’s possible, but rather unlikely. 

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