‘We’ll keep our fingers crossed’: LIV’s European stars want a Ryder Cup exception
Distance makes the heart grow fonder … or is that just the boatload of money?
At any rate, at this week’s second-ever LIV Golf event, it’s clear there are limits to the “lighter schedule” talking point that has been popular among the upstart league’s stars — limits that kick into effect right around the time the fall rolls around.
On Wednesday at Pumpkin Ridge, the Ryder Cup was a point of emphasis for the LIV faithful, particularly those who may be beginning to fear that their involvement with the Saudi-backed league could spell trouble for their hopes of competing in the event.
In fact, at times during Wednesday’s press conference featuring three Ryder Cup elder statesmen-turned-LIV converts — Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood — the Ryder Cup seemed to dwarf everything else entirely. During their presser, the three men used ‘Ryder Cup’ 14 times, while ‘LIV’ was mentioned only eight. On more than one occasion, one member of the group curtailed his answer to address the Ryder Cup more directly (or reiterate his hopes of competing on the team again).
Like this, from Kaymer.
“Well, first and foremost, I think it’s an individual sport, but obviously in this league with LIV, they add that team aspect, which for all of us we have a long history — Lee has the longest history of Ryder Cups, so we all enjoy that team aspect a lot,” Kaymer said. “Also, it might be some kind of preparation for being the captain one day to be the captain of the Ryder Cup team. That would be great.”
Of course, adding the Ryder Cup would mean adding another few weeks of work for LIV’s players; a group that has resoundingly pointed to the lighter load offered by the new league as a major benefit of joining. But with a little more than 14 months to go until the next iteration of the biennial matchplay competition, it seems the bigger question is whether they’ll be invited at all.
Earlier in the week, U.S. team captain Zach Johnson shared skepticism that LIV Golf members will be eligible to compete for the Americans in Rome in 2023, marking the first such direction from a Ryder Cup decision maker about how to handle the new league.
“So what I know is this: in order to play on the Ryder Cup team whether you’re top 6 or a pick, you must garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America,” Johnson said. “In order to garner Ryder Cup points through the PGA of America you have to be a member of the PGA of America. The way that we’re members of the PGA of America is through the PGA Tour. I’ll let you connect the dots from there.”
But Kaymer, Garcia and Westwood are each subject to a different set of rules. As Europeans, the pretense for their Ryder Cup eligibility is DP World Tour membership — status that all three men have maintained even after committing to LIV.
“I mean, why should [our Ryder Cup eligibility] be threatened?” Westwood wondered. “I’ve been playing Ryder Cup golf since 1997, and the criteria has been to be a member of the European Tour. Now, the criteria for being a member of the European Tour is to play four events. Why should they change that now? I think as long as you fulfill the criteria to be a European Tour member, then you should still have the opportunity to try and qualify for the Ryder Cup team.”
Conveniently, such a decision would also allow Westwood the freedom to be selected to the European Ryder Cup team. But the reality of the situation isn’t quite as cut-and-dry as he makes it sound. According to DP World Tour chief Keith Pelley, Westwood is among the LIV competitors who are currently suspended by the Tour for their association with LIV. And, Tuesday’s news of the DP World Tour’s expanded agreement with the PGA Tour would seem to bring further disciplinary action into the realm of possibility. For his part, Pelley has declined to comment until the qualification period begins.
Still, that reality hasn’t zapped the LIV Golf crew of their Ryder Cup hope, at least not yet.
“Obviously I love to play Ryder Cups,” Kaymer agreed. “I’ve been part of important Ryder Cups in my career. I would love to play for Sergio or Lee one day. That’s just how it is.”
But that’s the unfortunate thing about hope. It often comes without control.
“I hope that I still have the possibility, as I’m sure they do, too, to be a part of a few more Ryder Cup teams, but that’s not going to depend on us now,” Garcia said. “We’ll just keep our fingers crossed.”