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  • Alistair Tait

Ryder Cup Rejects? Surely Not?

Growing up, my mother would often tell me “never cut your nose off to spite your face” whenever I wanted to lash out at someone who had caused me some minor irritation.

The European Tour, now the DP World Tour, surely needs to heed these nine words or risk irreparable damage to the Ryder Cup.

I can’t be the only European golf fan who feels the threat of Ryder Cup expulsion for those playing in this week’s Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational tournament at the Centurion Club will damage Europe’s future Ryder Cup hopes. Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood are surely not going to be denied the Ryder Cup captaincy because they’ve opted to play on the new circuit?

Say it’s not so Mr Pelley?

Unlike the PGA Tour which has threatened sanctions against members competing on the new tour – a threat that surely has no chance in court give the precedent for previous members competing here, there and everywhere for decades – European Tour chief executive Pelley has stayed mum on what punishment he’ll mete out to the rebels.

We’re not talking action against a few Challenge Tour players here: we’re talking the backbone of recent European Ryder Cup teams.

The above quartet have played in a combined 32 Ryder Cups, 132 matches, and have amassed 77.5 points. Garcia is Europe’s leading points winner with 28.5. The word we’re looking for is “stalwarts.”

McDowell, Poulter and Westwood have served as vice captains. Cut into the veins of this quartet and you’ll find blue and gold blood, the colours of the European flag, running through their veins.

Garcia has annoyed countless American players since his 1999 debut. Westwood has been a mainstay since 1997. McDowell earned the winning point in 2010. Poulter is arguably the European player who has shown more passion for the match since the late Seve Ballesteros. There’s a reason he’s nicknamed the “Postman” and “Mr Ryder Cup.”

And these guys are not going to be considered for the captaincy? Pull the other one!

Yet the quartet are in limbo as to their Ryder Cup futures.

“Those of us who have taken the step (to play at Centurion) don’t know whether we’re going to be banned from our tours or not,” McDowell said. “Some of my greatest memories in sport have to do with the match. I would love to have been involved in some capacity or another over the next few years and, yes, I would love to have been a Ryder Cup captain.”

Of course, great players don’t always mean great captains. Nick Faldo taught us that. He was a disaster at Valhalla in 2008. The above quartet played under Faldo. They were among the group of European Tour players in the aftermath of 2008 who vowed there would never be another Faldo Fiasco.

Garcia et al were involved in last year’s lopsided defeat at Whistling Straits, McDowell as a vice-captain. Europe lost on that occasion because collectively they were poor against a vastly superior American team. (It happens.) Yes, Padraig Harrington made mistakes, but Europe would probably still have lost even if the Irishman had got every call right.

Future American teams look like they’ll be just as strong as the side Steve Stricker assembled last year. All the more reason why Europe needs experienced leadership going forward. Given how important the Ryder Cup is to the European Tour financially, surely it would be churlish in the extreme to reject so much experience and passion in the shape of the four teeing it up in St Albans this week?

“If players like Sergio, Ian, Lee and myself are lost to the occasion, it’s hardly the best news, not just for us as individuals but for the match itself and the fans,” McDowell said.

Garcia, McDowell, Poulter and Westwood cast as Ryder Cup rejects? Surely not? That really would be the perfect example of the Tour cutting off its proboscis to spite its face.

#JustSaying: “Everyone who knows me knows how much the Ryder Cup means to me. … The best moments of my career have come when I have been wearing the blue and gold crest of Europe on my chest.” Ian Poulter

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