RYDER PUZZLER FOR PETTERSSON

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Ryder Cup qualification for next year seems to be becoming a thorny issue. Phil Casey takes a look.

Two weeks into the Ryder Cup race and there are some unexpected names currently occupying qualifying places for Nick Faldo’s European side.
Warrington’s Phillip Archer currently leads the way, a man whose last experience of match play came in the Cheshire match play in the north region PGA seven years ago, while Welshman Sion Bebb is sixth in the early standings.
Sion Bebb v Tiger Woods has a nice ring to it doesn’t it?
But there is also a sadly familiar problem afoot for Sweden’s Carl Pettersson and other European players plying their trade on the US Tour.
Pettersson is the world number 52 who would have easily made last year’s team at the K Club if he had been eligible to earn points from the start of qualifying.
However, the 30-year-old was not a member of the European Tour when he won the Chrysler Championship in October 2005 and finished second in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic the following week, meaning the world ranking points he earned were not counted.
If they had been added to his other points, including those for winning the prestigious Memorial Tournament in June 2006, Pettersson would have been top of the table instead of attempting to get into the top 10 as qualifying came to a close.
After finishing ninth in the standings Pettersson was still a strong contender for a wild card, but was eventually overlooked by captain Ian Woosnam in favour of Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke and they contributed seven points to Europe’s record-equalling victory.
Pettersson said at the time he had tried to rejoin the tour when qualifying started in September, but was told he had to wait until the start of the new season in November.
Others like Greg Owen and Jesper Parnevik joined in mid-season, but that “loophole” appears to have been closed with confirmation that non-members will have to wait until the start of the 2008 season at the HSBC Champions event in November to rejoin.
European Tour director of operations David Garland said: “Only members of the European Tour can earn Ryder Cup points at this time of the season.
“Players like Carl Pettersson and Freddie Jacobson, we hope that they will take up membership at the start of next year and will be able to earn points from the start of the HSBC (November 8).
“I believe that Freddie intends to, we haven’t heard anything from Carl yet, but I hope that we do, because they are both world-class players and I am sure Nick Faldo would want to make sure he has as wide a choice as possible and has all the best players all going for the team.
“You look at someone like Justin Rose who last year joined with a commitment to playing his minimum 11 tournaments (necessary for membership) and has done well and Justin can earn Ryder Cup points.
“He was aware of the situation and did that last year. It was open to the other guys if they wanted to do that as well. They chose for various reasons not to and we hope they join at the beginning of next season.
“It’s their choice, they are basing most of their career at the moment in the United States and they will see what suits them best. We’d love all eligible players to be European Tour members every single year but that isn’t necessarily possible.”
Whether Pettersson decides to rejoin the tour in November remains to be seen, but there is the suspicion the North Carolina-based Swede harbours a resentment over the issue.
And he can certainly not blame “bad information” this time.
Speaking about it last year, Pettersson said: “I felt bitter about it at first and I think the European Tour are a little sketchy, but now there’s nothing I can do about it and I’m just trying to play as well as I can.
“I think I’ve been thinking about the Ryder Cup too much and it affected me. It’s too much to think about and when I look at the table I can’t even figure it out any way. It’s a strange system.
“I think it would be best just to do what the International side does for the Presidents Cup – pick off the world rankings.
“I was just concentrating on this (US) tour last year. And then once the Ryder Cup [qualification started] I thought I could just rejoin and I guess it was bad information I had, and I couldn’t. There was nothing I could do about it.”

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