Jim Furyk announced on Wednesday that the U.S. Ryder Cup team was making two somewhat major changes to the selection of the team that he will be captaining at the 2018 Ryder Cup in France. They got it half right.
We’ll start with the good one. The system used in 2016 gave players 2 points for every $1,000 earned in a major championship (compared to 1 point for every $1,000 earned in a normal event). This is now changed to 1.5 points for every $1,000, with the exception that the winner of the major still gets double the points. Furyk said:
“Because the Major Championship purses are so large, and we thank them for that very much, but we’re looking at $10-$10.5 million dollar purses in the major championships. When you double the points in those events you in affect make a $20.5-, a $21-million dollar purse. In effect, they become weighted triple or a little more than a PGA Tour event.”
Nailed it! Credit where credit is due. He may have plagiarized this statement directly from a past podcast, but we’ll forgive him for not saying “as first reported by No Laying Up.” To me, playing well in a major championship in the same season is not necessarily an indicator that you for sure deserve a spot on the team, or that you will play well once the matches begin (see Willett, Danny). So don’t make them worth essentially triple the amount of points a normal tour event is worth. Pretty simple decision here.
The Horschel Rule
Where they lost me is the second part. Although this is the second go around with what will still be known as “The Horschel Rule,” they still haven’t figured out how to make this line up with the calendar. Let’s replay how this rule first came about, and pay special attention to the timelines here.
In 2014, Tom Watson selected Hunter Mahan, Keegan Bradley, and Webb Simpson with his three captain’s picks (pause for laughter) on September 2, after the Deutsche Bank Championship. Billy Horschel stomped his way through Denver and Atlanta on his way to winning the BMW Championship and Tour Championship in the next 12 days, and every U.S. fan on the planet was left scratching their head wondering why we had chosen a team almost a month in advance of the event, and the hottest player on the planet was not on it.
I’m not going to look up the quote, but Watson said something along the lines of “families need to plan” as his reasoning for making his selections so early in the process. I can agree that there is an element to that, but this isn’t Hogan crossing the Atlantic in a boat at the ’53 Open. Every professional golfer at that level has a passport, and you don’t need a visa to get to Scotland or to France. You board a plane and you go. And in 2014, they had the luxury of a bye week after the Tour Championship. Again, what was the rush?
The committee (or task force or whatever you want to call it) reacted to this disaster by announcing that for the 2016 Ryder Cup, three captain’s picks would be made after the BMW Championship on September 12, and one final pick would be made after the Tour Championship on September 25. In others words, about 108 hours before the matches began, and about two hours before Ryder Cup week started up. I wrote about how the Horschel Rule made sense for the 2014 schedule, but in 2016, it turned the Tour Championship into a play-in game, and essentially forced Love’s hand to select Moore. The pick ended up not mattering, and Moore performed well, but it was an unnecessary distraction, and did not exactly play out the way I would imagine the powers that be had envisioned.
Now, for 2018, Furyk has announced that he will make three selections after what is now the Dell Technologies Championship (formally the Deutsche Bank Championship) on September 3, 2018, and the final selection a week later after the BMW Championship ends on September 9 (per the USA Today link above).
The Tour has not released the 2017-2018 schedule yet, so I can’t say for sure what the official date of the Tour Championship would be. Despite that uncertainty, I can’t fathom how the above approach is the best selection method. Let’s break it down in two different scenarios regarding the Tour Championship date.
Scenario 1 – Tour Championship immediately follows the BMW Championship, ends on September 16: I believe this is how the schedule will play out, which is exactly the same place on the schedule as it was in 2014. This leaves an entire week off before the team departs for France, which is clearly a different scenario than 2016, where the Tour Championship ran right into the Ryder Cup the following week. If you’re even going to bother with using the Horschel Rule, why wouldn’t you save it for after this event? What’s the point of waiting one more tournament (the BMW) between your first three selections and your final selection? Are you really going to have that much more information after the BMW than you had after the Dell Technologies?
Sure, there is an aspect of planning and logistics. But you can’t tell me that the extra week that the 2018 schedule provides isn’t infinitely easier from a logistics perspective than what unfolded in 2016. It’s not like an unsuspecting player needs to board a plan for Paris a few hours after the final putt in Atlanta falls.
Scenario 2 – Bye week after the BMW, Tour Championship ends on September 23: As mentioned, I don’t think this will be the case, but I’ll at least give them the benefit of the doubt that this might be a possibility. If so, making the final pick on September 10 makes more sense, but why not just make all of the picks on that date? Again, what does that one tournament (the BMW) tell you that you didn’t already know?
If you’re going to use the Horschel Rule, use it after the Tour Championship. Select your first three after the Dell Technologies, then wait to see who is the most hot after the next two events. If you’re going to wait to use the pick, don’t do it a week later when there is still one event to go. And if no one gets hot, take the next best player on the board.
If you’re not going to use the Horschel Rule, make all of your picks after the BMW. You eliminate the distraction of the last few events being play-in events, your team is set three weeks in advance, and you’re relatively safe from leaving off a hot player. A guy not on the team that wins the Tour Championship isn’t necessarily going to be the best option for you in France two weeks later in a completely different format, on a totally different golf course.
This in-between option that they are currently going with serves almost no purpose, and does not line up with the calendar at all. Here’s to hoping that none of this matters.