Paul Casey success may spring change in Europe’s qualification rules

World number 15 will partner Rory McIlroy in first round of Tour Championship

Paul Casey and Russell Knox walk up the 10th fairway during a practice round ahead of  the Tour Championship  at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

Paul Casey and Russell Knox walk up the 10th fairway during a practice round ahead of the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

 
Ryder Cup

Should the Englishman win the FedEx Cup on Sunday, as he has a decent chance of doing, life would instantly become more uncomfortable for Europe’s captain Darren Clarke.

For while Clarke may be effectively blameless with regards to Casey’s position, it remains an anomaly that a player ranked number 15 in the world cannot feature at Hazeltine because he chooses not to join the European Tour.

Should Casey bank more than $11 million by winning the Tour Championship and FedEx Cup here at East Lake, talk of alterations to Ryder Cup qualification criteria would be inevitable.

Rule changes

Russell Knox, the Scot who was overlooked by Clarke for a captain’s pick, doubtless has his own motivations in this FedEx finale.

One player who could hand Europe a pre-Ryder Cup boost is one of the marquee ones; Rory McIlroy, who will partner Casey in round one at East Lake, is sixth in the FedEx standings with only this tournament to play.

There was an admission from the 39-year-old Casey that he may be a restless viewer at Hazeltine next week. “Of course, yes,” said the former world number three when asked if regret may feature in his mind. “It’s a weird one. Ask me maybe in a couple of weeks, once I’ve watched it, but it’s already slightly strange. In the past, when I’ve missed a Ryder Cup because I haven’t qualified, or I’ve not qualified for the Masters and I’ve sat back and I’ve watched those events, you watch them with a sense of ‘I wish I was there but I had my opportunity and I didn’t get there.’ That’s one thing.

“When I watched the Olympics this year, where I’ve not had a chance to play for a gold medal and I may not get a chance for another four years ? boy, was I jealous watching that and I said that to Justin [Rose, who won gold]. That’s the one thing so far in golf that I haven’t had an opportunity to play for, and would dearly love to. So maybe watching the Ryder Cup next week I’ll have the same kind of feeling.”

Jason Day’s non-appearance at Hazeltine owes everything to nationality, of course. The Australian world number one, though, admitted he had brief thoughts of heading to Minneapolis.

“I’m excited to watch it,” said Day. “I watch a few tournaments a year but this is one where I actually sit down and watch the whole thing because it’s exciting.

Empty feeling

Jordan Spieth

And, having been part of the defeated United States team at Gleneagles in 2014, the 23-year-old Texan is prioritising Ryder Cup glory in order to avoid a repeat of the “empty feeling” he experienced on the flight home from Scotland.

“I don’t have a Ryder Cup. I think I will have a Ryder Cup at some point. I think that will be easier to win, easier to have a Ryder Cup than a FedEx Cup going forward, given you may not play your best and you’ve got team-mates around you that play their best and win it.

“If you’re saying 2016, right now, I’ve got a choice . . . Ryder Cup. You want something that you don’t have. That’s a trophy that I’ve watched the other side of it now, and it hurt. It was tough at the closing ceremony.

“We had a good time that evening, but when we boarded the plane back home, it was an empty feeling. We don’t want that again. I think I’m pretty confident about how we’re going to go about our business. I think we’ve got a fantastic team this year, one of the best teams I can remember looking back at, and I love being a part of that.” Guardian Service

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