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Westwood calls for Ryder Cup changes

Reigning European number one Lee Westwood called for the Ryder Cup selection system to be changed on Wednesday.

Westwood was speaking the day before beginning his defence of the Great North Open, which he won as the European Grand Prix, also at Slaley Hall in north-east England, last year.

The 28-year-old Englishman told a news conference that with so many top players spending so much time on the American PGA Tour, world rankings rather than the present system based on earnings collected mainly on the European circuit should count towards Ryder Cup berths.

Europe's current Ryder Cup qualifying table shows such talents as Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer outside the automatic top 10 places and Jesper Parnevik not even in the reckoning.

Parnevik, Garcia and Langer are all playing the US Tour and Westwood fears that could land European team captain Sam Torrance with a huge headache when he is left with two wild cards to pick prior to the event in September.

"I think the selection system certainly will have to be changed," said Westwood, whose place in the 2001 match is already assured thanks to his performances at the tail-end of last year.

"This year, unfortunately it is going to highlight it more than we would like.

"I think the time will come when it has to be selected from 10 off the world rankings and two picks.

"You can't penalise people for making the choice to play on the US Tour. The likes of Jesper and Sergio have set their stall out. They haven't tried to pull the wool over anyone's eyes.

"The Europeans would like their strongest team out, no matter where they play.

"I was asked about this before and at that time I said eight off the European Tour and four picks -- but I think even that would not be enough this year.

"I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be off the world rankings. You earn the points and it's a two-year thing. You could even make it five off the world rankings and five off the European rankings, with two picks.

"But a change is going to be needed."

Westwood begins favourite for the $188,000 first prize at Slaley Hall to move into the European money list's top 20 after an indifferent season, which continued last week with a missed cut at the U.S. Open in Tulsa.

"Southern Hills is the kind of course that highlights any weaknesses you've got," added Westwood.

"I've got a few weaknesses at the moment, but the positive thing to come out of last week is that my short game was good. If it hadn't been my scores would have been a lot higher."

Westwood's chief rival this week could be European PGA winner Andrew Oldcorn, who could virtually seal his Ryder Cup debut from his current seventh in the table if he wins.


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