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Ian Woosnam concerned about PGA Tour focus

Europe's Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam is concerned he may face problems for the 2006 match in Ireland if leading European players continue to compete extensively in the United States next year.

Europe changed the qualification system for their successful trophy defence at Oakland Hills last September, allowing their players for the first time to earn Cup points via the world rankings instead of through the European Tour order of merit.

Many then opted to focus their playing schedules on the more lucrative PGA Tour.

"There must be a dozen key players playing the U.S. Tour at the moment and I'm worried about how the team may work out if the guys keep playing in America," Woosnam said at the Castello di Tolcinasco course near Milan before this week's Italian Open.

"It's a bit of a predicament but hopefully a lot of them will change their schedules and play a bit more over here.

"It's only five from the world rankings and five from the European rankings (for automatic Ryder Cup places). With the amount of players over there (in the U.S.), there could be too many playing for points via the world table."

Most of the triumphant European Ryder Cup team from Oakland Hills are playing in the U.S. this season, having been handed temporary memberships of the 2005 PGA Tour.

Irishman Padraig Harrington and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, both ranked in the world's top 10, head a list that also includes Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, David Howell, Paul Casey and Thomas Levet.

Non-Ryder Cup players like Justin Rose, Brian Davis and Greg Owen of Britain are also playing full schedules in the U.S. this year.

Graeme McDowell is another plying his trade in the U.S., although the Northern Irishman, who came close to earning a Ryder Cup debut last year, has taken a break from the PGA Tour to defend his Italian Open title this week.

McDowell has almost certainly done enough to earn his PGA Tour card for next season but said he would "put my trust in my manager" to arrange his schedule to give him the best chance of qualifying for Woosnam's team at the K Club.

Captained by Germany's Bernhard Langer, Europe won last year's Ryder Cup by a record-equalling 18-1/2 points to 9-1/2.

The 36th match will be played at the K Club in Ireland from September 22 to 24 next year.

 

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