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Ryder Cup means more to some players

He is closing in on 50 and so desperate to make the Ryder Cup team that he was willing to skip a major championship to increase his chances. Besides, he didn’t think the course was a good fit for his game.

Kenny Perry isn’t the only player who felt that way.

Four years ago, Fred Funk caused a minor stink when he skipped the British Open to play the B.C. Open and boost his chances of making the Ryder Cup team. The circumstances were slightly different, for several players didn’t think it was right for Funk to pick up Ryder Cup points the same week as a major.

But it showed how much the Ryder Cup means to American players.

Funk had no regrets because he didn’t think links golf at Royal Troon offered him much hope to succeed. Besides, the Ryder Cup criteria has changed since then and now is based primarily on money. In 2004, third place at the B.C. Open was equivalent to seventh place at the British Open. This year, third place in Milwaukee would be comparable to about 25th place the British Open.

Perry has played only three times at Torrey Pines without ever reaching the weekend. He is only hurting himself by not playing the U.S. Open, but feels as though he would be worse off going through a 36-hole qualifier (that’s 108 holes in five days) for a course where he doesn’t have good vibes. Instead, he will play Memphis, Hartford and Detroit, where he has more success.

How could anyone miss a major?

Jack Nicklaus said it’s one thing if Perry were in his 20s and a rising star, quite another for him to be 47 and trying to make a Ryder Cup team played in his home state of Kentucky.

Annika Sorenstam, for example, skipped an LPGA Tour major when she was 28, having played overseas and in need of a rest.

“My goal was never to make the Ryder Cup. It was to win the U.S. Open,” Nicklaus said. “But I understand. It’s a big thing to Kenny. I don’t think Kenny is trying to be No. 1 in the world. He’s trying to make a Ryder Cup team in his home state. That’s perfectly fine.”

It’s doubtful that U.S. captain Paul Azinger minds. The money counts double at majors, but Azinger is aware that nearly half of the Americans who finished in the top 10 at majors last year failed to win a tournament.

Remember, he wants winners.


June 4, 2008

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