Lee Westwood has rowed in behind Rory McIlroy’s call for European Tour to scrap its membership requirement to be eligible for Ryder Cup duty.
The Holywood native said on a recent US podcast that the rule Only European Tour members can play on the team, a rule which meant captain Darren Clarke did not have the option of selecting world No 12 Paul Casey, who gave up his membership to concentrate on the PGA Tour.
“I think at the end of the day, you want the best possible European players teeing it up in the Ryder Cup,” Westwood said on the eve of the Turkish Airlines Open.
Elaborating, he added: “I can see the reason why they want you to be a European Tour Member, but I think it’s unfortunate when you have clearly world-class/Ryder Cup experienced players missing out because they have chosen to, for one reason or that, live in America or play golf solely in America.
"I can always sympathise with them because I don't see why that personal decision should affect whether you can play in The Ryder Cup or not.
“At the end of the day, you're still European and you still have the passion to play for Europe and represent them.
“Where you play, really, if you prove that you’re world-class on, say, the PGA TOUR and not The European Tour, why should that have any bearing on whether you can play or not.”
McIlroy told the No Laying Up podcast, “it should be the best 12 players from Europe versus the best 12 players from the US.”
He added: “For me, there shouldn’t be anything to do with membership of tours. To have a guy like Paul Casey not on our team when he is playing some of the best golf in the world right now, it definitely hurt us.”
Current world No 19 Russell Knox would have qualified on merit had he been a member of the European Tour when he won the WGC – HSBC Champions last year.
Meanwhile, Willett is hoping that a strong performance at this week’s Turkish Airlines Open can help him steal a march in his push to win the Race to Dubai for the first time in his career, having agonisingly missed out on the number one spot last year.
The reigning Masters Tournament champion arrives at Regnum Carya Golf and Spa Resort for the first event of the European Tour’s Final Series and, having finished tied for 11th at this event last year and tied for fourth in 2014, is confident of overcoming his recent run of disappointing form.
Having been overtaken by Henrik Stenson at the top of the Race to Dubai rankings last week, a strong result would see the Englishman return to the summit, while a win would go a long way in securing the title for the 29 year old.
Willett is joined in the field this week by compatriot and former World Number One Lee Westwood and the resurgent three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, while Frenchman Victor Dubuisson will be hoping to achieve the remarkable feat of three victories in this event’s four year history.
“I had a terrible week last week and it was one of those things where anything that could go wrong did go wrong and I didn't play great. And then just to put the icing on the cake, obviously Henrik and Rory both finished up there on the leaderboard.
“It's unfortunate that he's (Henrik) jumped above me but I was never going to win The Race to Dubai on the amount I was on. I always had to bump it forward, get more money on the board, and that's still the aim. I’ve got to go out here this week, hopefully the golf game gets a little better and I just keep working forward.
“I've obviously got Nedbank next week and then the Race to Dubai finale the week after that, so there's still a lot of golf left. I've just not been playing very well, so that's the main aim of the next three weeks, to play better.
“I think with Rory last year, to beat him, the criteria was I needed to better him in Dubai and I finished fourth and he finished first. This year, obviously with myself and Henrik and Rory right there, I think unless anyone does anything silly over the next two weeks, Dubai could be really, really good.”
“It's a different course this week obviously and it looks good. It looks quite tight, it's in great condition and they are great facilities here. The weather looks great for the week, so it's a good tournament and I'm looking forward to playing.
“Once you get here, you see that it's fantastic. Everybody's so friendly here and it's a fantastic resort we're playing on, everybody's relaxed and easy-going and looking forward to having a world-class golf tournament.
“I've got three big tournaments now and I'm finding a bit of form. I played well at the British Masters and played okay last week in China with just one poor round on the Saturday. But this is a big tournament, Dubai is, and I'm looking forward to playing the World Cup with Danny for my final event of the year.”
“I'm very excited about this week. This has been a great week for me over the last few years and I hope I will have a good result again. It's not the same course but it's very similar.
“I've had two really good weeks at this tournament in the last few weeks, maybe the putting was better and I just hope to do well again this week.
“The greens are really good, they're very fast. The course is very similar to the one we played before with the trees and a little bit of water. It's a good course.”