Padraig Harrington lashes out at Rory McIlroy's proposed Ryder Cup change
Padraig Harrington insists that European Tour membership is a must for Ryder Cup eligibility and branded suggestions to the contrary by the likes of Rory McIlroy as nothing less than "silly".
McIlroy said recently that the match should feature "the best 12 players from Europe versus the best 12 from the US," adding that for him "there shouldn't be anything to do with membership of tours" in the qualifying criteria.
While he did not mention the 27-year-old Ulsterman by name, Harrington vehemently defended the European Tour's requirement that you must be a member of the European Tour to qualify.
"The Ryder Cup is far too important to the European Tour for the man on the ground to be saying, 'Why not just select the top 12 in the world rankings and be done with it?'" Harrington said after the Turkish Airlines Open.
"That would be silly. The reason we have done well in the Ryder Cup is because of our selection criteria and how we have worked it.
"Just because we lost the last one and the US have changed their criteria doesn't mean we should change ours. Ours was working just fine."
Harrington is not in favour of big changes to the European system, which compiles the team by selecting the leading four Members on the Ryder Cup European Points List, five from the Ryder Cup World Points List and three captain's picks.
"I would change the (final qualifying cut-off) date and push it back two weeks. It's just a little early, a month before it," he said of a system that requires players to play just five European Tour events apart from the four Majors and the three World Golf Championships with the Ryder Cup and the Olympic Games both counting.
For the Dubliner, effectively denying the rank and file European Tour player a chance to achieve his dream and win a place in the Ryder Cup team would be to destroy the essence of the event.
"The Ryder Cup is all about the European Tour," he said. "And the Ryder Cup, it represents the non-Europeans who are members of the European Tour too. That is how I see it.
"It is a carrot used by the European Tour. If you want to play in the Ryder Cup and improve your career prospects you have got to be a member of the tour and play five times. It is not much to ask."
Quizzed about Europe's Ryder Cup defeat at Hazeltine last month - the first since 2008 - McIlroy told the 'No Laying Up' podcast that not having Paul Casey in the side contributed to Europe's loss.
McIlroy said: "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."
Lee Westwood felt the same, adding: "If you prove that you're world class on, say, the PGA Tour and not the European Tour, why should that have any bearing?"
The European Tour's chief executive Keith Pelley suggested in Turkey that they were at least willing to consider changes.
"We're always talking to our top players," Pelley said. "We will adjust the Ryder Cup qualifications if we feel we need to."