by Jeff Skinner
This season there has been much discussion concerning the strength of the European Tour versus that of The PGA Tour and this week isn’t any different. The European Tour’s Qatar Masters has eight of the top twenty players in the world teeing it up and a new addition from America is one of them. Steve Stricker, the seventh ranked player in The Official World Golf Rankings has defected to The Euro Tour this week and is making his first appearance there in sixteen years. Stricker usually makes the trip to the Open Championship but he normally plays PGA Tour events only. Taken by itself, his entry in Qatar seems unimportant but combine it with Lee Westwood’s and Rory McIlroy’s election to opt out of The PGA Tour membership, Phil and Tiger playing in European events and the general strength of the European Tour, Stricker’s playing seems like another blow to The PGA Tour.
Stricker lives in Wisconsin in the off season and maybe he knew it would be freezing in Phoenix this week and Qatar would be a little warmer. Or maybe it’s the appearance fees The European Tour hands out like free ball markers that enticed him to go there. Either way we can’t complain about Stricker playing away from home this week. But even he points out the difference in the tournaments this week.
“A big reason that lured me to come over here is the strength of the field,” Stricker said. “You have Westwood and Kaymer, and Paul Casey winning last week (in Bahrain), moving into sixth position on the rankings. So you’ve got a strong field here, along with other players, Robert Karlsson, past winner from last year.”
When Stricker was asked about the strength of The PGA Tour versus the European Tour he gave his usual straight answer, “Right now, it’s kind of going in cycles where you’ll have a part of the world dominating the game for a while, like Tiger and Phil who were one and two for a period of time. Now you’ve got Westwood and Kaymer who have been playing some great golf over the last year, so it kind of goes in cycles. But right now, obviously the top players are over here in Europe and that is part of the reason why I came here to try to play well in this event.”
He’s right; it kind of does go in cycles. With all the talk of “growing the game” and “for the good of the game,” strong tours on opposite sides of the Atlantic should be viewed as a good thing. Too many of us insist that The PGA Tour needs to be the best or the strongest tour in the world. As long as the golfers keep playing great golf, be it in America or Europe, we should be happy.