by Jeff Skinner
Did the European Tour just one up the PGA Tour? Have the folks from Surrey, England topped the bluecoats in Ponte Verde? Is Tim Finchem walking around muttering “why didn’t I think of that?” The answer may be yes on all three.
The European Tour is expected to announce shortly that it will count membership on a Ryder, Presidents or Seve Cup as participation in a European Tour event. It may not seem like much but in the battle between the two predominant world golf tours it appears to be a shot across the bow of the U.S. PGA Tour.
The European Tour has been very aggressive in its scheduling of new tournaments throughout the world, especially the very fertile Asian market. It also has the advantage of paying “appearance fees” which goes a long way in attracting golfers from every tour.
With this small but important accounting move, the European Tour has made it significantly easier for a player to play the required 13 European Tour events needed to be a member and then compete in the very lucrative Race to Dubai final.
Now, this only would involve the twelve golfers that play on each team but if a player makes any of those three teams it is safe to say he is having a great year and is probably a fairly big draw at any event they play.
Right away the focus went to Tiger Woods and his remarks saying that he would have to look at his options for playing both tours. The four majors and the four WGC events are sanctioned by both tours and with credit for a team event that gives a player nine tournaments already. Meaning, all Woods or any other team member needs to do is play four more events to qualify as a member of both tours.
Luke Donald was able to compete on both tours last year and did it well enough to win the money title on both The U.S. PGA and the European Tour. Over Tiger’s career if he had been a member of the European Tour he would have won their money title five times.
This season Tiger has played in Abu Dhabi so a few more starts would get him into the European Tour’s eight million dollar DP World Championship. You can understand why Woods would consider adding a few tournaments next year.
For many players it wouldn’t take much to become a European Tour member. Phil Mickelson played in the Scottish Open this year and that puts him in the same class as Tiger, needing only a few strategically placed Euro Tour starts to be a full member.
There are some approvals that the PGA Tour needs to approve for a player to compete in an event that competes with a PGA Tour event but those requests are rarely denied. And if there is a movement among players to want to try a two tour season they could very well petition the tour to change its bylaws.
It is a common phrase used by every golfer and golf administrator, “it’s a global game.” And it truly is, but the European Tour is a step ahead of the PGA Tour with expanding its brand throughout the globe. And Mr. Finchem and his crew are probably thinking of ways to counter their European Tour counterparts. Maybe the easiest move would be to do the same thing therefore making it easier for European Tour players to become members of the PGA Tour.
It’s a smart move by the European Tour in the battle for the best players and I have a feeling the battle is a long way from over.