Sunday, November 14, 2010

Has European Tour golf won out over the PGA Tour?

In what is considered by some to be a snub to America, Rory McIlroy recently declined PGA Tour membership for the upcoming 2011 season joining Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood as staunch supporters of the European Tour.

“The two best players in the world at the moment are not going to join the US Tour next year,” said McIlroy, number nine in the world. “It's a great time for European golf.”

Both Westwood and McIlroy have voiced concerns about a long PGA Tour schedule with few breaks in between events and the idea that their golf careers should not be solely about money.

The PGA Tour further ostracized Euro Tour golfers recently with its offer of a three-year exemption to the winner of a WGC event in China  only if that golfer is a member of an American Tour!

McIlroy recently said, "The FedEx Cup is only about money and you shouldn't just be going over to play thinking about how much you can make. I needed a break after the USPGA [In August], but had only one week. There is no flexibility in your schedule as the FedEx forces you to appear at those events. I didn't like that.”

Is money even a consideration for the two Euro Tour golfers, now atop the money list, or have they become sated and more interested in enjoying a less grueling schedule? With many of the top competitors now in Europe (seven Euro Tour players won eight 2010 PGA Tour events) and purses growing, it makes sense for many Euro Tour golfers to support their own events.

As a note, career earnings for Lee Westwood to date on the PGA Tour (from Yahoo! Sports) is a staggering $28.5 million dollars. Rory McIlroy's career earnings are a more conservative $8 million to date with $2 million won this year as a result of his win at the Quail Hollow Championship.

I agree with McIlroy that money can't buy happiness, but it can offer a comfortable lifestyle for you and your family! That being said, with the European Tour requirement to compete in thirteen events in 2011 and the PGA Tour needing fifteen events in order to retain a card, both Tours are forcing a choice to be made by the golfers, and more professional golfers are leaning towards the European Tour.

Ian Poulter is torn between keeping his PGA and Euro Tour cards, "I have a house over in the States and my family is well settled over there, but then you can't deny playing two tours is becoming increasingly difficult, especially with the European Tour number you have to play going up."

Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, is expected to join the PGA Tour in 2011 to "give it a go" but has also expressed concern about the FedEx Cup playoff schedule.

"I'd like to try the FedEx[Cup] Playoffs, although I wasn't particularly impressed by the format this year. ... But I certainly do want to go out and play a little bit more golf out there." McDowell attempted to join the PGA Tour after his win at the U.S. Open but didn't qualify, finishing 197th in points.

If the winner of the U.S. Open can't qualify for a PGA Tour card, perhaps that is yet another signal for Europeans to back away from the the tour.

Even Phil Mickelson has decided to play his first event of 2011 out of the States in January at the Abu Dhabi Championship. But, I think for Phil the enticement IS the money and the chance to get out of playing at the five-day Bob Hope event.

Perhaps it's time for the PGA and Euro Tours to join forces, tightening up both entities but maintaining their distinct identities. Golfers seem to want to play in both Tours but are forced to choose one over the other. Instead, oust tournaments without sponsors, give "crybabies" a rest but make all golfers sign on to certain events so that all tournaments have A, B and C-list players covered. European Tour golfers are speaking up, but its up to the PGA Tour to listen.

Maybe my thoughts are a bit too Utopian  ... "kindness and good-nature unite men more effectually and with greater strength than any agreements whatsoever." Sir Thomas More

Xtreme PGA Tour Golf  
The new and improved PGA European Tour? (credit)

Joining forces does have its considerations: for one thing, it wouldn't be "Us against Them" Anymore. Where would we be without the Ryder Cup?

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Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, maybe money plays a bigger role than these guys are pretending. After all, Euro Tour and Asian events can pay appearance fees. And Euro players are more likely to find big endorsements deals at home than abroad. I think money has quite a bit to do with these decisions. said...

Interesting post. I wonder if the European Tour will one day take over as the #1 Tour. It will probably depend on how the economy recovers and where the sponsor dollars go.

Maybe it will lead to the creation of a "Global Tour".

Thanks for sharing!

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