- Alistair Tait
Does Oman spell trouble for Euro Tour?
Anyone seen next week’s fields for the Asian Tour’s International Tour Series Oman and the European Tour’s Singapore Classic? Both are worth $2 million but the old world circuit can’t compete with the Asian Tour.
Who’d have thought an Asian Tour event in Oman would ever trump a European Tour one?
That could become the norm if the European Tour wins next week’s arbitration case and is allowed to ban LIV Tour members from competing on what is now the DP World Tour. For many, that judgement would be bad for Keith Pelley and the organisation he presides over.
Of course, the concurrent events this week on the Asian and Euro Tours are out of kilter too. Even with the withdrawal of Dustin Johnson from the $5 million Saudi International, the Asian Tour field dwarves what the European Tour offers in the corresponding $2 million Ras Al Khaimah Championship in the United Arab Emirates. I count 11 major champions in Saudi Arabia – Cameron Smith, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Henrik Stenson, Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Charl Schwartzel and Bryson DeChambeau. Throw in household names like Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood, Harold Varner III, Paul Casey, Cameron Young, Matthew Wolff, Branden Grace and up and coming stars like Eugenio Chacarra, Sam Horsfield, Joaquim Niemann and others and no wonder the Saudi event carries a stronger strength of field rating from the Official World Golf Ranking than the UAE one, 147.71636 to 102.66738. The evergreen and ever affable Padraig Harrington is the one major star in this week’s UAE tournament, along with many recognisable and rising ET members like Eddie Pepperell, Victor Perez, Ryan Fox, Guido Migliozzi, Adrian Meronk, the Højgaard twins, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Thomas Bjorn, Oliver Wilson and others.
The above imbalance can be put down to Saudi Arabia’s massive investment in the LIV Tour, which means the LIV guys are much duty bound to tee it up this week. The same can’t be said about Oman when Koepka, Chacarra, Niemann, Schwartzel, Oosthuizen, Garcia, McDowell, Mito Pereira and Branden Grace are teeing it up. The corresponding Singapore tournament features no major stars, albeit the likes of Pepperell, Fox, Bjorn, Wilson, Cabrera Bello, Robert Macintyre and Adrian Otaegui are in action. The contrast between these two run of the mill tournaments surely spells danger for the European Tour if it wins the upcoming arbitration hearing?
If the likes of Koepka and co are banned from both the PGA and European Tours, then they’re likely to compete more on the Asian Tour if they want to play more than the 14 events on the LIV circuit. That’s great news for the Asian Tour but not so good for the European Tour.
You have to think some ET officials are secretly hoping the arbitration judgement comes out in the LIV players’ favour, meaning so-called “rebels” are free to tee it up in DP World Tour events going forward.
As was evident last week, the Rory McIlroy v Patrick Reed battle stirred just about every golf fan’s imagination. It was box office stuff.
True, the above duel won’t happen every week; Rory will probably only play a handful of “regular” European Tour events this year considering he has to play 20 PGA Tour events as compared to 15 previously. However, ban the LIV players and the enthralling battle that played out in Dubai has no chance of happening.
And what of European Tour sponsors? Surely many must be hoping Pelley loses his arbitration case and they have a chance of getting major winners in their fields, even if they have to shell out appearance money to lure them? Many are doing so now anyway, so no change there.
Although we won’t immediately know the outcome of next week’s arbitration decision, it could have far-reaching implications for Pelley and his DP World Tour.
Final cheeky question: will Pelley resign his position if he loses the arbitration hearing? Now there’s a poser.
#JustSaying: “I expect that the players, the LIV players, will win their case in the UK, and we'll open the doors for all players to play on the European Tour. There's a very good chance that you'll have more showdowns, more head-to-head competitions like you saw last week in Dubai, and I think that would be a really good thing for the game.” Phil Mickelson