- Alistair Tait
European Tour Shame
Updated: May 11
Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald expressed the right word after Lee Westwood, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter tendered their European Tour resignations.
No matter what side you take in the PGA Tour/European Tour battle versus LIV Golf, the fact such stalwarts will no longer tee it up in the Ryder Cup is sad. Equally so to think these three along with Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer will never captain a European Ryder Cup team. At least Henrik Stenson can say he has been a captain, albeit for only five minutes.
And equally sad to think these players might never play in another European Tour event. Let’s just remind ourselves of how many European tournaments the aforementioned six have played: 2,355. (Westwood 590, Poulter 396, Stenson 391, McDowell 338, Garcia 323 and Kaymer 317). They’ve won 86 tournaments, including five majors titles.
Westwood, Stenson and Kaymer are former Harry Vardon Trophy winners as European Tour number ones, Westwood a three-time winner. They achieved that feat by playing generous European Tour schedules, unlike some recent number ones who’ve played just a handful of “regular” European Tour events.
As I‘ve pointed out previously, Westwood played proper European Tour schedules when he took his number one titles: 23 in 2000, 26 in 2009 and 15 in the Covid-affected 2020 schedule. Yet because he decided to join LIV Golf he’s now persona non grata. Thanks for your loyalty for all those years, Lee, now sod off!
I’m still trying to get my head around why it’s been perfectly fine for European Tour members to join other tours for years with no complaints. Why weren’t Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Jesper Parnevik and others vilified as traitors when they made the PGA Tour their main circuit? No one’s ever given me a proper explanation of that dichotomy.
Westwood, Kaymer, McDowell and Garcia are Honorary Life Members of the European Tour. Life members? What’s the point of that accolade?
You can probably bet the Italian Golf Federation and sponsors DS Automobiles would love to have Westwood and company in action in this week’s Italian Open. They would have added a lot of punch to a tournament lacking in star quality.
There are no top 60 players in the field. A $3.25 million event just isn’t enough nowadays to coax the top players into their private jets, even to get a sneak preview of the course hosting this year’s Ryder Cup.
Adrian Meronk is the highest ranked player in Italy at 63rd on the Official World Golf Ranking. He is one of just 10 world top 100 players. The others are Victor Perez (66), Adri Arnous (87), Robert MacIntyre (91), Kazuki Higa (93), Callum Shinkwin (94), Thriston Lawrence (95), Adrian Otaegui (96), Thorbjorn Olesen (98) and Jordan Smith (99). And MacIntyre has withdrawn.
You’d have thought in a Ryder Cup year there’d more of an effort by some of Europe’s top players to support Italy’s premier event, a tournament with a rich history dating back to 1925. Remember when European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley was beseeching his members to support so-called ‘heritage events’? That didn’t go down too well, did it?
You have to think those running the Italian Open might have expected a Ryder Cup rebate.
Next year’s tournament might be even weaker following the European Tour’s bizarre agreement with the PGA Tour to hand its top 10 players not otherwise exempt 2024 PGA Tour cards. Explain to me again why it’s a good idea to send your most promising players to another circuit?
Still, the European Tour seems to have gone one up in the battle with LIV Golf. Poulter, Garcia and Westwood no longer pay homage to the European flag.
Meanwhile, those running the Italian Open must be hoping its fortunes vastly improve once the benefits of the European Tour’s “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour kick in.
#JustSaying: "It's a shame you've got the highest points scorer ever in the Ryder Cup (Garcia) and two guys (Poulter and Westwood) that when they look back on their career, that's going to be a big chunk of their legacy. For those three guys to not captain Europe one day, it's a shame." Rory McIlroy