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  • Alistair Tait

Here’s To The Euro Tour Journeymen

Colin Montgomerie played 27 times on the 1993 European Tour en route to becoming European number one for the first time. Tommy Fleetwood made 24 appearances when he won the 2017 Harry Vardon Trophy for finishing atop the Race to Dubai.

It might be an awfully long time before we see another European number one play 20 or more times on the European Tour, sorry, the DP World Tour. Monty's record of 27 for a number one might never be broken.

Much has been made of Collin Morikawa or Billy Horschel becoming the first American to win the Harry Vardon Trophy at the end of this week’s DP World Tour Championship. Morikawa will have played 10 events this season, while Horschel’s tally will be 11.

Either way, it will be the lowest number of appearances for the number one player since the European Tour came into existence in 1972. Justin Rose (2007) and Francesco Molinari (2018) share the low appearance record for number one players at 12.

England’s Peter Oosterhuis topped the 1972 money list, the European Tour’s first official season, with €16,556.40 from 17 tournaments. There were only 22 events on the schedule.

Oosterhuis’s 77% appearance rate puts Morikawa’s 25% showing and Herschel’s 27.5% appearance tally in perspective.

Top stars don’t have to rack up tournament entries to win the Harry Vardon Trophy nowadays, not when the majors and World Golf Championships count towards the money lists on the European and PGA Tours.

This week’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai will be just Morikawa’s third “regular” tournament of the year along with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the vowel-challenged abrdn Scottish Open. His other appearances have been in the majors and WGCs. Along with this week, Horschel played the Scottish, won the BMW PGA Championship, and competed in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

No disrespect to either player if they win the Harry Vardon Trophy; they will have done so fairly and squarely under the rules the European Tour set out. Rules many European Tour golf fans feel are ridiculous given the paucity of “regular” tournaments required to maintain membership.

Here’s an idea the European Tour will probably never institute: How about a separate award for the player who wins the most money from regular European Tour events, i.e., not money earned in the majors or WGCs.

Surely there has to be a call to reward those players who show the most allegiance to the Tour, a wee trophy to say thanks for making the effort to play as many tournaments as possible?

Min Woo Lee is currently fifth on the Race to Dubai with 2,187.1 points, or €1,719,260.88 in earnings from 20 tournaments. Most of that tally has come from winning the Scottish Open, his second tour victory following the 2020 ISPS HANDA Vic Open. He’s played just two WGC events this year, and his only major appearance came in the Open Championship.

Surely Lee’s performance this year is worth something considering he’s bust his you know what to play as many tournaments as possible? And surely that goes every year for players who show loyalty to the tour, rather than those who just cherry pick the regular tournaments they want to play, especially those that pay appearance fees?

Here’s my proposal to reward the majority of European Tour players who don’t have access to the riches on offer in the majors and WGC tournaments: how about an award to honour the commitment players like Lee make towards playing as many regular tournaments as possible? Set a minimum quota of events, say 15, and the player who makes the most money from those tournaments outside the blue chip events – the majors and WGC events – gets a wee bit of recognition.

It could be called the Ken Schofield award. The Scot was European Tour chief executive from 1975 to 2008 and had the foresight to take the tour outside Continental Europe to create the world tour that exists today. He also staged a long battle to get his members into the three major championships in the United States. And, to his credit, succeeded.

Here’s to those players who actually play on the European Tour on a regular basis, the guys who keep the circus on the road week in, week out.

Without them, there would be no tour.

#JustSaying: “It is a crime that a player of Ronan Rafferty’s stature has to win the (1989) Volvo Order of Merit (with 25 European appearances) to actually get to the 1st tee in possibly three US-based majors.” Ken Schofield in 1989

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