- Alistair Tait
Maybe Sergio Garcia is right
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
Maybe Sergio Garcia is right: Perhaps the European Tour, now the DP World Tour, is becoming the world’s fifth best circuit.
Evidence from the weekend suggests that’s a very real possibility.
Well done Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson on winning the ISPS Handa World Invitational, his second victory of the season to go with the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. Plaudits also to Modest Golf for staging the $3m tri-sanctioned event between the DP World Tour, LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour. The more women and men play together the better it is for this great game of ours.
Yes, there’s a "but" coming….
But Ferguson must wish his win carried as many world ranking points as the corresponding $850,000 Pinnacle Bank Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. Robby Shelton IV won the Pinnacle Bank event and picked up 14.69014 world ranking points. Ferguson? He earned 8.16824 ranking points, almost half what was on offer on the second tier event in North America. England’s Benjamin Taylor finished second to Shelton and made more of a dent on the Official World Golf Ranking than Ferguson. Taylor picked up 8.81408 points.
At least Ferguson won more points than the winner of the International Series Singapore, but not by much. Thailand’s Nitithorn Thippong garnered 7.39648 points for his Singapore success. Both tournaments carried equal prize money of $1.5 million.
Ferguson went wire to wire at Galgorm Castle in Northern Ireland, thanks in part to a course record 61 in the opening round. The affable 26-year-old former Walker Cup player (2015) deserves all the plaudits that come his way for his three-shot victory. However, serious questions surely have to be asked when a main European Tour event plays second fiddle to a Korn Ferry tournament, and only just outmuscles an Asian Tour event?
Wait, wasn’t the “strategic alliance” between the PGA Tour and European Tour supposed to strengthen both circuits in the face of opposition from the LIV Tour? Not on the evidence of this last weekend. Surely the strategic alliance wasn’t designed to make the European Tour weaker than the PGA Tour’s feeder circuit?
Remember what Sergio Garcia said about the European Tour as he departed St Andrews after the 150th Open Championship.
“What they are doing is a shame because the European Tour is going to become the fifth (strongest) in the world."
It’s easy to cast off the Spaniard’s comments as sour grapes, criticism made in the spate of a wee hissy fit because the state of golf isn’t to his liking – Sergio’s thrown his fair share of hissy fits over the years – but there’s perhaps a grain of truth in his assertion.
The PGA Tour is obviously the world's premier professional golf tour. Cast offs from the PGA Tour and those aspiring to join America’s premier circuit make the Korn Ferry Tour an extremely strong and competitive environment. Any hope that the European Tour would match the PGA Tour in strength of fields and prize money disappeared years ago, despite considerable Middle East investment over the years. Meanwhile, the European Tour can’t even begin to try and match the money on offer on the LIV Tour, an entity that has attracted much of Europe’s top, if aging, talent, including Garcia. Meanwhile, considerable Saudi investment into the Asian Tour makes that once struggling arena a highly desirable option for those aspiring to make money from hitting small white balls into equally small dark holes.
Let’s cut Keith Pelley and the European Tour some slack. The European Tour was adversely affected during the pandemic. Pelley and his team did an extremely good job of putting together a playing schedule under stringent conditions. However, the pandemic’s over. It’s time to up the game. Yet here we are at the height of summer in a string of five tournaments since the Open championship including this week’s D+D Real Czech Masters and the prize money hasn’t topped €1.75 million, and Ewen Ferguson gets less points for winning a full European Tour event than someone placing second on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Hardly strategic alliance success, is it?
By the way, I hope Sergio is wrong. I hope the European Tour stays the world’s second best circuit, that prize funds increase and fields grow stronger in the face of the LIV challenge. It just doesn’t look that way right now. After all, the upcoming Omega European Masters, won by the Who’s Who of European golf, carries the same €2 million prize fund as it did in 2009.
#JustSaying: “It’s been a good year, and obviously you get times where it doesn’t go so well, so I think you really need to appreciate things where you’re picking up trophies or you’re making cuts and you’re doing all right because it’s a really tough game,” Ewen Ferguson
Image by Getty Images courtesy of the European Tour