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  • Alistair Tait

Molinari move should worry European Tour

You can bet they won't be singing Frankie goes to Hollywood down at European Tour headquarters in celebration of Francesco Molinari's decision to up sticks and move to California.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley will be hoping it isn't the onset of a fresh talent drain to the United States. It very well could be given the current state of the world.

Molinari made the announcement on twitter when he wrote:

"It's been a very strange few months for everyone lately, facing challenges that we never even thought possible. As many of my colleagues, this forced break gave [me] a chance to sit back and think about many things. It mostly made me think about the future and what I want to achieve in the coming years, from a professional point of view but mostly from a family standpoint.
“This is why we've decided to leave London and the U.K. after 11 happy, intense, satisfying and consuming years. The next chapter of our life is going to be in California, where we hope to be safe, happy and to spend more time together as a family. This is what's keeping me busy now and away from tournament golf."

Molinari can't be blamed for the move. He's obviously looked at the current landscape, considered his future and decided what's best for his career. Besides, he’s been playing more on the PGA Tour of late than his home circuit. Of his 11 European Tour appearances last season, only four were what could be described as strictly European Tour tournaments, the bare minimum to maintain membership. The other seven were the four majors and WGC events co-sanctioned with the PGA Tour.

The affable Italian will still maintain his European Tour membership but, as with other Ryder Cup teammates, his appearances on his home circuit are sure to take a hit. More worryingly, it could persuade others to follow suit.

The tour accepted long ago that established, older stars in Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey, Luke Donald and more latterly Rory McIlroy had made the PGA Tour their home tour, but that said players would make occasional forays back to Europe. The advent of the Rolex Series seemed to be a hook to keep players like Molinari and younger stars playing more in Europe.

This week’s PGA Tour leaderboard includes some of those younger stars. Players like Matthew Fitzpatrick, Matt Wallace, Tyrrell Hatton, Tom Lewis, Danny Willett, Alex Noren, Lucas Bjerregaard, Rafa Cabrera Bello and others are teeing it up in this week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic. Who can blame them? Indeed, Fitzpatrick has made no bones in the past about wanting to put down established roots on the PGA Tour.

As Pelley admitted when the coronavirus rocked the world, one of the European Tour’s strengths, diversity, is now one of its limitations. It might be a wee while before players are jetting to foreign destinations given the protocols surrounding international travel.

You can’t blame Molinari, Fitzpatrick et al for wanting to base themselves in the United States, but it’s not great news for the European Tour. It can ill afford to see its young, up and coming stars heading across the Atlantic.

Tommy Fleetwood, Molinari’s Ryder Cup teammate, has shown no inclination to move permanently to the United States, but it has to be on his mind. Fleetwood goes to Florida is another song the European Tour doesn’t want to hear.

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