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  • Alistair Tait

Selling Off European Golf's Future?

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

Here’s a thought: Imagine Sir Alex Ferguson when he was Manchester United manager agreeing to reward some of his best young players by giving them to a rival club – say Liverpool – because they’d excelled during the season. How about New England Patriots coach Bill Belicheck saying to 10 members of his squad: “You’ve played well this year, so well I’m giving you to the Miami Dolphins."

Madness, right?

Why would any organisation, sporting or otherwise, readily give away promising talent to strengthen another body and potentially risk damaging its own strength? Talk about selling off the future?

Oh wait… as of next year that’s exactly what the European Tour will do. At the conclusion of the 2023 Race to Dubai, Euro Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley will say something along the following lines to 10 Euro Tour members:

“Well played boys. Pack your bags, start looking for property in Florida, we’re sending you to the PGA Tour. Have a great future. Oh, and can you PLEASE come back and visit us every once in a while?”

In case you’ve missed it, part of the “strategic alliance” deal between the PGA Tour and European Tour dictates the top 10 players on the 2023 Race to Dubai not already exempt on the PGA Tour will receive cards for that circuit.

By my calculations, the following 10 would be heading to the United States if the policy was in operation this season. (Figures in brackets indicate current position on the Race to Dubai.)

1. Ryan Fox (3)

2. Thomas Pieters (6)

3. Adrian Meronk (8)

4. Thriston Lawrence (9)

5. Ewen Ferguson (11)

6. Robert MacIntyre (12)

7. Jordan Smith (13)

8. Pablo Larrazabal* (15)

9. Callum Shinkwin (16)

10. Victor Perez (17)

Larrazabal gets the asterisk because he’s competed on the LIV Tour. Since the European and PGA Tours have designated those who play on the so-called “rebel” circuit pariahs, then presumably Larrazabal will need to buy a gate admission ticket to get anywhere near a PGA Tour event in future.

Not Fox and co. They might just be spending time in the United States next year if they can replicate this season’s form. How much time should be a concern to European Tour fans. I’d have thought it would be a worry for European Tour officials too.

Let’s not forget sponsors. It must already be difficult for the European Tour to attract investment given a fair few tournaments have lower strength of field ratings than the Korn Ferry Tour. How much harder will it be in future when promising players are competing in the United States?

The following table shows the number of tournaments the above have played on this year’s European schedule:

1. Ryan Fox 20

2. Thomas Pieters 15

3. Adrian Meronk 20

4. Thriston Lawrence 26

5. Ewen Ferguson 24

6. Robert MacIntyre 20

7. Jordan Smith 21

8. Pablo Larrazabal 17

9. Calum Shinkwin 19

10. Victor Perez 18

Will they play that many next year? Good question? They might not have the luxury if they’re trying to hang on to PGA Tour status.

Many players have discovered it’s a tough gig trying to play two tours, especially those you don’t qualify for the majors and World Golf Championships which count on both tours. We’ve seen a plethora of players say goodbye to the European Tour to focus on the American circuit. Surely that’s the danger for the likes of MacIntyre and co? Not that we could cast aspersions if that dynamic occurred; you can’t blame them for wanting to earn more money and more ranking points.

However, it's bad enough that Europe’s top stars play most of their golf in America and pay mere lip service to their home circuit, but to actively encourage up and coming talent to go to the PGA Tour seems crazy.

Or am I missing something? Perhaps there’s something hidden in the fine print of the so far underwhelming “strategic alliance” deal between the European and PGA Tours that will offset this loss of talent? We can only hope so.

Pelley bristles at the suggestion the European Tour is a feeder circuit to the PGA Tour. In truth, it has been as far back as anyone can remember; ever since Tony Jacklin headed west, every major European Tour star has migrated to the home of the brave and the land of the free tee at some point. And why not? Most tour pros are going to go where there's more money, more world ranking points, better courses, less international travel and even a chance to pay less tax if you live in a certain Sunshine State. However, there was never an official European Tour route to the promised land until Pelley instituted his “pathway” – don’t dare say "feeder circuit!" – to the PGA Tour as part of the “strategic alliance” deal.

I’ve been scratching my head over this arrangement since it was announced. Perhaps someone can tell me how it benefits the European Tour.

Answers on a postcard please.

#JustSaying:Since I’ve been here, all the top players wanted to get to the PGA Tour but there wasn’t a direct pathway; there is now. The best pathway to the PGA Tour is with us.” Keith Pelley


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