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  • Alistair Tait

When Euro No 1 Meant Something

Add Abraham Ancer’s name to the contest to end the year as European number one. Victory in the WGC–FedEx St Jude Invitational moves Ancer (above) to seventh on the Race to Dubai. Open champion Colin Morikawa leads the charge in the number one spot, Billy Horschel is fourth and Will Zalatoris is eighth.

This quartet is listed as playing 34 European Tour events in total this year, nine each for Morikawa and Ancer, and eight apiece for Horschel and Zalatoris. Four prominent players vying to be become the first player from North America to win the Harry Vardon Trophy as European number one. Wonderful.

Europe’s place as the great melting pot of international golf seems intact. That’s until you look past the smoke and mirrors that count for European Tour appearances on the Race to Dubai nowadays to realise it’s all a bit of a con. This quartet has actually played just six "regular" European Tour events this year between them.

Morikawa played in Dubai earlier this year. Ancer was in the Saudi International and European Open while Zalatoris and Horschel appeared alongside Morikawa in that Scottish Open which has banned vowels from its official title. All of the above need to play just four regular European Tour events along with the majors and World Golf Championships, which count towards the PGA and European Tours, to qualify for membership.

The joke of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai is that we could have a European number one this season who played less “regular” European Tour events than the digits of one hand.

Some will say the same rules have applied to recent Harry Vardon Trophy winners. True, but most recent winners at least have an investment in the European Tour, a connection with their home circuit, albeit perhaps not as strong as it was in the days when Seve Ballesteros, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam, Colin Montgomerie and others were winning the European money list. When these stars actually played a full European Tour season.

When Lee Westwood finished number one last season for the third time, he did so by playing 15 tournaments. Twelve of them were regular European Tour events. Jon Rahm was number one in 2019 and played 13 European Tour events, six of which were regular European Tour events. Not a huge commitment, but half a dozen is better than four.

Nothing against Morikawa and company if one of them finishes the season as number one. They don’t write the membership requirements. If they claim the title then they’ll have done so abiding by the rules. However, can you imagine the PGA Tour allowing a situation whereby the FedEx Cup winner would have played just four regular PGA Tour events?

The four tournament quota was introduced as a sop to those Europeans who based themselves in the United States and played the PGA Tour more than the European circuit, a way of keeping them in the European family. Practical, but a downer for the European Tour.

Call me nostalgic, but playing in just four regular European Tour events and claiming the European number one title just doesn’t cut it. Surely whoever picks up the Harry Vardon Trophy should have a significant investment in the European Tour, not just piggy backing on the tour because the criteria is so flimsy they can play the circuit on a part-time basis?

I’m sure given the intense “strategic alliance” negotiations between the European and PGA Tours that Messrs Keith Pelley and Jay Monahan, respective chief executives, have plans to rectify this situation through further co-sanctioned tournaments. We’ll probably see the day when any PGA Tour player who happens to pass through European Tour headquarters qualifies for membership.

#JustSaying: “Essentially, we want all of our best players to be primarily committed to Europe.” Former European Tour CEO Ken Schofield in 1990

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