PGA Tour Plays Chicken With European Players
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We all know that the Euros got the best of our last encounter at the Ryder Cup. I thought we were going to have to wait two years to see a rematch, but the PGA and European Tours are giving us a bit of a rematch less than 2 months later. Over the last few weeks there have been a series of escalating actions/reactions that have the potential to create dramatic lasting impacts on the landscape of professional golf.
If you haven’t been following everything too closely, here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on:
- Non-American players win three out of four majors this year (Graeme McDowell, N. Ireland; Louis Oosthuizen, S. Africa; Martin Kaymer, Germany)
- Paul Casey and Justin Rose are left off the Euro Ryder Cup team by Colin Montgomerie (at least in part due to the fact that they play primarily in the US)
- Europe barely wins the Ryder Cup
- Lee Westwood takes over the No. 1 ranking from Tiger
- Anthony Kim is denied a medical exemption to keep his European Tour Card: He only played seven events but was 48th on the money list
- Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer decide not to be PGA Tour members for 2011 (Westwood said “no” as well but that was already expected). They don’t like the FedEx Cup format (who can blame them?)
- PGA Tour then waves a big stick, threatening to limit PGA Tour events for McIlroy for the next five years if he drops membership
- Ian Poulter suggests he may have to rethink his tour membership choice
So where does that leave us? We have the top professional golf tour in the world getting involved in a standoff with some of the best golfers in the world. Ultimately I suspect that cooler heads will prevail and the desire to make money will allow all of the involved parties to reach agreements that keep everybody happy.
McIlroy may or may not follow through with dropping his tour membership. But even if he does, the Tour will likely come up with a way to allow him to play all of the big events (like they do with Westwood). Poulter will keep his Tour card. The money in the US is too good and who wants to move from Florida to England?
What will be the impact on the PGA Tour? Not much. The Tour needs players more than they need the tour, but a few European players walking away isn’t going to have a dramatic impact on sponsors/attendance. And if the money keeps flowing, not much will change. If we get really lucky, this might cause some proactive thinkers at the tour offices to think about how the FedEx Cup could be revamped to be more understandable for the fans and less taxing on the players. I’m not holding my breath though.
At the end of the day, the PGA Tour is still where the best golf in the world is being played and the biggest checks are being cashed. That’s not going to change anytime soon. However, we’re seeing the emergence of the European and Asian tours as legitimate alternatives rather than stepping stones. We now have more opportunities to see great golf being played all over the world. And to me, that’s never a bad thing.
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