Euro finish leaves some players needing more starts

Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood

Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Matthew Baldwin could end their European Tour seasons deeply frustrated, “co-sanctioned” victims of the European Tour’s international schedule.

The bad news has already sunk in for both, the news they weren’t told at the end of last season when they gained European Tour cards through the European Challenge Tour.

Fleetwood finished first on the European Challenge Tour order of merit, Baldwin 10th to graduate to this year’s main Tour. So far so good. However, what they probably didn’t realize at the time was that fulfilling certain goals wasn’t going to be as easy as they thought.

Fleetwood is currently 120th on the European Tour money list. He needs to finish inside the top 115 to keep his card for next year. Baldwin has no worries about keeping his card. He’s 70th on the money list after a stellar rookie year. However, if he can get to 60th then he gains a place in the no cut, end of season $8 million DP World Tour Championship. A good finish in that cash cow could turn a stellar year into a brilliant one.

No problem, you say. There are three tournaments left with a combined prize fund of nearly $9 million. One good finish by either player can take care of business. Problem is, both players only have the chance of one good finish, not three.

The European Tour Schedule may look good on paper, but it has hidden obstacles, especially for guys like Fleetwood and Baldwin. They will only compete for a share of $780,000 of the aforementioned $9 million. All their eggs are in the SA Open Championship.

This week’s $6 million Barclays Singapore Open and next week’s $2 million UBS Hong Kong Open are co-sanctioned events with the Asian Tour. The field is a 50-50 split. Baldwin and Fleetwood’s categories mean they don’t even get a sniff of a place in either tournament. The SA Open is also co-sanctioned, but the lower purse means guys further down the European food chain get starts.

Indeed, many European Tour pros who had decent seasons last year can’t get into the Singapore or Hong Kong fields. Scotland’s Peter Whiteford finished 63rd on last year’s European money list, yet he’s first reserve for Singapore. Whiteford isn’t guaranteed his tour card for next year. He’s currently 110th on the money list.

Of course, there’s an obvious answer to the predicament Fleetwood, Baldwin and Whiteford find themselves in: play better. Fleetwood has competed in 30 events this year, Baldwin and Whiteford 25. Had they performed better in those events they’d have nothing to worry about right now.

Every tour pro sets out to do as well as possible in every tournament, but it’s more imperative in Europe nowadays. There was a time when those who earned European Tour cards were given the luxury of competing in more tournaments late in the season. In the co-sanctioned age, European Tour pros have to make hay while the sun shines or risk missing out on the harvest altogether.

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