Something strange happened last week on the European Tour – a tournament was actually held in Europe.
Such occasions are becoming rare.
Twelve tournaments into the 2011 season and the European Tour finally turned up in Europe for the inaugural Sicilian Open. But the European sojourn won’t last long. This week sees the Tour visit Malaga, Spain, for the Open de Andalucia before the Tour takes off for the Far East.
This year’s European Tour is comprised of 52 events. Only 27 of them are held on European soil. Of those 27, maybe five are what you would call big events. The rest are mere fodder for the Tour’s also-rans.
That’s the way with Europe these days. And it’s a worry.
To hold European Tour membership, Euro players must play in 13 tournaments. The four majors and three individual, stroke-play WGC events count as part of that quota. That leaves just another six tournaments to maintain membership.
Unfortunately, many traditional European Tour events suffer as a result. The marquee names can opt for those tournaments that pay the most appearance money. They tend to play in the Middle East or Far East where the money is.
The Sicilian Open was a case in point. Colin Montgomerie was the biggest name in the field, and he’s hardly at the peak of his competitive powers.
This week’s Andalucia tournament is only marginally better. Montgomerie is playing, as is tournament host Miguel Angel Jimenez, Paul McGinley, Open and defending champion Louis Oosthuizen and Jose Maria Olazabal. After that there isn’t much to write home about.
So it goes on the European Tour. Quite why sponsors keep lining up to pour money into tournaments is a mystery.
McGinley made a similar comment a few years ago when the Irish Open was in trouble. He said players had to support events like the Irish, French, Spanish and Portuguese Opens to guarantee their existence.
The above events are the backbone of the European Tour and need as much support as possible. Maybe that’s why there has been a lot of talk in Europe in recent years of identifying a group of core events that players need to support on a regular basis.
Of course, drafting such a list is an onerous task because the risk is alienating certain sponsors over others. However, the European Tour needs to remember its roots or tournaments in Europe could soon become rare occasions.