Sponsors of European Tour events must have hung their heads in despair at the news that the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Vivendi Seve Trophy will now count toward the minimum number of 13 events for membership on the European Tour from next year.
That’s the last thing sponsors wanted to hear.
European Tour sponsors have a hard-enough time attracting star players without this development. Take the Portugal Masters. Only six of the world’s top 50 players teed it up in Portugal, with No. 31 Francesco Molinari the highest-ranked player in the field.
It’s the same at many other tournaments. There was a time when events such as the French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese opens would attract big names. Not now. These tournaments struggle to attract star players.
With the four majors and WGC events counting toward European Tour status, it means the elite need only to pick another six events to fulfill membership. They don’t even have to set foot on European soil to do so. They can opt for events in Asia or the Middle East that pay appearance fees.
PGA Tour-based Europeans may think it’s a good idea to include the Ryder Cup among their 13 events, but sponsors won’t. It’s only going to make it harder every other year to attract star players. Which begs the question a potential tournament sponsor posed to me recently: “Why would I want to fund a tournament when I’m going to get the B team?”
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2. RYDER RUNAROUND: The Ryder Cup has just finished and already the race to become the next European captain seems to have started in earnest, with Lee Westwood talking up Darren Clarke’s credentials over Paul McGinley’s.
Well, Westwood would opt for Clarke over McGinley. They’re best friends.
This issue is premature. It won’t be settled until the tournament committee meets at the start of next year. Clarke and McGinley are members of that committee.
For what it’s worth, I’d opt for McGinley over Clarke for next time around, with Clarke serving in the United States in 2016.
I know why Clarke is favored first over McGinley. He has played in more Ryder Cups, won more Euro Tour events and has that major McGinley doesn’t have. However, a player’s record is no indication of how he will perform as captain. Nick Faldo is a prime example. He owns six majors and more Ryder Cup points and appearances than any other player, but he was a disaster.
My next three Euro captains would be McGinley, Clarke and Thomas Bjorn. McGinley will do well at Gleneagles, and Clarke has the type of personality better suited to the demands of captaining in the United States, while Bjorn would be a good fit for France in 2018. However, we’ll find out in January when the committee meets in Abu Dhabi.
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3. TURKEY FOLLOWING PORTUGAL’S BLUEPRINT: I was amazed at how Turkey’s Antalya region has developed. I first visited this area in 1994 when Antalya’s National Course opened for play. Fast-forward 18 years and there are 14 courses in this area.
What troubles me is that these courses are not really for ordinary Turkish people, but for rich tourists. These venues won’t nurture future generations of Turkish stars, and that’s sad.
For Turkey, read Portugal. Portugal has been a popular destination for European golfers for decades, yet you can count the number of Portuguese European Tour winners on the fingers of one hand. There are plenty of golf courses in the country, yet most are out of the budgets of ordinary Portuguese.
Portugal has a couple of promising amateurs in the shape of Pedro Figueiredo and Ricardo Gouveia. It’s about time, too. Imagine if the Portuguese Golf Federation had levied a nominal sum onto the green fees of every tourist round many years ago and used it to fund junior golf. They might have produced a string of stars by now.
Too bad Turkey isn’t using tourist money to fund junior golf.
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4. DOUGERTY STILL DOWN: So much for Nick Dougherty’s speedy return to the European Tour. The three-time winner lost his card last year and has spent the year on the Challenge Tour trying to regain it. However, he has got his work cut out over the remaining two tournaments.
Dougherty is 38th on the money list and needs to improve 18 places to grab one of the top-20 spots and a card for next year. The affable Englishman may be looking at another year on Europe’s junior circuit.
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5. NO OTHER JOB LIKE IT: Tour professionals don’t know how lucky they have it. In what other profession could you mess up for six, seven, eight weeks in a row and still have a job? Not many. Yet a Tour pro can miss that many cuts, and more, and still tee it up the next week. Tour pros should remember that the next time they’re feeling sorry for themselves after missing the cut.