News that the European Tour is to put pressure on Europeans based in the United States to compete more in Europe is most welcome. It doesn’t necessarily mean things will change, however.
Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the European Tour’s tournament committee, confirmed during the Portugal Masters that the European Tour will try to get more of its PGA Tour-based players to return to Europe more often.
The news comes after nine top Europeans, including eight members of last year’s victorious Ryder Cup team, skipped the recent Seve Trophy. Their absence was an insult to the great man, a man who helped make the Euro Tour what it is today.
“The committee understands it is so difficult for our leading players competing in the (United) States to play in events like the Seve Trophy when they’re coming off a massive run of tournaments,” Bjorn said.
“But there will be new regulations where you have to play more in your own country, and if there’s also more than three events in one country than they will have to play at least two of the three.
“It does not affect that many players because if you look at the schedule in general we don’t have big issues. It’s really only in Sweden where there’s been concern from promoters and sponsors.
“But then you are always going to get players like Rory (McIlroy) and the Irish coming back for the Irish Open, the English hardly miss Wentworth (the BMW PGA Championship), Martin (Kaymer) always plays in Germany, the French guys play the French Open and Sergio (Garcia) contests the Spanish Open.
“So we just have to speak to those players and just see how we can get the Seve Trophy working better to accommodate our top players better in our yearly schedule.”
The European Tour increased the number of tournaments required for membership from 11 to 13 a few years ago to try to get more top players coming back. It hasn’t really worked.
The problem is the American majors and World Golf Championships count towards both tours. That only leaves seven events for the top players to compete in. This season ends with The Final Series, a FedEx Cup copycat run of four tournaments worth over $30 million that all the top Europeans will play. That cuts the number of events left to just three.
That number is reduced to two when you consider marquee Europeans are under duress to play in the BMW PGA Championship, the Euro Tour’s flagship event. The top players will usually fill those last two tournaments with events that pay appearance money.
Why wouldn’t they?
So don’t hold your breath. The Tour can’t force these free agents to play in the Seve Trophy. They can only beg and hope.