Karlsson resigns European Tour membership

Robert Karlsson during the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

Robert Karlsson during the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

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In a difficult decision, Sweden’s Robert Karlsson resigned his European Tour membership last month.

Karlsson, a member of the European Tour since 1991, realized he no longer could meet the 13-start minimum to keep his card and called Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of the European Tour and then sent a formal letter of resignation.

Having struggled with his game during the last couple of years, Karlsson fell out of the top 50 in the world and was no longer a mainstay in the four majors or the three World Golf Championships; those counted as concurrent starts on both the European and PGA Tours.

Prior to this year the minimum number of starts was 11.

“I was in a meeting where they bumped the number and I was against it,” Karlsson said. “I said, 'Listen, I think the Tour is shooting itself in the foot by bumping it up,' but the Tour voted it through, and here we go.”

Ernie Els, a long time member of the European Tour, agrees that the change is harmful as well.

“A lot of the players have too much say there,” Els said of the players making certain decisions. “I've seen that before. I've seen it on the South African Tour, and I'm starting to see it on the European Tour. You can't have players make quality decisions. It doesn't make sense.”

Justin Rose believes that the European Tour made the change from a position of strength when many of their players were in the top 10 of the world rankings and were trying to protect the integrity of the tour.

Rose also thinks that, from the standpoint of a professional golfer, one can keep his card on both tours, but it’s the outside distractions that make it difficult.

“At the end of the day, it's very easy to do it if you're not trying to balance family life and you're not trying to balance all the other things that you need to balance to be a rounded individual and happy person,” Rose said. “Anybody knows it's easy to spend a week away from home, you can manage two weeks away, when you start spending three, four weeks away from 4‑year olds and 1-year olds, that has an impact on your life.”

Most Europeans who hold cards on both tours agree that unless you’re in the top 50, it’s near impossible to fulfill the requirement of 13 events in Europe.

Even with playing in all the majors and world events, a player must find six more events to fulfill his requirement.

“I'm praying that I get back inside top 50, because you can't do it unless you're inside top 50; otherwise you play 15 over here and 15 over there,” Englishman Brian Davis said of the difficulty of keeping his card in Europe outside of top 50. “You just can't do that.”

If Karlsson hadn’t gotten in Colonial and Memorial, he would have made the trip to Europe to play in the PGA at Wentworth and the Scandinavian Masters. But once he got into the two events in the U.S., he knew he could not fulfill his commitment in Europe.

“We'll see,” Karlsson said of taking up European membership in the future. “First we'll take care of this year and then we'll see. Obviously it would be ideal, if I'm playing good, get back up the World Rankings and I'm in it again. Obviously I'm going to try to play both Tours.”

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