Open Champion Shane Lowry has called on the European Tour to stop ‘diluting’ the lucrative ‘Final Series’ and avoid anyone becoming No. 1 via a ‘back door’.
Number 3 on the Race to Dubai, Lowry found himself dragged into last week’s controversy surrounding a bizarre scenario involving his Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management stablemate, Ross Fisher.
Fisher, like Padraig Harrington, was afforded an invitation to compete in last week’s Turkish Airlines Open with both players having effectively ended their money-list year by not finishing inside the top-75.
Indeed, Fisher was ranked 106th but following the withdrawal of two players prior to tee-off, the Tour afforded the Englishman the opportunity to tee-up in Belek as a ‘normal’ money-earning competitor.
It effectively meant no matter where Fisher finished, his earnings would be added to his already banked Race to Dubai winnings and thus, by finishing 10th he pocketed €81,863 and has now jumped 22 spots to 84th on the rankings.
After ending Saturday’s third round sharing second place, observers were suggesting the former Irish Open winner could pull over victory in Belek, with Fisher not at all seeking a change in his Turkey playing ‘status’.
If so, that would have opened a bigger can of worms, not only affording the 38-year old a sixth Tour win but also a two-year Tour exemption, the $US2m first prize cheque, a huge jump up the Race to Dubai standings, a place in the DP World Tour Championship along with a golf bag full of European Ryder Cup and World Ranking points.
Lowry, never one to be outspoken or controversial, got a caddy lounge full of the controversy late on Saturday.
“I went down to the caddy lounge after my third round and there was uproar down there,” said Lowry.
“It’s funny that everyone down there was assuming it was Conor Ridge and Brian (Moran – Horizon Sports Management) who were the instigators behind it all but Conor didn’t even know about it and Brian was actually in on the Tour’s email outing what was going on with Ross’s position and he had to ring Conor to tell him.
“It was a decision that could change a man’s career and if Ross were to win, he’s looking at Ryder Cup, back towards the top-50 in the world and all this year. It’s mad how it could change someone’s career but in saying that, I personally don’t believe these events should have invitations.
“The Tour stated the Turkish Airlines would be a field featuring the top-75 and then the top-60 for this week’s Nedbank Challenge while it would be the top-30 on the Race to Dubai competing in Dubai. If you were not top-75, you shouldn’t have been playing in Turkey and if you’re not top-60, you shouldn’t be playing the Nedbank and the same in Dubai.
“Now, if they left it at that there may be only 50 players competing in the Nedbank and maybe only 45 showing up in Dubai and that is the way it is. I think for Dubai, it should not go be going down the list. It used not to go down the list as I finished 61st one year.
“It is diluting the Final Series as there are a lot of guys who start the New Year with the goal to make the Race to Dubai final but then all of a sudden they finished 50th on the money list and someone else finishes one behind and they are playing in the DP World, as well. I don’t think that is right.
“Tiger Woods won the Tour Championship on the PGA Tour last year and he didn’t qualify this year and that is the way it should be.”
Lowry, who is spending this week in Dubai with his family ahead of next week’s season-ender, would rather see a colleague win the Race to Dubai fair-and-square and not, as the Offaly man puts it, via the ‘back door’.
“The Race to Dubai is brilliant and the DP World is a great tournament and you head to Dubai, like I said earlier, it’s a goal for certain players and it’s great to be teeing-up in that tournament. But it’s a year-ending thing – I just don’t feel you should win the Race to Dubai via the back door.
“You should not be able to do that. Becoming European No. 1 is a big thing and you look at the lads who have won it over the years and it’s all about consistency over a given year,” Lowry added.