OWGR skews the pitch

Ivan Morris

Paul Dunne (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)

The European Tour season should be in full swing now with top-class events every week, but the Coronavirus has hit that idea ‘miles out of bounds’.

To see the once might of the European Tour dropping to staging six tournaments with prize funds of €1-million when only a few months ago the Abu Dhabi Classic carried a purse of €7-million, is a shock.

Who would want to be in Keith Pelley’s shoes? Who would want to be an aspiring touring pro golfer? Tournaments without spectators and run as TV Events without media in attendance will not create much interest. While these are difficult times financially for most businesses, the ET is being forced back two decades to when it last hosted a run of events offering €1m each.

In contrast, the PGA Tour resumes on Thursday with the opening four events boasting unchanged prize purses of $7m plus. No wonder any European golfer with a PGA Tour card will be staying in the USA and not playing at home for the foreseeable future.

The absence of the big stars may provide an ‘opportunity’ for European golfers, but any thoughts that they were going to become rich in rapid order has now become a battle for subsistence. The hard work of ET CEOs, Ken Schofield, George O’Grady and Keith Pelley has been shredded. Lee Westwood, the winner in Abu Dhabi in January when he pocketed €1,0450,000 now finds himself hosting the British Masters with less than what he personally won in Abu Dhabi as the total prize fund.

Perhaps, the most serious potential problem of all for the European Tour membership is that PGA Tour and Official World Golf Rankings are starting up without them. It seems Keith Pelley was backed into a corner and ‘put up against the wall’ at a meeting of the OWGR Board.

While Pelley agreed with the proposal to use the current frozen rankings as eligibility for the majors and the World Golf Championships later this year, the ability of PGA Tour players to accumulate points weeks before the vast majority of his members is bordering on outrageous, is completely unfair and undermines the whole idea of a World Ranking System.

The OWGR attempted to mitigate the issue of some players competing while others aren’t via the former R&A CEO, Peter Dawson (a man who did untold damage to golf during his tenure, in my opinion) – “Both the committee and the board took the view that if so many of the world’s top players are going to be playing in America in the coming weeks, we really had to restart the rankings. To make sure non-PGA Tour players are not disadvantaged too much, rankings will be “frozen” for major events. OWGR does not want a player dropping out of the top 50 through no fault of their own and losing a spot in one of the majors.”

Did you ever hear anything so contrived, artificial and outrageously unfair? It’s fantasyland!

In the remote possibility that the Ryder Cup does go ahead, what about Ryder Cup qualifying points? The OWGR decision means that only the small minority of European players who are PGA Tour members competing in the U.S. will be able to earn points – another unlevel playing field. What a mess! Padraig Harrington must select his team without regard to any points tables.

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