As the 2015 Race to Dubai starts its descent towards its final destination a couple of alarming things are starting to arise. With Rory McIlroy picking up a footballing injury that kept him out of some big events, he isn’t able to fulfill the European Tours’ quota of 13 events played to be eligible for the DP World Tour Championship Dubai. However, since he is/was/will be (delete as applicable upon reading) the World Number 1, the bosses at ET Towers decided to let that misdemeanor slide and grant him an exemption. No big shock I hear you say.
Well when you also consider the Northern Irishman’s recent admission that he sometimes contemplates handing in his European Tour card in favour of a full time schedule in America, things are heading in a dangerous direction.
Look at a typical season for the top European players. 4 Majors, 4 World Golf Championships and the BMW PGA Championship equals 9 European Tour sanctioned events already. Rory typically plays two of the ‘Desert Swing’ events meaning he has ‘officially’ competed in 11 competitions without really trying. Now that he is also the headline act at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, he falls just one short of the mandatory 13 without breaking his routine at all.
If he was to tear up his European Tour card, he would still play in 9 ET sanctioned events anyway.
You can’t argue with economics and the average purse of a million dollars per event on the PGA Tour far outweighs the riches that European Tour golf can offer week to week. You can understand the pull to stateside golf when you usually have the game to claim a trophy there.
So the European Tour faces a dilemma. It can’t pluck extra millions of Euros out of thin air but nor can it pretend that its season doesn’t come second to the U.S. season.
Now it should also be noted that Rory added to his comments recently that he “owes the European Tour a lot” and he can’t just turn his back on it now that he’s a huge commodity. It’s admirable and shows his character but you can’t help thinking that as this topic has arisen in the media, it must be a matter of serious conversation among his peers.
I don’t think they will all jump ship but perhaps it is time for the European Tour to adjust its requirements for the big players. Accept that 13 events is asking too much for the top names to fulfill and perhaps the ‘Premier League’ of European golfers should be offered a lighter workload.
We don’t want to scare them off. We quite like having them around.