Echoing the sentiments of new world No. 1 Lee Westwood, Europe’s most decorated young player and ’10 PGA champion Martin Kaymer has opted to decline US PGA Tour membership. What does this all mean? Perhaps in some ways, it’s a proverbial screw you to the PGA Tour (Kaymer: “I don’t need your big American money and FedEx Cup to be the best). But more likely, it’s a show of loyalty for the European Tour (and Race to Dubai), and as Westwood has proved, playing on the US Tour isn’t necessarily an advantage to become a better golf or to ascend to the No. 1 ranking.
Kaymer’s decision is the opposite of what he expressed after winning the PGA Championship this August. In fact, it’s done a 180. Although the German didn’t make any definitive statements, he claimed playing more in the US was one of his goal’s for the following year:
That’s my goal, to become a member on the PGA TOUR; obviously I have that card for next year,” Kaymer said. “I just wanted to play more golf in America, because I know and I feel that my game is getting better when I play in America.
“We obviously play different golf courses in Europe, and I just want to become a better golf player. And in order to become a better golf player, I have to play on different continents and different states and different countries.
“So that is probably what I’m going to do next year.”
He also made similar comments in an interview with Golf.com. Two-and-a-half months later, Kaymer, who has a home in Arizona and whose girlfriend is American, will pass on PGA Tour card and remain solely a member of the European Tour. Of course, many Europeans have membership to both tours, like Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington, just to name a few. But according to Kaymer’s agent, Johann Elliot, the US Tour’s rigid playing requirements put him off.
“Martin will follow Lee Westwood and not take out US Tour membership next year,” said Elliott. “He just feels that joining the US Tour would be too much work and give him no freedom in his schedule. You have to play your 15 events and with everything else that he wants to play that would mean playing 30 tournaments.”
“The problem is the US Tour is just too rigid in terms of making you play 15 but with long-term suspensions if you don’t.”
Fair enough, but Kaymer played in 11 PGA Tour events (if you count HSBC Champions), so what’s adding four or five more? Well, it’s four to five more weeks on the road and the PGA Tour schedule is rather crammed together at the end with the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, PGA Championship and FedEx Cup events. Even though playing in the so-called playoffs is optional, it’s likely Kaymer would be pressured into competing. Then, with several notable European Tour events immediately following, he could run the risk of burning out. (But Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, etc. seem to be managing OK.)
The US Tour is regarded as the strongest tour in the world, so naturally, in recent years players from around the globe aspire to compete against the best because it can only elevate their game. But then came along Lee Westwood, who has set the example of being the most consistent golfer globally this year, placing second in two majors (despite fighting injury), leading the Europeans to a Ryder Cup victory and ascending to the top of the official world rankings. If you look at it that way, why bother exerting unnecessary energy and stress to play in five more events in the US.
There are probably politics involved in both Westwood and Kaymer’s decision, but to me, their denial of PGA membership screams a show of support for their original tour and perhaps encouraging other rising European stars to follow in their suit — which could also be interpreted as a proverbial middle finger to the PGA Tour. Or maybe golf’s power shift is starting to trend toward Europe’s favor.
Either way, Kaymer denying PGA Tour membership is a hit for Ponte Vedra, but he’ll still play plenty in the States; he just won’t have to worry about fulfilling the tournament quota.
You see, Germans are so sensible.