Jan
19
2011
Ernie Els: “It’s Going to Be a Mess”
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Ernie Els isn't happy with the cramped world tour schedule at the end of the year

Apparently the whole “multi-layer world tour platform” isn’t working as the powers-that-be envisioned — or perhaps it’s exactly how some of them planned. Thing is, the various commissioners or directors of tours weren’t predicting the players to speak out against the clustered schedule of tournaments across various countries at the end of 2011. Ernie Els, a winner on all six major tours in the world, certainly isn’t thrilled about the difficult decisions he’ll be faced with. In fact, with the South African Open happening the same week as the Presidents Cup, he’s not sure which he’ll play and he’s pissed, according to the AP.

Not only is Els very much South African, he is the defending champion and a five-time winner of his national open. The date change means the South African Open will be held the same week as the Presidents Cup in Australia. Els is the premier global player of his generation, yet even he hasn’t figured out how to be two places at once.

And right now, he’s not sure which one to play.

Would he skip the Presidents Cup to defend his title in South Africa? His body language — an angry stare and raised eyebrows — suggested he is seriously thinking about it. Remember, Els missed the inaugural Presidents Cup in 1994 to play in the British Masters and honor a commitment to longtime supporter Johann Rupert.

The timing of the decision is even more peculiar considering how the last South African Open turned out. It was a 1-2-3-4 finish by Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, with Tim Clark in a tie for ninth. Those five South Africans currently occupy the top six spots in the Presidents Cup standings.

“It doesn’t make sense,” Els said. “This is my national open. I don’t get a chance to play there often. I don’t know about the timing of this, but I’m sure the U.S. tour had the date set already for the Presidents Cup. Then the European Tour comes in and … why are they trying to (mess) with myself and Retief and Tim? Don’t they have any regard for the Presidents Cup?”

In an email to the AP, Sunshine Tour Commissioner Gareth Tindall said:

“We had no alternative but to compromise our schedule for 2011 for obvious reasons. One also has to bear in mind that the Sunshine Tour … has no input whatsoever to the Presidents Cup, we are not consulted on scheduling and, more importantly, we derive no financial benefit from the event. And yet we may have up to five players qualifying.”

Fair enough. If they have five players qualifying, shouldn’t they have some sort of say? After all, it is an international event, but the PGA Tour calls the shots. However, it sounds like a battle of the egos with the little guy standing up against the big man whose priorities come first. And shockingly, neither ego is willing to give in!

Since Els has always fulfilled his obligations to all tours, he wishes the commissioners would show a little more consideration for his busy schedule since he wants to honor commitments. With the PGA Tour asking the big-name players to step up and add extra events to their schedule, Els was planning to play in New Orleans this year until a conflict in Asia happened to appear.

Obviously there aren’t easy answers to the problem, but with the emphasis of this world tour platform that sometimes feels like is being shoved down our throats, perhaps it’d be nice if there were a little more communication happening between the tours, not to mention to consult players like Els.

Here’s the AP’s outline of the end-of-year scheduling conflicts:

—Nov. 10-13 has the Singapore Open, Australian Open and Taheiyo Masters in Japan. Adam Scott, who is Australian, is the defending champion in Singapore.

—Nov. 17-20 has the Presidents Cup, South African Open, Johor Open and Dunlop Phoenix, a top event on the Japan Golf Tour that surely would miss Ryo Ishikawa if the teen sensation is on the International team in Australia.

—Nov. 24-27 is the weekend of the World Cup in China, the Dunhill Championship in South Africa, the Australian PGA and Casio World Open in Japan.

With golf’s rapid global expansion, especially with the PGA Tour adding more stops in Asia, perhaps it’s time for a summit between the leaders of all the tours. Ultimately, it is a world tour and cooperation is the only way this is going to work. Oh wait, I forgot, this is golf.