The grumbling of Ryder Cup darlings Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy appears to have paid off: the European Tour is preparing a change to its membership criteria that would allow appearances at team events like the Ryder Cup, Seve Trophy and President’s Cup (shrewd, that one) to count towards its established 13-tournament minimum.
Donald and McIlroy, both of whom will be based in the United States next season, voiced their disapproval of the current system in the days following Europe’s Ryder Cup victory at Medinah last month.
The argument in favour of an administrative change — not unreasonable, given the circumstances — was best summarised by the Englishman, a long-term resident of the Chicago area:
“It’s one of the busiest weeks we play all year, hence we’d like to get the European Tour to count it as a counting event… We actually do quite a lot of work that week.
“We all know what a big revenue maker it is for the European Tour. It’s a privilege to play Ryder Cup, but it’s still a week’s worth of sacrifice. I think at the very least it should count as an event.
“I don’t see why it should on one tour and not the other. I’ll raise the question. Hopefully they’ll change it. We’ll see. I definitely have the backing of some of the other guys that play out here.”
While logic and professional etiquette militate in favour of the change, I can’t help but lament its broader implications for the European Tour.
Once appearances at the majors and World Golf Championships — eight events in total — are factored into the equation, prospective members are only obliged to compete in a handful of sanctioned events, of which the ultra-lucrative Middle Eastern swing accumulates the majority of RSVPs.
For Europe’s most celebrated talents, appearing en masse at continental events could well become a thing of the past.
Fragile though the current incentive structure is (or was), it preserved at least a veneer of historical continuity, guaranteeing the presence of Messrs. Westwood & Co. at a number of events throughout the season.
The loss of another week, however, only further the notion of the European Tour as a two-tier league, irrevocably split between globe-trotting “haves” and an underclass of “have-nots” (those reduced to touring a ghetto-ised circuit of minor events in the hope of one day graduating to the aristocracy).
There’s a Mephistophelean quality to all of this, I fear:
True, the European Tour has appeased a couple of its biggest stars, and even secured the occasional, revenue-generating presence of Tiger Woods; but at what cost to its institutional integrity and fairness?