Two if by sea: Colsaerts, Kaymer latest Euro stars to join PGA Tour
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Hey dude, you going to America? Yeah? Cool, me too, dude.

It seems like just a few years ago the European Tour was gaining momentum in its claim for star power that rivaled the U.S. PGA Tour. Wait, it was!

With the economic downturn in Europe and loss of sponsors, many of its finest players have decided to jump ship and base themselves in America (while still maintaining their European Tour membership but keeping the number of starts at the bare minimum). With the PGA Tour boasting 28 of the top 30 players in world rankings in the upcoming 2013 season, the U.S. defection movement is now complete, wouldn’t you say?

Nicolas Colsaerts, the long-hitting Belgian and self-described “dude” of the European Ryder Cup team, never made it a secret that he was trying to secure his 2013 PGA Tour card by finishing well enough so his earnings were equivalent to top 125 on money list.

Martin Kaymer, who has a home in Arizona, said this week in Dubai that he was joining the PGA Tour. Kaymer has been eligible for full playing privileges on the U.S. tour since he won the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, but chose to remain solely a European Tour member until now.

Though Peter Hanson already lived in Lake Nona in Orlando, he earned enough money in 2012 to get full playing privileges for the 2013 season.

Earlier this year in a somewhat surprising turn of events, Lee Westwood, one of the most fervent loyalists of the European Tour, announced he was moving his family from England to Florida, so he could play a full schedule on the PGA Tour.

Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose have split their time between the tours and managed to play enough events to keep their European Tour membership. Those four were all members of the victorious European Ryder Cup Team at Medinah in October. As mentioned above, Hanson was already living in Florida, so make that five. Kaymer has also kept a residence in Arizona for several years. With Colsaerts and Westwood moving to the U.S., eight of the 12 Ryder Cup members are making their primary home here.

Colsaerts told the AP on Wednesday that he’ll cut his European Tour events to the minimum of 13 starts, so he can play a full schedule in the U.S.:

“It’s a stronger tour and you have the best players in America. This is perfect timing for me. I’ve had a pretty good year over here and it’s maybe time to have a taste of somewhere else, see if I like it and see if it it’s the tour I will be playing for the next couple of years.”

He’s also emphasized that his decision was based on his preference for the courses where the PGA Tour stages its events, according to the Guardian’s Ewan Murray.

“The thing that attracts me the most is the courses. I think they probably fit my game a little better week in, week out than the ones we play in Europe. So many of the best players in the world play in America and financially, of course, it is a bigger tour.”

Can’t disagree with those statements.

European Tour chief executive George O’Grady said he’s not panicking over the departure of so many of its stars, rather it’s indication of the top-notch players from Europe and the PGA Tour’s willingness to take them in. Um, okay, if that’s how you want to spin it…

O’Grady is “concerned but not panicking.” He also acknowledged the economic crisis in Europe as a factor that led to the loss of four events in Spain and one in the Czech Republic, not to mention the allure of larger purses in the U.S.

“We have to improve our game back here in heartland Europe, make our tournaments better and that also means richer. We don’t seem to have any problem on the structure in the game in Europe developing the talent. But you want to see more of your talent as much as you can.”

Luke Donald, who played college golf at Northwestern and nearly an American, chimed in to explain the logistical advantage of the PGA Tour, via the AP:

“The U.S. tour is an attractive tour. You play in one place and it’s quite an easy tour to travel around. Europe is becoming increasingly difficult. There are a fewer events in Europe and more in Asia. They have done well to create a schedule with lots of events in Asia, but it has its disadvantages through travel. You can’t blame any player for wanting to go play on the U.S. tour.”

Meanwhile, McIlroy, who won the 2012 money titles in the U.S. and Europe, was more optimistic about maintaining a global schedule and the future of the European Tour:

I think with the way golf has gone, you can be a global player and you can play all over the world.  I don’t think anyone is going to neglect The European Tour.  It’s the Tour that we‑‑ The European Tour gave me a lot of opportunities coming through, and it’s something that I’ll never forget and something that I’ll always hold onto.  I’m always going to be a European Tour Member.

Ah, bless his heart. Good to know loyalty still counts for something in this day and age.

(Getty Images/Stuart Franklin)