Ernie Els is mad with the European Tour’s new playing demands
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Stick your tongue out, Ernie!

Ernie Els is not happy with the European Tour’s increased playing requirements, where competitors are being required to make starts two of the last three events leading into Dubai to be eligible for the $8 million season finale. He’s so upset that he’s skipping next week’s flagship final event in Dubai, according to Andrew Both’s Reuters report

“I don’t think they really care,” Els said wearily when asked how the tour had reacted to the news that their most celebrated veteran member would not play in Dubai.

“Why would they make a decision like that and expect guys to play? It’s farcical. In my view it’s an absolute joke.”

Els, who is also a member of the U.S. PGA Tour, said he understood why the European Tour wanted to coax its top players into contesting more of the big-money Asian tournaments.

“I can see (the tour’s point of view) but it’s crazy,” he said. “I’ve been playing both tours since 1994 and it’s been no problem but for some reason now the European Tour expect us to play a full schedule.

“We used to play seven events and you could keep your card in Europe. Now you have to play more than in America. (That is) the direction they’re going in. I just think it’s the wrong one.

“I’m going to have to look at my schedule. I was there for the growth of this tour, 22 years, and now they’ve making it almost impossible for me… to remain playing the tour.

“All the good things I’ve done for this tour and a lot of other guys have done for this tour… They’ve given me honorary membership and all that but the way they’re going is not the right direction.

“You could always play both tours. You’ve had Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy win both money lists.

“Now we have to make a decision where we never used to do that. Guys are not going to keep doing that. We’ve got families and schedules to keep.”

The two of three rule that Els refers to includes the Shanghai Masters, the HSBC Champions and this week’s Turkish Airlines Open. Thing is, the average player didn’t qualify for the HSBC Champions, but I get Els’ point. It’s becoming tougher for players who want to remain loyal to both their home tour(s) and compete on the PGA Tour.

Easy to say, “#firstworldproblems” — which they are — but it’s tiring to fly around the world and maintain a full schedule when they have kids and other obligations. (Even on private jets.)

Els implies the new playing requirements might force him to choose between one or the other. And it doesn’t take a genius to guess which one that would be.

World no. 2 Adam Scott relinquished his European Tour card quietly (as he does things) a few years ago and now plays a limited schedule in the U.S. and in his native Australia. However, Scott’s different in that he’s made decisions that haven’t been influenced by his bank account.

Spain’s Sergio Garcia is also not thrilled, according to Irish Golf Desk’s Brian Keogh:

“It’s a small problem with the European Tour, which doesn’t make it easy for the players who have cards on both tours,” Garcia said when explaining why he was not going to be in Dubai next week.

“I play Malaysia [CIMB Classic] and China (HSBC) because they help me tick off a few [PGA Tour] events for next year and I don’t have to push hard to play my 15 events in the US.

“But instead of helping you, the European Tour tells you the points in Malaysia don’t count for the Ryder Cup qualifying.… We have to help each other here. The more barriers they put in your way, the tougher it is. They’re putting a lot of pressure on us.
“I’ve played eight out of 10 weeks since the British Open and now I have to play six in eight weeks and it’s too much. I don’t need to start the new year feeling tired and lacking in energy.”
Because one of the two ways to automatically qualify for the Ryder Cup involves European Tour standings, it’s likely that most top players will continue to keep their cards, but it may continue to estrange other players, like Els.
[Aside: For what it’s worth, I covered two European Tour events this year and found the experience and camaraderie to be much more enjoyable and welcoming than what I’m accustomed.]