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Stars to face Tour appearance orders

Iain Carter | 18:28 UK time, Sunday, 31 May 2009

It has become clear that more pressure than ever will be exerted on the continent's top stars to force them to play the European Tour's flagship event next year.

As work now begins to dig up the controversial greens on Wentworth's West Course there is growing speculation that Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter will be required to compete on the new putting surfaces at next year's BMW PGA Championship.

All three were absent last week; Harrington and Poulter citing the greens as reason not to attend. Garcia, who subjects himself to strict tax rules that limit his British appearances, has not played the Wentworth event since sharing fifth place there in 2000.

But these, as we know, are very difficult economic times and the sponsors that remain are growing in power. Tour chief executive George O'Grady has made it as plain as he can that they are now in no mood to accept second best.

"I think it would be disappointing if, when there's the investment of Wentworth's owner to completely redo the golf course, we can't persuade them to play," O'Grady said.

"I think BMW in this market can crack the whip reasonably," he added more pertinently.

Wentworth's greens are to be rebuilt

O'Grady acknowledged the Tour would have been ready to move its flagship event away from Wentworth had they not invested in replacing all 18 greens.

The worry now is whether BMW will be similarly minded if the players don't respond positively.

O'Grady isn't just targeting Harrington (who has already said he will return to Wentworth next year), Poulter and Garcia. He also highlighted the likes of 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman and Geoff Ogilvy, the US Open winner in 2006, who were also absent from the PGA Championship.

O'Grady didn't discount the notion that a future condition of membership of the European Tour might include making participation in the event compulsory.

It hasn't been formally discussed, but I understand the idea may find its way on to the Tournament Committee's agenda.

It's also worth pointing out that for every Harrington and Poulter there is a Lee Westwood or Retief Goosen - neither of whom prosper on Wentworth's greens but remain loyal to the tournament.

Imposing such a rule would be fraught with difficulty, but so too is the golfing economic market at the moment.

Prize money for the European Open was cut by £600,000 this year and September's British Masters is also a credit-crunch casualty with the Belfry event falling off the calendar.

There are also concerns over the strength of the field for the new 16-man World Match Play Championship in Spain in late October. It will be up against the Singapore Open which will be co-sanctioned by the Tour.

And the brutal truth is that more often than not players compete wherever best suits their game or their back pocket. After all, Garcia's tax affairs still allowed him to compete at the Spanish-owned London Club.

Making players adopt schedules that are for the greater good is always awkward, but the current climate may actually make it slightly easier.

Not only is the sponsor's voice increasing in volume, the Tour can point to the enthusiasm of fans who have swarmed to both Wentworth and the European Open.

Nearly 175,000 took advantage of attractive ticket offers to generate superb atmospheres over the last fortnight.

They were treated to a brilliant win by Paul Casey in the PGA Championship, a performance worthy of the event.

The European Open was more attritional, with the unheralded Christian Cevaer proving the last man standing.

It would have been nice for the 31,000-strong final-day crowds to have seen more birdies, but the firm course was set up too tough, with thick rough surrounding firm fairways that proved too narrow in the demanding breezes.

Sadly, it was the last Tour golf in England until we return to Wentworth and its new greens next year. It will be fascinating to see the make up of the field for Casey's title defence.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    George: 'Sergio, look, it's not me, well of course the European Tour would love you to play our flagship event, but the sponsors and that Wentworth bloke are saying that all the top players need to be there for the wedge they are putting in. But you know them they are just amoral corporate types who just think about what is good for them and their pocket and Golf is about an honourable sporting.....Sergio no wait ...please.....Sergio....SERGIO.....sorry...Sergio......oh never mind you'd choke if you were in the final pair on Sunday anwyay.'

    Sergio (from down the corridor): 'I heard that'

    'Ian....Ian, Ian, Ian'

    Ian: 'George, i know what you're going to say but you know these days its all about the golf, not the clothes....it's about just me and Tiger. Does Tiger play at Wentworth? Well then?


    George: 'Damn, if it weren't for those pesky golfers......now I just need a good committee to come up with the proposal to require participation and i'm off the hook'.

  • Comment number 2.

    Very difficult to "make" someone do anything - "Oh, I am injured" etc - however, you could encourage them by insisting that the Race to Dubai is only open to the top X many players who must also have entered the following, say 5, flagship events...... (& not just the PGA). Golfers will react to the lure of the money, I expect.

  • Comment number 3.

    Terrible proposal and I really hope that this is the last that will ever be heard of the idea.

    If the powers that be honestly think the big names will add another event to their schedule I can't help but feel that they are being naive. So, Wentworth and the BMW get another couple of big names, but what happens to the events that might find themselves cut from the players schedule? These could be events that aren't in as healthy a condition as the BMW PGA, and who depend a LOT more on the appearance of their one or two marquee names. For the likes of Sergio, will he decide that he'll take the tax hit or will he cut down on one of his other appearances on these isles?

    Will players who are already looking more to the PGA tour decide that this might be where their future lies rather than have their schedule dictated to them?

    The simple fact is that players should be allowed to choose their own schedule, the big players have EARNED this right by virtue of their work to get to that position. You cannot dictate to players that they MUST play an event that may throw off their schedule (on that note, i'm amazed by how well Casey has coped despite criss-crossing the pond so frequently recently) on a course that they may feel, with some justification, will do more damage than good to their golf game.

  • Comment number 4.

    What exactly is the problem? Clearly if 175,000 people turn up to watch the tournaments even if some of the big names are missing,it can't be that important. Besides, arn't the size of the crowds limited at Wentworth as it is not the most spectator friendly course in the world?

    In this age, you cannot really expect all the top players to turn up for all the big events at the same time other than say the likes of the majors.

  • Comment number 5.

    excellent points by chilli & namesake, i agree- players should not be dictated to and they have earned that right...

  • Comment number 6.

    Unlike Iain Carter, I think that the set up of the course for the European Open was excellent and that players who sprayed their shots into the well graded rough were properly penalised. Golf is supposed to be a game that rewards skill as well as strength/length.
    If Iain wants to see more birdies, perhaps he should agitate for the par fours to become 'par fives'? This would mean that players could two putt each green to get a 'birdie' just as they do now with a lot of the ridiculous 'par fives' which they can reach in two shots. This championship was lost by players paying the penalty for thrashing about in the rough because their poor shots were being properly penalised, and was won by a player who played with his head and who kept his ball out of the long grass most of the time. Iain should be lauding the efforts of the winner rather than hinting that the course was set up too severely. Best Regards, johnblogon

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm sorry to say this but the players follow Tiger. They are aiming their attention at the wrong people by targeting players like Ogilvy and Immelman. If they can persuade Tiger to play at Wentworth then the rest will follow I'm sure, but good luck with that venture. The only other way is by the event becoming a WGC or being co-sanctioned by both tours.

  • Comment number 8.

    Superb article.
    I have read an article in spanish about the situation of the Volvo WMP, now we know the ET is going to co-sanction de Barclays Singapore Open.
    If you want to have a look: http://www.prostars.es/?p=1101

  • Comment number 9.

    As members of the European Tour there should be a basket af events that it is compulsory to attend which would obviously include the PGA, & European Open. I also feel that players should support their home country opens.

 

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