European Tour: Players warned to expect significantly changed prize funds

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
The European Tour's Nedbank Challenge in South Africa will have to rescheduled
One of the European Tour's biggest events, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa, will have to rescheduled to accommodate the Masters being moved to November

European Tour players have been warned to expect significantly changed prize funds and that “sacrifices will have to be made” when competitive golf resumes after the coronavirus shutdown.

Plans are under way for a radical overhaul of schedules which may see two events played in the same week with potential 14-day quarantine periods for players before tournaments begin.

“We are having to implement tough measures both in the short and long term,” wrote European Tour chief Keith Pelley, in emails seen by BBC Sport.

They also state that the recent period of growth in prize funds and playing opportunities has been “stopped in its tracks” by the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The circuit has already been hit hard by the current crisis. A revamped golf calendar now has the Masters due to be played in mid-November, the time of year when the European Tour calendar usually reaches a lucrative climax.

Pelley goes on to warn players that the schedule and infrastructure of tournaments could look radically different in future.

“Many of the things you have become accustomed to, such as top-class players’ lounges or courtesy car services will most likely assume a different appearance, if indeed they are present at all. Prize funds will also most likely be different,” he said.

Pelley has been involved in intense talks with his American counterpart Jay Monahan, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, as well as bodies such as the Augusta National, the United States Golf Association and PGA of America, who run the majors.

With the 2020 Open at Royal St George's put back for a year by the R&A, the Masters (12-15 November), US Open (17-20 September) and PGA Championship (6-9 August) all have new dates.

In his most recent email sent this week, Pelley admitted the change of date for the Masters will have a significant impact on his organisation.

“There is no question that the date brings complications for us,” he said.“But we got behind the collective will of the group to stage it then because it is the right thing to do for global golf.”

It leaves no option other than to reschedule the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa (due to be held from 12-15 November) and the DP World Tour Championship (19-22 November), two of the European Tour’s biggest events and the final two tournaments on the Race to Dubai.

The tour has already lost 14 dates on its calendar. The postponement of the British Seniors Open at Sunningdale, which had been scheduled for this July, was announced on Tuesday.

Pelley, who has revealed he and other staff have taken pay cuts during this period, wants to use every available day once the shutdown on competitive sport is lifted. This may mean multiple tournaments at the same location, two tournaments in the same week or three played within a fortnight.

The European Tour boss suggests potential for "three or four tournaments back-to-back in the UK with a 14-day quarantine period ahead of that to allow players not from the UK to come over and self-isolate in advance”.

It is clear Pelley is considering all options to get his tour moving again and to alleviate pressure from sponsors and television contracts. Some European Tour staff have already been furloughed under the UK government compensation scheme and he admits redundancies may be necessary.

“We are doing everything we possibly can to come through this, but be prepared that the 2021 schedule may look profoundly different to the 2019 or the 2018 schedule,” he wrote.

“This is difficult for all of us to face after the tireless work we have all undertaken to grow our Tour over the last five years, but this is the new reality.”