We look at the 10 biggest talking points on the European and PGA Tours going forward.
10 Things The Tours Are Talking About
1 European Tour schedule still unknown
In 2019 we learnt what the European Tour schedule would be for this year at the start of October. This year, understandably, we’re still waiting with some sort of announcement expected soon.
The players are equally in the dark, generally speaking they will receive an email a week or so earlier to keep them in the loop and then the press release comes out.
As things stand the European Tour members only know what they’re doing in January – Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Saudi – and then nobody knows.
This year we had the UK Swing with five tournaments in England, two in Scotland and Wales and one in Northern Ireland. Expect more of the same in 2021, and for the years to come, with the Scottish Open returning to the pre-Open Championship slot.
2 Welcome to the ’super season’
Conversely we know the entire PGA Tour schedule for 2020-21 and there are a record 51 events which will come to a close in the first week of September. Here are some key dates for your diary and this is barely scratching the surface:
- March 11-14 The Players
- April 8-11 The Masters
- May 20-23 PGA Championship
- June 17-20 US Open
- July 15-18 Open Championship
- July 23-August 8 The Olympics
- September 24-26 Ryder Cup
At the start of 2020 we were all talking about the most hectic season ever, now we can do it all again.
3 Remember the Olympics?
Golf remains a trial sport in the Olympics and next year is huge for its future. The 2016 Games was dominated by weekly withdrawals of the sport’s big names and, thanks to the efforts of Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson et al, some players realised that they had probably missed out on something special.
Even before the pandemic took hold Dustin Johnson had already pulled out of Japan due to a supposed desire of winning the FedEx Cup, which made the Zika excuse quite plausible, while Brooks Koepka was undecided due to a cluttered schedule. Johnson has since said that he might reconsider and, now that he’s a two-time major champion, that would be another bad look for golf should he not make the trip.
As things stand gold medal winner Justin Rose won’t be in Tokyo to defend while Tiger Woods, who would still be the star attraction, is some way off.
Things will no doubt pick up nearer the time and this has been a unique year to say the least but there isn’t much chat about golf in the Olympics and it will need the big guns to step up.
4 What is the ‘strategic alliance’ between the two tours?
The players only knew about about this a week before the news came out and even now they are still relatively in the dark about what this means. It has been been sped up since the world locked down and has also been hastened by talks with the Premier Golf League but the European Tour’s chief executive Keith Pelley had few details that he was able to share due to its infancy and a lot of talk about non-disclosure agreements.
In short the PGA Tour have taken a minority investment in the European Tour Productions who distribute the content to 150 countries around the world and the PGA Tour’s commissioner Jay Monahan has joined the European Tour board.
Other than that nobody really knows how it’s going to work? What’s going to happen with all the co-sanctioned events already in place around the world? How is it going to affect those players towards the bottom end of Rolex eligibility? Is this the first step to tying things together with so many governing bodies in the game?
5 European Tour in ‘robust financial health’
The whisper is that the European Tour isn’t in the best financial health, over 60 members of their staff have been recently made redundant, the recent purses are incomparable to the PGA Tour and huge bundles of cash go into appearance fees rather than prize pots – have a look at the prize money from the likes of Abu Dhabi before it became a Rolex event.
Things are so lopsided these days between the two tours – fair enough 2020 has been ridiculous but you only have to remind yourself that Collin Morikawa could win the Race to Dubai without hitting a shot in Europe.
One thing that Pelley did go into detail in his press conference was that money was not a problem and that talk of a takeover was clueless.
“We are categorically not in financial difficulties. We are in robust financial health with a very strong balance sheet, strongest ever, and a strong support of networks of partners. We have played 23 events since July in Q3 and Q4, creating 15 from scratch, showing incredible resilience and flexibility; and also at the same time funding a health strategy and Covid testing of another £3m, and I don’t think this that is a business or that it simply would have been possible for a business which did not have robust finances.
“We did not have to enter into this agreement or any other. We chose to because it’s in the best interests of both tours, for our players, for our fans, and for global professional golf.”
6 The PGL still on the table
One of the easy conclusions from the ‘strategic alliance’ is that the Premier Golf League, that made plenty of headlines at the end of 2019 and start of this year, would now drift away.
Not so. The venture capitalists, Raine Group, are still planning a series of events on both sides of the Atlantic. The first mention of anything came in November 2019 when Premier Golf League tweeted “Nobody owns golf. Golf is owned by everyone who enjoys it, watches it and thinks about it – in other words, you. #PGL”
What we learnt is that it would be 48 players playing an 18-event 54-hole schedule with 10 events in the States and swings through Europe, Asia, Australia and one stop in the Middle East. There would also be a four-man team aspect with the captain deciding on which two team members will count.
There was an offer of £150m to the European Tour in June, first reported by the Guardian, which would have given the European Tour equity but at no cost.
How they are planning to fit events into an already packed calendar and who might be interested – Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson were initially linked – remains to be seen.
7 Is the Rolex working?
Twelve months ago Jon Rahm, who also won in 2017, left Dubai $5m better off after edging out Tommy Fleetwood in the DP World Tour Championship. Rory McIlroy is another two-time champion, Shane Lowry and Justin Rose have both finished second but none of them played in the European Tour’s season-ender, likewise Louis Oosthuizen and Sergio Garcia.
The prize money remains the same, a whopping $8m despite everything, but we’re missing plenty of glitz – in less than a year five of them might well be representing Europe so it’s a big shame that they can’t be in Dubai to sign off a very strange season.
They will all have their reasons but you might hope that this date would be one of the first in the diary after the majors.
There’s so much money in the game that the Rolex events don’t stand out compared to what the PGA Tour is offering, for the regular European Tour member they’re incredible and plenty of players will be highlighting them when the 2021 calendar comes out but they’re not the ones that Rolex will have been hoping to attract.
8 Remembering Peter Alliss
For such a romantic and correct sport golf isn’t particularly good at celebrating and remembering some of its heroes so wouldn’t it be great to somehow do justice to Peter Alliss. He worked extensively on both sides of the Atlantic for close to 60 years, is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and is generally regarded as the greatest commentator of all time.
He’s commentated on over 200 majors so how about the Peter Alliss Award for the player who’s performed the best in the big ones?
9 The coverage is in good hands
The easy thing is to pick holes in purses in comparison to things in the States but there’s so much to enjoy about the European Tour. Their social media efforts with the players has knocked spots off the PGA Tour and most other sports with its humour and ingenuity. The players get it, we see a very different and amusing side to lots of them and it shows the game in a brilliant light.
There will be always be room for improvements but things have moved on at pace in recent times, only a few years ago we didn’t have Shot Tracers.
The dream is to replicate the Masters website for every major and beyond but that dream probably remains a distant one.
10 Where does betting go in 2021?
Golf remains small fry in terms of sports betting but the potential for growth is ideal with so many players, so many tournaments, big odds and variety of markets to play on.
The PGA Tour have already signed a deal with DraftKings as its ‘official daily fantasy game’ and they, along with other companies, are now partnered betting operators with the tour. So we could see live odds with leaderboards in the not-too-distant future.
Before the pandemic there was talk of both tours working with IMG Arena to allow fans to bet on par-3 holes, possible bets on birdies or eagles and three-ball betting on certain holes for certain groups. One thing that won’t be allowed is anything negative ie the next player to make a bogey.
In the States there’s huge optimism for how this might play out – DraftKings held a Millionaire Maker, normally reserved for majors, every week and they met their maximum number of entrants every week.
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