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Rory McIlroy Suggests European Tour and PGA Tour Should Merge

By: | Thu 11 Jun 2020 | Comments

HERE is a sobering thought. The total prize money at stake in the six European Tour events being staged in the UK later this summer is less than the sum being played for in the Charles Schwab Challenge, the tournament that signalled the restart of the PGA Tour season, where a world-class field battled it out for their share of a staggering £7.5m.

The coronavirus pandemic has signalled a shattering end to the salad days when players could look forward to massive paydays in Europe. Make no mistake about this - tournaments with total prize money of one million euros are not sustainable for those who hope to make a living playing tournament golf. It sounds like a lot of money, but the reality is that unless you are winning those events it is going to be well-nigh impossible to make the books balance.

Think about it - we are talking about fields of 144 players, all of whom have to pay caddies and accommodation costs. The European Tour is footing the bill in terms of prize money, and that clearly cannot go on either. Of the existing schedule of events in Britain, only the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, BMW PGA Championship and Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open will be sponsored.

Rory McIlroy says that he fears for the future of golf in Europe and is now calling for a merger between the PGA Tour and the European Tour. In effect, he wants to see a world tour. “I’ve sort of being calling for it for a while,” he said. “I think for the health of both tours, a world tour is something I have always wanted. This pandemic has highlighted the fact that the game of golf at the highest level needs to be simplified.

“It’s not great when the European Tour is having to do things and they’re taking such a financial hit because of the coronavirus and this pandemic. So am I concerned? Yes. But I don’t know what else I can do. I don’t feel like I’m responsible for the health of the Tour. I’m a player; I play on the Tour and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that they’ve provided me over the years.”

Rory McIlroy

The problem with a world tour is working out how it could possibly provide a living for players on both sides of the Atlantic. And what happens in Australia, South Africa and Japan? And when Greg Norman suggested this very thing some years ago, he was shot down in flames. But these are very different times.

The world is about to enter the worst recession we have ever experienced. Where are the sponsors going to come from? 

The likes of the Waste Management Phoenix Open attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators who all pay for the privilege of attending that tournament and then spend four days paying for food and drink. In vast quantities. On top of that, businesses have been willing to pay vast sums of money to provide hospitality for their clients. For the time being at least, those revenue streams no longer exist. 

It appears that the PGA Tour’s sponsors are going to continue to pay for the privilege of having their names associated with tournaments and are still prepared to continue to pay enormous sums of money to do so. But what is going to happen when these same sponsors are forced to make difficult decisions about their budgets? 

If a title sponsor has to make staff redundant it stands to reason that they will also pull out of sports sponsorship. We are not just talking about golf here. Tennis, snooker, rugby union, rugby league, darts - these sports all survive thanks to sponsors who have been willing to dig deep but we need to be realistic here and accept that, in the short term at least, the coffers are going to run dry.

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy has clearly given this a great deal of thought.

“I think there’s too many funnels, there’s too many channels. I don’t know if everything being under one umbrella is the solution, but definitely fewer umbrellas I think is a way forward. The Premier Golf League coming in and trying to do it their way wasn’t the right thing, so trying to make changes from within the game already and not letting an outsider come in is the right way to do it, so I’d be supportive of that for sure.”

He also suggested both tours allowing members to earn points for the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in certain events.

“I’d say tours consolidating, whether it’s some European Tour events offering FedExCup points and some PGA Tour events offering Race to Dubai points, I don’t know, but yeah, just a little bit more cohesion, and then I think, as well, trying to figure out the schedule going forward this year.

“The major bodies, so USGA, R&A, Masters [Augusta National Golf Club], PGA of America, whatever it is, they’re thinking about one or two weeks a year, and speaking to the PGA Tour, speaking to the European Tour, having everyone together and trying to figure this out has definitely opened some people’s eyes to what actually goes on and how many moving parts there is.

“So the more that all these bodies can sort of work together for the greater good of game can only be a good thing.”

Image Credit: Kevin Diss Photography

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