Golf This Week: 2013 a crossroads for European Tour
Published on Thursday, May. 09, 2013 12:01PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Dec. 04, 2012 02:06PM EST
LONDON - The new 2012-13 season that starts this week may be something of a crossroads for a European Tour losing its best players, struggling for sponsors and finding it increasingly hard to host events in its own backyard.
The cream of Europe’s golfing crop, including world number one Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Luke Donald, again plan to spend most of their time in the United States next year and will be joined by most of their triumphant Ryder Cup team mates.
Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell have long since been based on the other side of the Atlantic but in 2013 they will also have Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Nicolas Colsaerts and Peter Hanson for company.
“I think it’s been a slow progression for some people to base themselves in the States,” Poulter told reporters at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai last month.
“It’s a tough situation for the European Tour because there’s not much money around and it’s very hard to convince sponsors to put big tournaments on. The tour need to work with the players on trying to find new sponsors.”
The top players will always compete for the European Tour’s biggest trophies, the four majors and the four WGC (World Golf Championship) events that are also co-sanctioned by the U.S. PGA Tour.
It is the lesser tournaments, such as the inaugural Nelson Mandela Championship in South Africa that starts on Thursday, they will miss and it is those type of events where it is proving more and more difficult to keep existing sponsors or attract new backers.
Less than half of the 45 tournaments on the 2012-13 European Tour are due to be played in mainland Europe where many countries are going through a recession.
“We are of course slightly disappointed we have lost events in the Eurozone countries,” said chief executive George O’Grady.
“The depth of that (Eurozone) crisis is very strong and I think we know if accountants are put in charge of the issue, the big thing is to cut costs wherever you can.”
The 2012-13 season features six tournaments in South Africa, six in the booming golf market of Asia and four in the Middle East but O’Grady said he was still keen to put on as many events as possible in mainland Europe.
“We are facing a very unique feature of the European economy. It’s been a big challenge for us this year in Spain and we have kept the Italian Open going even though that country is not strong at the moment.”
Spain was the jewel in the tour’s crown two years ago, with seven events on the calendar, but the country’s recent economic crisis has had a profound effect on top-level golf with sponsors disappearing and prize funds being withdrawn.
There were only three tournaments in the Iberian nation in 2012 and next season that figure will be down to one - the Spanish Open in April.
Chief operating officer Keith Waters, however, is confident the financial tide is about to turn for the tour.
“We’re in discussion with other tours as to how we can improve and address some of the challenges we have had in the last year but we are very hopeful we have seen the worst in terms of the recession.”
THIS WEEK IN GOLF
PGA TOUR - FRANKLIN TEMPLETON SHOOTOUT
COURSE: Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Tiburon Golf Club (7,288 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $3 million. Winners’ shares: $375,000 each.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Friday, 1-4 p.m., 4:30-7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 8:30-11:30 p.m.; Monday, midnight-3 a.m.) and NBC (Saturday, 4-6 p.m.; Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).
FORMAT: Two-player teams. Friday, modified alternate shot; Saturday, best ball; Sunday, scramble.
TEAMS: Keegan Bradley-Brendan Steele, Davis Love III-Brandt Snedeker, Fredrik Jacobson-Greg Norman, Bud Cauley-Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson-Ian Poulter, Justin Leonard-Scott Verplank, Jerry Kelly-Steve Stricker, Charles Howell III-Rory Sabbatini, Jason Dufner-Vijay Singh, Mark Calcavecchia-Mike Weir, Stewart Cink-Carl Pettersson, Sean O’Hair-Kenny Perry.
EUROPEAN TOUR/SUNSHINE TOUR - NELSON MANDELA CHAMPIONSHIP
COURSE: Royal Durban Golf Club (6,704 yards, par 70).
PURSE: $1.31 million. Winner’s share: $207,030.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 6:30-10:30 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 5:30-9:30 a.m.).
NOTES: The tournament opens the 2013 European Tour season. There are six South African events on the schedule. ... South Africa’s Branden Grace, a four-time winner on the European Tour last season, is in the field.
PGA TOUR OF AUSTRALASIA/ONEASIA TOUR - AUSTRALIAN OPEN
COURSE: The Lakes Golf Club (6,879 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $1.31 million. Winner’s share: $235,070.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Wednesday, 8 p.m.-1 a.m.; Thursday, 1-3:30 p.m., 8 p.m.-1 a.m.; Friday, 8 p.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday, 1-3:30 p.m., 8 p.m.-1 a.m.; Sunday, 1-6 p.m.).
NOTES: Tom Watson is playing the event for the first time since his 1984 victory at Royal Melbourne. Fellow American Kyle Stanley also is in the field along with Australian stars Adam Scott and Geoff Ogilvy, England’s Justin Rose and 14-year-old Chinese sensation Guan Tianlang. ... Scott won in 2009 at New South Wales, and Ogilvy won at The Lakes in 2010. ...Gary Player won the national championship a record seven times, one more than Jack Nicklaus. ... Brad Faxon was the last American winner, taking the 1993 title at Metropolitan.
ASIAN TOUR - THAILAND GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP
COURSE: Amata Spring Country Club (7,453 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $1 million. Winner’s share: $158,500.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Thursday, 1-5:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Friday, 1-5:30 a.m.; Saturday, 1-4:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Sunday, 1-4:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m., 6:30-8:30 p.m.).
OH CANADA: Ron Harvey, Jr.,
NOTES: Lee Westwood, who went wire-to-wire last year for the victory, is in the field along with Charl Schwartzel, Masters champion Bubba Watson, Louis Oosthuizen, Hunter Mahan, Sergio Garcia, Nicholas Colsaerts, Darren Clarke, John Daly, Ryo Ishikawa and Asian Tour money leader Thaworn Wiratchant.
LADIES EUROPEAN TOUR - DUBAI LADIES MASTERS
COURSE: Emirates Golf Course, The Majlis (6,425 yards, par 72).
PURSE: $653,100. Winner’s share: $97,965.
TELEVISION: Golf Channel (Wednesday-Thursday, 3:30-7:30 p.m.; Friday, 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday, 3:30-7:30 p.m.).
OH CANADA: Lorie Kane
NOTES: Lexi Thompson, who became the second-youngest winner in Ladies European Tour history last year, is in the field along with Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Maria Hjorth, Hee Kyung Seo and fellow LPGA Tour members Laura Davies and Carin Koch.
ALL-AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL GOLF TOUR - EVENT #5
COURSE: Longbow Golf Club, Mesa, Arizona
OH CANADA: Steve Lecuyer, Jace Walker, Darren Wallace, Scott Stiles, Derek Gillespie, Mike Bosch, Nick Taylor, Andrew Rasmussen, Cory Renfrew, James Love, Thomas Hay, Eric Hawerchuk, David Rose (a), James Seymour (a)