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Thursday, October 11, 2012

The ET Makes a Move

I'm sure you heard the big news from the European Tour. For one thing, the mini-event that Tiger, Rory, and 6 other golfers are playing in Turkey this week will become a limited-field (something like 78 players) on next year's ET schedule. It's going to be just before their final big tournament in the Race to Dubai. That was interesting.

But I was more interested in their other news -- namely, that the ET will count Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, and Seve Trophy team events against the 13-tournament minimum currently required for ET membership. This could potentially be a big powerplay for the Euro Tour.

Here's the deal: Some tournaments already count against membership requirements on both the PGA and Euro Tours -- all 4 majors and all 4 WGC events. That means a US Tour member can add just 5 events and be an ET member as well. Still, that's a fair amount of travel. By counting the team events, the bigger name players will only need to play 4 other ET events.

It's the "bigger name" aspect that intrigues me. This could have a double effect for the ET. First of all -- and most obvious -- it could attract some US players to take ET membership. Getting the big US names to play their tour more often could certainly help them financially as they, like most businesses, have lost some of their sponsors due to the economic climate around the globe.

Less obvious is the potential to keep their own big name players who are opting for US membership. Minimizing the demands on players like Westwood and McIlroy, among others, might encourage them to maintain dual membership. (This could end up being a serious problem to them. Colsaerts is playing the Frys.com this week, having taken temporary membership to see if he can qualify for the Top 125. He's only about $100k short right now.)

While it's not a sure thing, Tiger has already announced that he will consider ET membership after he studies the new criteria more closely. Other US players might consider it as well, as the ET doesn't have the limitations on appearance fees that the PGA Tour does. (Well, officially I guess they do, but we all know they aren't too zealous about stopping it. Hey, business is business... and golf sponsorships are BIG business.)

One possibility I find interesting is whether the PGA Tour could eventually find itself making a similar decision. Might we reach a point where the US Tour finds it in its best interest to count team events against their own membership requirements in an attempt to lure more big name European players? Depending on how the world rankings shake out over the next few years, it might not be such a farfetched idea. Remember, the team events affect a relatively small number of players, all of them big name players who could be huge draws for US events as well.

That's probably not going to be a major problem any time soon... but things change quickly nowadays. And with the increasingly large number of big money events willing to pay for the big names, some of those big name players may eventually realize that -- with sponsor exemptions and such -- they don't even need to belong to a tour to play the 15 to 18 events per year that many of them seem to be happy with.

If that happens, the balance of power could shift considerably. Then it'll be the players who make the moves.

It's worth considering...

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