European Tour membership to change?

Currently players have to play 13 events, but this could become five

Keith Pelley
Keith Pelley is The European Tour's new Chief Executive

Currently players have to play in 13 events, but this could be dropped to as few as five.

The European Tour is considering changing the criteria for European Tour membership. Currently players have to play in 13 events, but this could be dropped to as few as five.

European Tour membership currently involves playing in 13 events, of which the four Majors and four WGC events count. Thus the requirement for the top players is essentially to play in five events organised by the European Tour.

One of the three options under consideration is to discount Majors and WGC events from European Tour membership criteria and simply focus on players playing in at least five of these Tour-organised events.

The change in criteria would not affect the top player, but would help those who play both tours but are out of the top 50 in the world rankings, and so find their opportunities to compete in the Majors and WGC events dramatically reduced.

This has been the case for Paul Casey recently, for example. Casey is based in the US but was a member of both the US and European tours. But dropping out of the top 50 has meant he has lost his European Tour card.

For players who drop out of the top 50 during a season, and who already have their itinerary of events planned, making the 13-event criteria is a particular problem.

Without European Tour membership European golfers cannot pay in the Ryder Cup. All golfers also need European Tour membership to qualify for the Race to Dubai and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Under the five-event option, one of three options being considered by the tour’s recently appointed chief executive, Keith Pelley, the likes of Casey would not have his European Tour card taken away purely as result of dropping out of the top 50 in the world rankings.

European Tour membership is a tricky balancing act. The aim is to find a formula that ensures that the top European players commit to playing in a significant amount of Tour events without making the demands too onerous that the top players are driven away.

Another aim is to entice the best American players to play in European Tour events, such as at the PGA Championship at Wentworth, and relaxing the European Tour membership criteria may encourage this.

This aspect came to a head recently when Rory McIlroy was given a special exemption to play only 12 events to retain his European Tour membership. This was seen as a pragmatic move to keep McIlroy ‘inside the tent‘.

The reason stated was that injury caused him to miss a Major and WGC appearance, which he had qualified for. However he could also have ensured his tour card by playing in the British Masters, but opted to take that week off instead.

Pelley is expected to announce his decision on the eve of the DP World Championship in Dubai. The five-event option is the one that appears to be clear favourite at present. But two other options being considered are to retain the European Tour membership criteria as it is, or to drop it slightly in number but retaining Majors and WGC events as qualifying tournaments.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Roderick is the author of the critically acclaimed comic golf novel, Summer At Tangents. Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is also the author of five non-fiction books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.