We speak to the players who will likely be affected by the co-sanctioning of the Scottish Open and the pros and cons of the new deal
We first heard about the PGA Tour and European Tour Strategic Alliance last November.
It was detail light but what we did learn was that the PGA Tour would be acquiring a minority stake in European Tour Productions, which produces and distributes content internationally, and that the two tours would be working together on scheduling, prize funds and playing opportunities.
The European Tour’s CEO Keith Pelley was quick to point out that it wasn’t a merger, that a takeover wasn’t inevitable and that the tour was ‘categorically not in financial difficulties’.
What it definitely did was block any type of partnership with a Saudi breakaway circuit and, after the financial fall-out of 2020, it hopefully provided something of a lighthouse in the gloom for the European Tour.
Eight months on we now know a few more details, but not too many, following the announcement of the 2021-22 PGA Tour schedule with the main headline focusing on the Scottish Open which will now be co-sanctioned and awarded FedExCup points.
The Scottish is to remain in the lucrative spot ahead of The Open and its new sponsor, Genesis, is now part of both tours.
Otherwise there will now be 50 spots for the European Tour members who won’t be part of the Scottish or The Open at the Barbasol and Barracuda while the Irish Open’s prize pot has been nearly doubled to $6m, the latter being a very tidy perk to the European Tour members and maybe a hint of what else there is to come?
Again, it’s a bit of finger-in-the-air time as the initial part of the European Tour schedule is yet to be revealed.
For one player the early signs aren’t overly promising with the players as much in the dark as the rest of us.
“The detail is pretty non-existent so far. We are losing spots in our decent events and there will only be two WGC events next year as opposed to the normal four. The majors and the WGCs were the best ways for a lot of our players to get PGA Tour starts and the tournaments that we will get access to are for smaller pots. I’m not convinced…”
Richard McEvoy has been a pro for 20 years and is now part of the players’ committee. The Essex 42-year-old, who first got on the European Tour in 2003, is confident that the new alliance will be a good one for the players.
“I see this first announcement as a very positive step and I think most players will see it that way. It’s been a very hard couple of years for the tour, there’s been a lot of talk with Saudi being involved and the PGA Tour alliance is a huge step in drawing in the two biggest tours together, these are small steps but are a really good thing for the tour.
“It’s been harder and harder to find sponsors and the tour have done a fantastic job in financing some events which is great but, at the same time, how long can that last to put money in by themselves?
“From a sponsors’ perspective it is only going to be positive to have the PGA Tour involved.”
On paper entry to the 2021 Scottish Open, which is likely to be back at Renaissance, is split between the two tours but the actual playing out of things next year could be quite different.
“If you look at it a bit closer it will probably be a slightly better deal for us, a lot of our top players will come off their rankings so, anyone with a dual ranking membership like Rory McIlroy or Jon Rahm, will all come off their side.
“Plus there’s a chance that not many PGA Tour players will come over as they play for that type of money every week.”
As for the Barbasol and Barracuda, whose purses were each £3.5m this year and will increase in 2022 with the new PGA Tour television contract, the experience to play in the States would be something special.
“What an opportunity to spread your wings and test yourself against some great players and possibly get a PGA Tour card if you have a great week.
“I’ve never played in America as a pro so to give it a go would be amazing and, for the younger and lower-ranked players who won’t now get in the Scottish, it will be something very different.
Dave Coupland was the first reserve for this year’s Scottish Open having come through Q School in 2019.
That was as close as he’s been to the riches of a Rolex Series event and, with his current category, he probably wouldn’t get near a co-sanctioned event. But he remains a fan albeit, again, he doesn’t know any more details.
“It’s a bit of a weird one, I saw the press release but I don’t know any more. In one sense it’s a great thing, there are opportunities on both tours and it could be great to earn some PGA Tour starts or boost yourself in the Race to Dubai rankings or, if you’ve got a Q School category, it’s not the best is it,” he tells Golf Monthly.
“But really it can only be a good thing and you’ve just got to play well to get your chances.
“It would be great to play in the States and, if you can get a run of events, then who knows what can happen.
“The Scottish obviously fits in with The Open so you’ll probably get the higher-ranked players coming over and the Americans not in The Open will probably stay at home so it may not change the fields a hell of a lot compared to previous years.”
As for how the future might play out Coupland thinks that we’ll still see a number of the smaller events staying put on the European Tour calendar and, in the years to come, things will look very different.
“I think we’ll keep these minimum events of €1/1.25m and, if the PGA Tour get involved, hopefully work up to where we were 10 years ago where the minimum purse was around €3m. We need events to fulfil the Sky Sports contract and this is the reality of the current times that we’re living in.
“I’ve always thought that we’ll end up as one big tour anyway and I can definitely see something like a ‘PGA Tour Europe’ in five years’ time.
“That’s just me surmising but I wouldn’t be surprised. When it got announced it was mentioned between the players and then that was it, we’re probably a short-sighted bunch of people!
“Then again you can’t really plan anything at the moment, even going to Europe in two weeks, and that’s the mentality that we’re in at the moment.”
What we have maybe learnt more than anything in recent times is that Pelley is the right man for a crisis and the right man for this alliance.
“Keith has got everyone’s backing,” McEvoy added.
“Everyone has been been very grateful for what he and his staff have done the last 18 months, he’s a very good businessman and is brilliant with the players.
“He’s involved so much with the day-to-day stuff, almost too much at times, and he loves it.
“Keith has pushed things more into a sport franchise rather than just the European Tour – golf is changing all the time and Keith is moving with that, this alliance is a massive thing for us.”