I’ve wrestled with myself over posting this blog. I hope my wording is sufficient enough to make it obvious I am not bitter or twisted about what follows. And it goes without saying that any names mentioned in this blog isn’t me attacking them, it’s simply me using them as examples of what I believe injustice looks like.
The Rolex Series.
I’ll start with France. I played the French Open this year. I qualified for it as part of category 0 something. That category was ‘the top 3 players on Race to Dubai, who aren’t exempt.’ I was third on that list, so I got a place. I was intrigued arriving at Golf National to see what would be different in 2017 than every other year I’ve played it. It turned out the players lounge was about it. Not to forget the purse of course. My breakfast options had been upgraded however. I could now go for eggs on top of Marmite on toast, which is a personal favourite, followed by Nutella on toast topped with a banana. A great way to start any day. Apart from these two things however, the rest of the experience was exactly as I remember any past French Open being. The crowds were like before; decent, but more atmosphere at the British Par 3 Championship. The course was fantastic as always. The 18th hole was still a bastard. All that was truly different was that, A) I actually had a decent finish, and B) I earned €64,000 for finishing Tied 23rd. Twice as much as I earned in Sweden for coming Tied 8th.
I was a TV viewer for the Irish Open. I requested an invite and couldn’t believe I didn’t get one after I mentioned in my letter the fact I’m half Irish with 73 cousins so the gate receipts would be boosted if I was part of the event. But hey ho. I thought Portstewart looked stunning. I love so much about Ireland, both North and South. The story of the week for me was Matt Southgate. Matt is a top lad, with a heart of gold. I was delighted to see him get an Open spot at Cinque Ports and continue that form in Northern Ireland. Tied 2nd was a great result. Something I managed in 2015. And then I saw the prize money breakdown and realised that you could win three €1 Million events, and not earn as much money as Matt did for coming Tied 2nd. Now having finished Tied 2nd myself at an Irish Open not long ago, I know which is tougher, and it isn’t the Tied 2nd part. It’s the winning three €1 Million events. This wouldn’t be a big issue if the rankings weren’t solely down to money, but they are, even though it says points. Because up until the final three events, the points do correlate to money earned.
The Scottish Open unfortunately I didn’t get to watch much of. Again though, like the Irish Open, the story of the week to many was another British player Callum Shinkwin. I didn’t see what happened on the 72nd hole but whether he won or not, whichever way you look at it, it was a great result for Callum. As I referred to in a tweet, I played with him in France on Day Four. He shot eighty something and was clearly devoid of confidence and any sort of ball control. But it was obvious he had potential as he has a lot of speed. Anyway, after his 2nd place finish, I noticed he vaulted up the Race to Dubai into 19th position. So I went over to the PGA Tour website to check out who was occupying 19th spot on that Tour, and take a look at their results. Sergio Garcia actually occupies that spot currently. He won a major which I thought may distort my point a bit, so I looked at 20th- Wesley Bryan. He’s won once this year, had 3 other top 5’s, and 1 other top 10. Callum’s season consists of one 2nd place finish and 2 top 30’s. At this point, I want to reiterate what I said at the top, this isn’t an attack on Callum. I was delighted for him. I’m trying to prove another point; that this Rolex Series has distorted the Race to Dubai like something you’d see in a Tim Burton film.
From what I understand, one of Keith Pelley’s tasks was to produce bigger prize funds to attract the better players. He’s clearly done this, although some notable top players haven’t even shown up for one of the Rolex Series events yet so I’m still to be persuaded that this will work. Either way, no doubt playing for bigger prize funds is one way to attract certain players. My concern is not only about what’s just played out, but also, with the PGA Tour planning on turning every ‘regular’ event into a $10 Million prize fund, where does this leave the European Tour? I think it leaves it stifled again in the same way as before, but this time around, distorted as seen above with the disparity between players earnings enormous, and not indicative of true season form.
I will stand up for Keith Pelley at this point though and say that an alternative to this is hardly forthcoming. It’s clear that the Tour has moved towards a ‘top player’ policy. This isn’t good or bad, I have no preference. But as with every policy enforced in the world, there are unintended consequences. And I think these are embarrassing as we see them now. The Access List is something that simply had to be done. If you are a Qualifying School graduate like myself, and didn’t happen to have a good week at a Major like myself, it would appear the Access List is likely your only chance of retaining ‘full’ playing privileges next year. To those who question this, I’ll point you to Laurie Canter who this year has played for a combined total of roughly €13 Million Euros. Compare that to somebody who has missed every €1 Million event or below in Europe and not travelled once to South Africa, but who has played the rest, and you have roughly €46 Million being played for. This is minus majors and WGC’s also.
I’m personally quite staggered at these numbers.
To finish, as I said at the top, nothing against anybody mentioned above, I just felt some facts had to be highlighted. This isn’t me complaining either, those who know me will tell you that I’m not some raging communist who wants unadulterated equality, I want struggle and I want competition, it’s what separates us. But what I see above is taking those things a little too far. I’m personally quite pessimistic as to the outlook for the Tour, not down to anything Keith can or is doing, more to do with where I see the global economy heading, but I’m a golfer and I should stick to what I do best. And that’s walking my dog.