Ernie Els has welcomed the decision to increase the minimum number of events required for membership of the European Tour from 11 to 12 and hinted that the current financial crisis could have an impact on the golfing calendar next year, particularly in the United States.
At least two of those tournaments have to be played in Europe - although one can be the Open Championship - with the changes coming after reports that world No 2 Phil Mickelson was among a number of US Tour-based players thinking of joining the European circuit. The Tour launches its new-look Race for Dubai in just over a month, culminating in the world's richest event in Dubai next November. That tournament, the Dubai World Championship, is open only to the leading 60 players on the Order of Merit, and as things stood, Mickelson and the others could have become eligible without setting foot in Europe.
Double Open champion Padraig Harrington, who has not played a continental event so far this season, was in favour of leaving the membership criteria unchanged. But Els, who has designed the course at Dubai Sports City that carries his name, said: "I've always supported both tours and I think to raise it to 12 is really not all that much to ask for players to do". The world No 8 added: "I think the European Tour is doing a wonderful job, especially in this financial crisis. Obviously with the US economy there's some big questions there, who knows what's going to happen with the tour there. I haven't heard anything specific but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that some of the sponsors might be under a bit of stress. There's going to be some changes I think."
The South African's sentiments about the increase to 12 events were echoed by the English player Justin Rose, who said: "I still think it's something that should be easily attainable for somebody playing a worldwide schedule." * With agencies