x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

PGA Tour’s schedule change helps them stay stronger

The changes in global golf can be tougher to read than tea leaves in a tidal surge, but once again, it appears that the US PGA Tour’s fortunes are continuing to rise at the expense of its European cousin. Few envisioned the latest twist.

The PGA’s move to a wraparound season may make it harder for players such as Phil Mickelson to participate at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and other tournaments early in the calendar in the Middle East. Andrew Redington / Getty Images
The PGA’s move to a wraparound season may make it harder for players such as Phil Mickelson to participate at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and other tournaments early in the calendar in the Middle East. Andrew Redington / Getty Images

Steve Elling

The changes in global golf can be tougher to read than tea leaves in a tidal surge, but once again, it appears that the US PGA Tour’s fortunes are continuing to rise at the expense of its European cousin.

Few envisioned the latest twist.

For the first time, the US circuit this season moved to a wraparound schedule, similar to the model used by the European Tour for several years.

There was rightful concern in the States that, by finally adding valuable FedEx Cup points to the tournaments in the annexed fall portion of the 2013/14 season, it would lessen the allure of the PGA’s West Coast Swing, now in its penultimate week.

Moreover, if top players who are members of both tours skipped a couple of West Coast appearances, it seemed plausible that early events on the European Tour might actually pick up a few prime commitments, too.

It instead resulted in a double-hit for Europe, like Phil Mickelson’s crazy incident in the final round three weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, where he flailed away in the bushes. Already hurt by player defections to the richer US tour, the European events are dealing with more daunting data following the PGA’s move to a calendar straddling the new year.

It is a small sample, but the rip tide continues – and with three of Europe’s biggest events staged in the UAE, the small print has a local impact.

Beyond hard-core devotees, the stars are all that matter. World-ranking points accorded to event winners are the easiest reflection of field firepower and are directly linked to the number of top players entered.

Of the six US events staged so far on the West Coast or in Hawaii, only the weak-sister event in Palm Springs, California, offered fewer ranking points to the champion than in 2013. The other five? The Honolulu, Torrey Pines and Pebble Beach events offered more points than last year; Kapalua and Phoenix remained unchanged.

In what seems to be a direct yin-and-yang result, four of the five European Tour events staged over the same span suffered drops in ranking points from 2013 levels, including the tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Doha, because of weaker fields. The only tournament to offer more points, versus 2013, was the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which boasted Tiger Woods and spent an estimated US$8 million (Dh29.4m) on the purse, inducements and appearance fees to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

As with Mickelson, sometimes the maddening maths add up painfully.

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