PGA European Tour


PGA European Tour

The PGA European Tour is an organisation which operates the three leading men's professional golf tours in Europe: the elite European Tour, the European Seniors Tour and the developmental Challenge Tour. Its headquarters are at Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, Surrey, England. The European Tour is the primary golf tour in Europe and is second to the U.S.-based PGA Tour in worldwide prestige. The European Tour was established by the British-based Professional Golfers' Association, and responsibility was transferred to an independent PGA European Tour organisation in 1984. Most events on the PGA European Tour's three tours are held in Europe, but in recent years an increasing number have been held in other parts of the world outside of North America.

The PGA European Tour is a golfer-controlled organisation whose primary purpose is to maximise the income of tournament golfers. It is a company limited by guarantee and is run by a professional staff but controlled by its playing members via a board of directors composed of 12 elected past and present tour players and a tournament com­mittee of 14 current players. As of 2007, the chairman of the board is Neil Coles and the chairman of the tournament committee is Thomas Bjørn.

The European-based events on the European Tour are nearly all played in Western Europe and the most lucrative of them take place in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France and Spain. Of the events held in Europe, only one, the Russian Open Golf Championship, takes place east of the former Iron Curtain.

The PGA European Tour also conducts the Ryder Cup Matches in cooperation with the PGA of America.

History

Professional golf began in Europe, specifically in Scotland. The first professionals were clubmakers and greenkeepers who also taught golf to the wealthy men who could afford to play the game (early handmade equipment was expensive) and played "challenge matches" against one another for small purses. The first multi-competitor stroke play tournament was The Open Championship, which was introduced in 1860. That year it was for professionals only, and it attracted a field of eight. The following year, amateurs were permitted to enter. In contrast to many other sports which originated in the United Kingdom, the amateur-professional divide never created major problems in golf, at least at the elite competitive level.

Over the few decades following the creation of The Open Championship, the number of golf tournaments with prize money increased slowly but steadily. Most were in the United Kingdom, but there were also several "national opens" in various countries of Continental Europe. However, for many decades it remained difficult if not impossible for golfers to earn a living from prize money alone. From 1901 the British professionals were represented by The Professional Golfers' Association, and it was this body that ultimately created the European Tour.

By the post-World War II period prize money was becoming more significant, encouraged by the introduction of television coverage. However, each event was still organised separately by a golf club or association, or a commercial promoter. In the U.S. a formal PGA Tour had existed since the 1930s, and in 1972 The Professional Golfers' Association introduced the PGA European Tour. In its early years the season ran for six months from April to October, and was based entirely in Europe, mainly in Great Britain and Ireland. For example, the 1972 season consisted of 20 tournaments, of which 12 were in the United Kingdom and one was in Ireland. Of the seven events in Continental Europe, six were "national opens", namely the Dutch, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Swiss Opens, and the seventh was the Madrid Open.

Over the next three decades the tour gradually lengthened and globalised. The first event held outside of Europe was the 1982 Tunisian Open. That year, there were 27 tournaments and the season stretched into November for the first time. In 1984, the PGA European Tour became independent of The Professional Golfers' Association.

The European Tour has always been sensitive to the risk that its best players will leave to play on the PGA Tour for many reasons. The PGA Tour usually offers higher purses and European players want to increase their chances of glory in the three majors played in the U.S. by playing on more U.S.-style courses to acclimate themselves. In an attempt to counter this phenomenon, the European Tour introduced the "Volvo Bonus Pool" in 1988. This was extra prize money which was distributed at the end of the season to the most successful players of the year—but only golfers who had played in a high number of the European Tour's events could receive a share. This system continued until 1998, after which renewed emphasis was placed on maximising prize money in individual tournaments.

In 1989, the tour visited Asia for the first time for the Dubai Desert Classic. By 1990, there were 38 events on the schedule, including 37 in Europe, and the start of the season had moved up to February. A first visit to East Asia for the Tour occurred at the 1992 Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok. This has since proven to be one of the most notable initiatives in the history of the tour, as East Asia is becoming almost its second home. Shortly afterwards the tour also made its debut in the former Soviet Bloc at the 1994 Czech Open, but much less has come of this development as participation in golf in the former Soviet region remains low and sponsors there are unable to compete financially with their Western European rivals for the limited number of slots available on the main tour each summer. However, the second-tier Challenge Tour has visited Central and Eastern Europe somewhat more frequently. In 1995, the European Tour began a policy of co-sanctioning tournaments with other PGA Tours, by endorsing the South African PGA Championship on the Southern African Tour (now the Sunshine Tour). This policy was extended to the PGA Tour of Australasia in 1996, and most extensively to the Asian Tour.

There is no overall governing body in the worldwide sport of golf. While the golf authorities in the various parts of the world cooperate harmoniously overall, there is still some rivalry. The European Tour is very self-conscious about its position relative to the PGA Tour, but the two have also steadily formed a partnership. In 1998, the European Tour added the three U.S. majors — the Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open — to its official schedule. The leading Europeans had all been competing in them for many years, but now their prize money counted towards the European Tour Order of Merit, which sometimes made a great deal of difference to the end-of-season rankings. The following year the three individual World Golf Championships, also usually played in America, and also offering far more prize money than most European events, were established and added to the European Tour schedule. Since the minimum number of events that a player must play to retain membership of the European Tour has long been eleven, this meant that international players could in theory become members of the tour by playing just four events on it apart from the majors and the World Golf Championships, which all elite players enter in any case. Players such as Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have taken advantage of this to play the PGA and European Tours concurrently and even Tiger Woods, who has sometimes played nine of the necessary eleven events, once suggested that he might enter the extra four required so that he could win the European Order of Merit, although he has yet to do so.

tatus and prize money

It is beyond dispute that the European Tour is the second most important tour in men's golf, behind the PGA Tour and well ahead of all the others. What is harder to define is its standing relative to the PGA Tour and whether that has risen or fallen in recent years. At the start of 2006 five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Rankings were full members of the European Tour, namely Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Sergio García, Adam Scott and Colin Montgomerie. Two years later, at the start of 2008, the number of full European Tour members in the top 10 remained at five, namely Els, Justin Rose, Scott, Pádraig Harrington, and Vijay Singh. Apart from Montgomerie they are also members of the PGA Tour, and moved to it as their main or joint main tour after playing in Europe first. Singh had largely abandoned the European Tour for the PGA Tour in the late 1990s, but rejoined the European Tour in 2006. It is unknown for elite players to move from the PGA Tour to the European Tour on a primary basis.

The European Tour is traditionally the first overseas move for outstanding players from non-European countries in the Commonwealth, long a major source for elite golfers, such as Greg Norman and Nick Price. These players tended to move to the PGA Tour as a second step. However, lately the European Tour is losing this role as more Commonwealth golfers choose to move directly to the U.S. There is also a current trend for young UK golfers to play primarily on the PGA Tour. In some cases, such as that of Luke Donald, this is a natural consequence after completing a golf scholarship at a U.S. university. Such scholarships are not available (or even legal) in Europe.

When Continental Europe produced its first global golf stars in the 1970s, such as Seve Ballesteros, and especially when Europe began to notch wins over the United States in the Ryder Cup in the mid 1980s, there was widespread optimism about the future standing of the European Tour relative to the PGA Tour. This has ebbed away as several major European countries, such as Germany and Italy, have not produced high-ranked golfers on a regular basis as was formerly anticipated. Nonetheless, the number of European countries which have produced winners on the European Tour has increased steadily, with notable golfing depth developing in the Scandinavian countries.

The total 2005 prize fund on the PGA Tour is approximately $250 million. On the European Tour, it is over £80 million or around $150 million, around 60 percent of what the American tour offers. However, both of these totals include around $50 million in prize money for seven co-sanctioned events, namely the majors and the World Golf Championships. Excluding these, the European Tour offers approximately 50 percent as much prize money as the PGA Tour. It can be argued that since PGA Tour members have had far more wins and top 10 finishes in the seven co-sanctioned events in recent years, the 50 percent figure is a better reflection of the actual financial resources of the European Tour relative to its rival.

Leaving aside the majors and World Golf Championship events, which are the most lucrative on the schedule, there is still much more variation in prize funds on the European Tour than on the PGA Tour. Two key tiers can be identified: those not far away from a million Euro, and those in the three to four million Euro range. Most of the former group are for co-sponsored events outside Europe and most of the latter are for events staged in Europe. At the March 2008 exchange rate of USD 1.50 per euro, the richer group of European tournaments offer nearly the same prize money as a typical "regular" event on the PGA Tour, with its 2008 prize fund of $5-6 million.

The prize funds of many European Tour events have increased rapidly since the late 1990s. Nonetheless, in 2005, an increasing amount of media attention was given to the perceived failure of the European Tour to attract as many leading players to its events as in the recent past. It is unclear how this contradiction between the Tour's apparently weakening on-course position and its seemingly strong sponsorship position will play out in the future. The role of Asia may be crucial; in November 2005 a new European Tour-sanctioned event in China called the HSBC Champions tournament was played for the first time. With a purse of $5 million, it was by far the richest tournament ever played in Asia.

From the 2009 season onwards, the Order of Merit will be replaced by The Race To Dubai. This will reflect the addition of a new tournament called the Dubai World Championship. The winner of the Race To Dubai will receive a ten-year European Tour exemption, while the winner of the Dubai World Championship tournament will receive a five-year European Tour exemption. [cite news | url=http://www.europeantour.com/default.sps?pagegid=%7B5A258B31%2D8294%2D4C0E%2DB8B9%2DA796F6009E52%7D&newsid=508610| title=Dubai Link with European Tour| publisher=European Tour| date=| accessdate=2007-11-19] [cite news | url=http://www.europeantour.com/default.sps?pagegid={5A258B31-8294-4C0E-B8B9-A796F6009E52}&newsid=508800| title=Race to Dubai: A New Season-Long Race on the European Tour| publisher=European Tour| date=2007-11-19| accessdate=2008-10-06] [cite news | url=http://www.thegolfchannel.com/core.aspx?page=15100&select=24432| title=Euro Tour Unveils Race to Dubai| publisher=Golf Channel| date=2007-11-19| accessdate=2008-10-06]

The structure of the European Tour season

Outline of the season

The table below illustrates the structure of the European season. The events shown are for the 2008 season, but there are only minor variations in the overall pattern from one year to the next. Tournaments sometimes change venue, and quite often change name, especially when they get a new sponsor, but the principal events have fixed and traditional places in the schedule, and this determines the rhythm of the season.

Since 2000 the season has actually started late in the previous calendar year, but the seasons are still named by calendar year, rather than for example 2005–06 to reflect the actual span of play. The 2008 schedule includes six events held late in the previous year. All of the events up until late March take place outside of Europe, and most of these are co-sanctioned with other tours. The 2008 season includes three events in China plus one in Hong Kong, China; three events in South Africa; two each in India and the United Arab Emirates; and single events in Australia, New Zealand, Qatar, Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea. All four major championships are official stops on the European Tour, as are the three individual World Golf Championships events, and the majority of these events take place in the U.S. From around the end of March the tour plays mainly in Europe, and the events in its home continent generally have higher prize money than those elsewhere, apart from the ones in the U.S. The season ends with the Volvo Masters, the equivalent of the PGA Tour's Tour Championship, which is normally scheduled to end on the last Sunday of October, but in 2008 will finish in November.

2008 schedule

The table below shows the 2008 schedule. There are 50 official money events, of which the first six events take place in late 2007. The season runs for 52 weeks, with a two-week break over Christmas and the New Year, and one week when the only event is an unofficial money team tournament. There are four weeks when two official money events are played.

The numbers in brackets after the winners' names show the number of career wins they had on the European Tour up to and including that event. This is only shown for members of the European Tour. To give such a number for non-members would misrepresent the amount of time some international golfers spend on the European Tour; as the Tour co-sanctions the major championships and World Golf Championships events, some top players accumulate a significant number of wins in European Tour sanctioned events without really playing on it. For example, after his win in the 2007 WGC-CA Championship, Tiger Woods has won more than 30 events sanctioned by the European Tour, but has never played a sufficient number of European Tour-sanctioned events to qualify for membership.

Up to 1998, the Order of Merit was calculated in Pounds sterling.

There is a list of the top 100 on the European Tour's website [http://www.europeantour.com/default.sps?pagegid=%7BE4DD9585%2D73A2%2D4C5E%2DA491%2DC88176509A7B%7D here] .

Players and rookies of the year

The European Tour's "Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year" award is named after the English three-time Open Champion Sir Henry Cotton. The winner is now selected by a panel comprising the PGA European Tour, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St.Andrews and the Association of Golf Writers. It is usually given to the rookie who places highest on the Order of Merit, but this is not always the case. The award predates the founding of the formal tour in 1972. There have been five years when no award was made.

ee also

*Golfers with most European Tour wins
*Challenge Tour: the second-tier tour operated by the PGA European Tour.
*Alps Tour, EPD Tour and PGA EuroPro Tour: the three third-tier tours in Europe. They are recognised by the PGA European Tour, but it does not operate them.
*European Seniors Tour: the over-50s tour operated by the PGA European Tour.
*Ladies European Tour: the top European women's professional tour.

References

External links

* [http://www.europeantour.com Official site]


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