The PGA Tour has apparently made an audacious bid to take over the European Tour as concerns grow among the professionals over the lack of playing and financial opportunities on the circuit which is supposedly a rival to its US equivalent. If correct the move by the American power brokers will be well well timed when the strengths, and weaknesses, of the two tours are compared.
While the game’s best have been playing for more than £10million in the US over the past fortnight, and have the chance to play for another £3.5million at this week’s Wyndham Championship, there have been three blank weeks on the European Tour’s calendar.
Inevitably this had led to discontent among the rank and file on the European Tour.
But the dissension even runs as high as the Tournament Players Committee, with Paul Casey, a high-profile member, prepared to voice his frustrations.
“There are so many good things about the European Tour and it can it be such an unbelievable product given the places we go to, and the players we have,” Casey said
“But we are so far from maximising what we have and we need to freshen things up.
“It needs some new energy. Look at the fact we’ve just announced on our website that we’ve appointed a global search firm to find a new chairman, when the last one, Neil Coles, retired in May.
“Why on earth would that simple step take three months?
“There are some incredibly talented people in the world of business who are already involved in golf and would love to be our chairman.
“It’s important we get the right one, and they can dictate what happens right down the line.
“This is the time for change as it’s a great opportunity we’re missing.”
The issue is reaching its head largely because of the incredible turnaround in fortunes in the past few years.
When the recession hit, the European Tour seemed in a strong position with Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy refusing to join the PGA Tour and with the banking crisis threatening so many tournament sponsorships in the US.
But with the collapse of the euro, the continent has been transformed into a golfing wasteland as far as professional events are concerned, and with Dubai also encountering economic uncertainty, the much vaunted Race To Dubai has looked increasingly frail, with prize money and the bonus pool being substantially reduced.
Now, the European professionals find themselves inactive in the main month of summer.
The player 100th on the American money list has won £650,000, while the same-placed golfer in Europe has won £170,000.
The PGA Tour has clearly sensed the discord and, without invitation, is making its play.
Talks have already taken place at an informal basis.
Last year, it took control of the Canadian Tour, repackaging it as PGA Tour Canada, and has recently set up PGA Tour Latinoamerica.
The PGA Tour is desperate to get more of a footing in China, who themselves want the tours to co-sanction events to attract more America players.
As a by-product of running the European Tour, the PGA Tour would achieve its long-held objective of gaining control of at least half of the cash cow which is the Ryder Cup.
The PGA of America is in joint charge of the Ryder Cup with the European Tour.
What form the takeover would take is unclear, although it is believed the PGA Tour might guarantee a certain number of events and the scale of prize funds over a set number of seasons.
The clout of one of the world’s most powerful and richest sports brands would also be tempting for the European Tour board.
However, whether it would want to concede the entire golfing landscape to the Americans is dubious and it may be that the European Tour will try its own reformation first.