European Tour no longer a cash bonanza

The days when membership of the European Tour was considered a gateway to riches and a luxurious lifestyle would appear to be a thing of the past judging by the lack of activity at a time of year when it should be at its busiest.

This may not be that apparent to the elite players who concentrate almost exclusively on the USPGA Tour and some of whom grudgingly play the minimum 13 tournaments required to retain membership of their home Tour.

Since the Open Championship ended on July 21st, the bigger names have contested the WGC Bridgestone World Championship and the US PGA Championship, events carrying e16m in prize money, with little or nothing for the vast majority of European Tour members who don’t qualify for such riches.

The only tournament for which they have been eligible since the Open Championship was the Russian Open carrying a lowly e1m in prize money and far from an attractive proposition for most players. It was won in impressive fashion by Michael Hoey who banked a handsome €166,600 for his efforts but those finishing outside the top 10 would have been hard pressed to cover their expenses.

Hoey would have been justified in feeling a degree of frustration at being denied the opportunity to build on the momentum generated by his Moscow triumph.

There hasn’t been a European Tour tournament for the past fortnight and the coming week is also blank. All this time, those in the States are playing for prize funds ranging in value from $5.5m (the sum on offer this week at the Wyndham Championship and which Pádraig Harrington has added to his schedule in the hope of finding some solution to his current problems) to $8m (the value of each of the four FedEx Cup play-off tournaments beginning next week with the Barclays in New Jersey).

While the leading 20 or so Europeans continue to ply their trade in the States, this situation will prevail, making those left at home to wonder where exactly their careers are going. Very significantly, only Francesco Molinari and Paul Lawrie of last year’s successful European Ryder Cup team competed in the Scottish Open on the week before the Open Championship.

Nor is it any coincidence Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose, 1st and 3rd on the Race to Dubai order of merit, collected most of their points in US events counting on both tours although Graeme McDowell (2nd) numbers the Volvo World Match Play in Bulgaria and the French Open among his major achievements this year.

The European Tour’s rank and file finally get back into action in the Johnnie Walker Classic on August 22nd by which stage their earnings will look quite insignificant when compared with the riches earned by those in similar positions across the Atlantic.

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