Harrington: ‘core’ tournament plans may damage Euro Tour

TRIPLE major-winning Pádraig Harrington has labelled as “protectionism” any move by the European Tour to introduce a series of core tournaments its members will have to contest to retain automatic membership.

The Tournament Players Committee met last Tuesday night in St Andrews when it discussed the idea of players having to contest four of six ‘core’ tournaments that could include the Irish Open.

At present, members do have to play at least 12 Race to Dubai events from a schedule boasting close to 50 tournaments to remain full Race to Dubai Tour members.

However current non-European-born members such as the American duo Anthony Kim and Boo Weekley along with new Australian-born members Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby and Rod Pampling can play eight of the dozen in contesting the four Majors and the four WGCs.

The committee meets again in a fortnight in Portugal where it could well endorse the notion for eventual Tour approval. But Harrington, who is not a member of the committee, is totally against the idea.

“I would have to find out more about what was discussed but in general I don’t believe in ‘protectionism’,” said Harrington after a second round 70 for four under on day two of the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.

“If we want the best players in the world to play on Europe we have to open up the Tour and make it easier for them to compete rather than putting in place restrictions

“All any move is going to do is create a class system incorporating a top six and other leading events.

“I have a great relationship with some of the Tour’s main sponsors like Barclays, who sponsor the Sinagapore Open, and HSBC who sponsor the Champions event in Shanghai, and I like playing those events, so will those be among the core tournaments?”

Harrington’s concern is shared by fellow Irishman Paul McGinley, who is a member of the 15-man committee.

“The nuts and bolts still have be thought through before we make such a radical change to the qualification process for membership,” said McGinley after his 67 also at St Andrews for an eight-under par total.

“It’s a big, big step and we need to buy ourselves some time before we do anything or make a rash decision.”

Meanwhile Rory McIlroy tamed one of the toughest holes in golf yesterday. This time his birdie three on the famous Road Hole 17th at St Andrews helped the 20-year-old into a share of the halfway lead in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

McIlroy, needing a top-two finish to go top of the European money list, is alongside fellow Irishman Michael Hoey and Scot Richie Ramsay on 11 under par after a superb 65.

McIlroy hit a drive and seven-iron to 15 feet, made the putt and then smashed another drive onto the 18th green 350 yards away — something he never done before — and two-putted.

Four off the lead at the start of the day, but given a chance to take over at the top with Thomas Bjorn adding only a 74 at Carnoustie to his 64 at Kingsbarns, McIlroy birdied the third and then eagled the 568-yard fifth with a five-wood to 12 feet.

Three more birdies were to follow before his stumble three holes from home, but that was quickly forgotten.

Ramsay shot 66 at St Andrews, while Hoey had the same at Carnoustie. Hoey had a double bogey and bogey in his 67 at Kingsbarns, but did not make a mistake over the most difficult of the three courses and eagled the 514-yard 14th.

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