In-coming European tour chief executive George O’Grady today described as “extraordinary” the pressure being put on world number two Ernie Els to play more events in America.
Els’ anger was clear two weeks ago when he revealed that the US Tour had sent him a letter demanding more appearances if he wanted to remain a member.
O’Grady commented: “It seems like quite an extraordinary pressure to put on a player of his level who plays usually 17 or 18 tournaments in the United States anyway.
“He’s always prepared to listen if we need him to play somewhere, but he’s a very hard man to tell to do something. You do ask him, usually politely, and sometimes he says yes.
Els has said of the situation: “There’s a world outside America and I’m part of it. They can’t restrict me from paying where I want to play.
“They want over 20 and nothing abroad, but I am not hurting their tour at all with my schedule. I’m just helping the European tour and why should I change?
“You can’t start telling me: ‘Hey, come over here and leave the rest of the world’. It’s not going to happen that way.”
The issue also involves other global players like South Africa’s US Open champion Retief Goosen and rising Australian star Adam Scott.
“We debated it initially at the Players’ Championship (in March),” added O’Grady. “We have seen it coming. Retief Goosen has been suffering under the same stricture. We are not happy on it.”
Els and the others could, of course, take a firm stance and quit the US Tour, which would presumably mean more appearances on the European circuit.
“We’ve always done as much as we possibly can to make Ernie Els feel welcome at all times,” stated O’Grady in answer to that point.
Schofield, who hands over the reins after 30 years in charge on December 31 but will continue as a two-days-per-week consultant, stated: “The worry is if they are going to lean on Ernie, we know they have already done so with Retief, what about Adam Scott, Trevor Immelman and the other generation of young guys that normally come from the southern hemisphere and very often make their start with the European tour?
“It seems an extraordinary approach when the guy is playing well in excess of his minimum.” Standard US Tour rules stipulate 15 events for membership.
O’Grady also spoke about the current controversy surrounding Seve Ballesteros, who is under investigation over an alleged assault on tour referee Jose Maria Zamora while attending a recent amateur event.
“At this stage we are not prepared to say what may or may not happen (Ballesteros could be banned). We just find the situation very sad if what is alleged is correct.
“We are very disappointed. Seve is arguably our greatest champion, our current most charismatic champion and it would be our hope it’s handled very sympathetically.
“But at the same time it’s out duty to protect the normal standards of behaviour.”