Newly-crowned European number one Henrik Stenson has given a guarded welcome to a new European Tour regulation requiring players to support their home events or be forced to play an extra two tournaments.
Players currently have to play a minimum of 13 tournaments for European Tour membership, but that will be increased to 15 for the 2014 season if they do not contest their national open or equivalent.
The move was approved by the European Tour’s Tournament Committee last month, but comes in the wake of strong criticism from former Open champion Ernie Els over the demands placed on players.
Els was annoyed at the regulation which requires players to compete in two of the first three events of this year’s inaugural Final Series to be eligible for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, won by Stenson on Sunday.
The South African did not fulfil that criteria – along with Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel – and was therefore not in Dubai as European Tour chief executive George O’Grady admitted that the amount of golf played by its star names had been “underestimated” and promised a comprehensive review of the format.
Stenson was planning on playing the Nordea Masters in Malmo next year anyway, but admits the clash with the Memorial Tournament hosted by Jack Nicklaus on the PGA Tour could pose problems in the future.
“I was scheduled to play regardless. I am going to play Wentworth (the BMW PGA Championship) as well next year so am making a trip back and playing two weeks in a row,” Stenson told reporters.
“It’s obviously the tough thing with playing both in America and Europe that you can’t travel however many times back and forth, but given the success I’ve had I would really want to come and play in front of my home crowds next year.
“Whether we need to have the rule or not, that could be debated, but I think to support the European Tour and your home tournaments it’s definitely a good thing to do.
“At times it could be hard with the schedules. Sweden goes up against the Memorial so I can’t play in Jack’s tournament, one of the big ones on the PGA Tour, so we will see how it works out in the future.”
Leading manager and tournament promoter Chubby Chandler feels the regulation is unnecessary and that the European Tour should do away with membership criteria, rather than adding to them.
Chandler, who also described the Final Series as a “cock-up” recently, told the media: “I think they just make it difficult to be a member.
“They put all these things in to try to protect tournaments. I think enough golfers respect their home Open or home tournament to not need something like that. They seem to try and make rules to prevent people being a member and I don’t get it.”
If a country stages more than three tournaments, players of that nationality will be required to play in at least two and Chandler added: “Fortunately it doesn’t make a lot of difference for us (his management company ISM).
“Lee (Westwood) is always going to play the BMW, Charl (Schwartzel) and Louis (Oosthuizen) are always going to play two in South Africa; Joost Luiten is always going to play in Holland. But I don’t know why they make rules to make it difficult.
“I would do away with everything, I think they would have more members if they do away with stuff. Who are they protecting? I am not sure who they are running the Tour for. If they are going to run the Tour for the bottom 50 golfers then fine.
“The Tour has to be run for the top 25 golfers because that’s where the sponsorship is. They have to make it easier for people to be a member, not more difficult.
“I’d go to Adam Scott and say ’How can we make you a member?’ If he said ’I can play this, this and this’ then I’d do that for the rules.”
Tournament committee member Gonzalo Ferndandez-Castano believes the rule is a “fantastic idea”, saying: “It was very nice to see this year at the Spanish Open all the Spanish players there, including Sergio Garcia.
“The crowds were fantastic and that’s exactly what the Spanish Open and every national Open should be about. Having their local heroes is the way to attract the crowds and the sponsors and the media.
“We hate to tell the players which tournaments they have to play. Golfers, we are funny individuals and we don’t like to be told what we have to do but I think this was the right move.
“Ernie (Els) has been here for a long time, he has been a big supporter of the European Tour but I think he understands. It’s a bit of a hassle when you live overseas but I think deep inside he knows it’s the best thing for the Tour.”