Out of Bounds: European Tour envy as elite focus on matters stateside
In the four weeks since India Open, there’s been no regular events on European Tour
Paul Dunne of Ireland during the Tshwane Open in Pretoria, South Africa, earlier this month. Photograph: Getty Images
Envy is a curious beast but it would be fair to say that those ordinary tour card carrying members of the PGA European Tour must be guilty of such emotions as they cast an eye across the Atlantic at this stage of the season and realise what is on offer.
Here - zilch! There - a lot!
The foot soldiers of the European Tour have effectively being cast aside into limbo for the past fortnight and indeed for the fortnight ahead, a month of inaction since SSP Chawrasia sank the winning putt on the 18th green in New Delhi to win the Hero India Open. That was Sunday, March 12th, and it signalled to all intents and purposes a halt to tournament play for the majority of the European Tour’s members.
“Put the clubs away lads,” was the message.
For the elite, there was the opportunity to focus on matters stateside on the PGA Tour, where those in the world’s top-64 (and slightly beyond) could bring the WGC-Dell Matchplay championship and, for the really lucky ones, next week’s US Masters tournament, into their schedules.
In the past few days, Tyrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood and Thomas Pieters all indicated that they would be taking up special temporary membership of the PGA Tour - having accrued sufficient prizemoney in outings to gain such a status on the other side of the pond - and, whilst also retaining their European Tour membership, it is another indicator of how the grass is greener on the other side.
What to do? Now, that is a question. For those forced into inactivity - among them Paul Dunne, but with Spaniards, English, Italians, Swedes et all in the same boat - there is little point in allowing envy to consume; it’s not a time for any Shakespearean green eyed-monster to appear.
Rather, it is to use their European Tour card to develop, progress and aspire to joining Messrs Hatton, Fleetwood and Pieters in earning a duality of existence on both tours.
Hatton is a terrific example of what players can achieve: only 25 years of age but already five years a pro, the Englishman came through the Challenge Tour to earn a place on the main circuit and has kicked-on in the sort of way that others can use him as a role model. Not for his short-fuse, rather for the way he has worked his way up the ladder by his actions in getting the ball into the hole in as few shots as possible. If you’re good enough and have belief, you can succeed.
Hatton was ranked 376th in the world when he started his rookie season on the European Tour in 2014 and has fast-tracked his own way to a current position of 15th. Effectively, he has used the system to his benefit and opened his own doors to the extent that he is now into all four Majors this season.
So, for those European Tour card holders forced to take a back-seat at this time of the year, he’s the man to take inspiration from.
And if Hatton doesn’t do if for them, then there is the little matter of greenbacks. Lots of them. Since Chawrasia tapped in his winning putt in the India Open, the vast majority of European Tour card - other than those eligible to play the Dell Matchplay and next week’s Masters - have been idle.
In the four weeks since the India Open, there have been no regular events on the European Tour. Stateside, though, players have had the Arnold Palmer Invitational ($8.7 million purse), Dell Matchplay ($9.75m), the Puerto Rico Open ($3m - which ran against the matchplay to give regular players an outing), the Shell Houston Open ($7m), the Masters ($10m).
It’s a one-side battle at this time of the season, that’s for sure.