EIGHT-TIME European No 1 Colin Montgomerie has urged European Tour chiefs to “hold firm” in the face of criticism over its new ‘Final Series’.
Former Open champion Ernie Els is boycotting next week’s DP World Tour Championship in Dubai due to its entry rules and now fellow South African Charl Schwartzel is threatening to quit the European Tour over the same thing.
But Montgomerie said he believes the Tour is right to try and attract the strongest possible fields for its sponsors and has accused players of acting like “royalty” with their complaints about the four-event Series worth $30.5 million.
“I played 13 [tournaments] in a row when I was at my peak,” said Montgomerie, who was among the players returning this morning to complete their opening rounds in the Turkish Airlines Open.
“Four in a row is not a lot, particularly the way they are treated. They are like royalty with their private planes and suites. It’s hardly a hassle is it?”
The Scot, who signed for a level-par 72 on his Maxx Royal course in Belek to sit eight behind joint-leaders Henrik Stenson, Thomas Bjorn and Darren Fichardt, added: “The players are saying they are being dictated to but you shouldn’t have to be told to play for $7 million [this week’s prize fund].
“The Tour is struggling, it is difficult to find sponsors. They are professional golfers, that’s their job. Call their bluff – the Tour have a bit of power here.”
The rules for the inaugural ‘Final Series’ require players to appear in at least two of the three events which precede the season-ending finale in Dubai.
Schwartzel is playing in the Turkish Airlines Open, but did not tee it up in either of the two events held in Shanghai in the past fortnight.
“It’s very disappointing as I really want to play next week,” said Schwartzel. “It does make you think about your future on the European Tour if they are going to carry on making these rules.
“I will have to think what will suit me best as a player. I’ve played in Europe for a very long time and would love to keep playing, but with these sort of rules coming in I will have to play some tournaments in South Africa and America only.”
Stenson, the Race to Dubai leader, birdied his final two holes this morning to earn a share of the lead and outscore playing partner Tiger Woods by six shots.
“That was good,” said the Swede of his opening salvo. “I played some good golf yesterday. I was in a good position when they called a halt to play last night and carried it on today.”
Stenson, winner of the FedEx Cup already this season, has a bet with Ian Poulter on the money-list title race and headed into the second round only two in front of the Englishman after he stormed home in 33.
“I kind of knew he was playing all right, because he had the white towel around his arm showing me how I’m going to be looking when I’m pouring his drink,” joked Stenson. “So I’m trying my best to keep him behind me.”
Woods, who is being paid £1.5 million to play in Turkey’s first European Tour event, birdied two of his first three holes this morning but then bogeyed the last after pulling his second into a hazard.
Stephen Gallacher, with a 68, was the leading Scot after the opening round followed by Marc Warren and Craig Lee on three-under. David Drysdale and Richie Ramsay were both a further shot back.