BEFORE he even has his feet under the table, the new chief executive of the European Tour already has two items waiting in his in-tray after proposed changes suggested by Luke Donald and Martin Kaymer in the build-up to the £5 million BMW PGA Championship starting tomorrow.
Canadian Keith Pelley, who takes over the reins from George O’Grady later this year, is inheriting a healthy circuit, as evidenced by the fact it has spawned the world-class players responsible for Europe winning eight out of the last ten Ryder Cup matches.
That is not to say everything is as some of those players would like to see it going forward, however, with Donald, for instance, calling for the circuit’s membership rules to be relaxed, both to help players like himself as they try to split their time between the European Tour and PGA Tour as well encouraging more top Americans to come and play on this side of the Atlantic.
“Honestly, I think it would be nice to see a reduction in the number of counting events needed for the European Tour,” said the Englishman of the requirement at the moment being 13 events. “I think it would encourage some other players from around the world to become members of the European Tour. I don’t think it would affect the number of events I would play necessarily, but I think it would help certain players. Even US guys would be encouraged to join this Tour and grow it.”
Brooks Koepka, for example, who has climbed to world No 20 in less than two years, having underlined his enormous potential when winning the Scottish Challenge in Aviemore after coming across to Europe to cut his teeth in the professional ranks. Alas, his talents won’t be on show much in Europe this season as the PGA Tour restrictions similarly make it difficult to let the top players ply their trade as freely as they would like.
“Brooks is a good example,” observed Donald. “He got a lot of success out of being a European Tour member. He’s now become a PGA Tour member and is only allowed three or four releases. That being the case and having 13 events as a minimum to retain your European Tour membership, the math just simply doesn’t work. I think there’s some room for improvement there and I think, ironically, minimising the number of events would actually strengthen the European Tour.”
As for Kaymer, he reckons Pelley’s first task should be to look at the positioning of the Tour’s flagship event, the German believing that it is too early in the season for the East Course at Wentworth to do justice in terms of its greens. “It’s the most important tournament that we play on the European Tour and I would like to see this being played later in the year,” said the US Open champion.
“The only thing that the tournament struggles with is the greens every year. It’s very difficult I think for the greenkeepers to make them as good as they can be. Talking to a few members, they said, as well, if you come here in six weeks, the greens are perfect. That would be the first thing that I would change because there are possibilities.
“Yeah, I think it’s going to be difficult to plan around the US Open and the British Open and those things, but for such a big event, you should get the best date, and for us players, it would be even more fun to play that golf course.”
According to another member of last year’s winning European Ryder Cup team at Gleneagles, the greens this week probably aren’t at their best. But Stephen Gallacher pointed out: “I don’t know any courses that are just now. Up the road a lot of them are behind where they’d normally be. I think this is a great week on the schedule and it always attracts a superb field. I’ve played here a few times in the past when we’ve had a good spring and it’s been awesome.”