Plans for 'Florida Swing' on European Tour hailed as 'good' move

The possibility of three European Tour events being played on American soil if a planned Iberian Swing can’t take place due to Covid-19 restrictions has been hailed as a “good” move.

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley pictured during the Hero Open at Marriott Forest of Arden last August. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley pictured during the Hero Open at Marriott Forest of Arden last August. Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images.

The unprecedented prospect of European Tour events taking place on the PGA Tour’s patch was first mentioned by the Daily Telegraph, with the “general idea” having subsequently been confirmed to members in a memo from chief executive Keith Pelley according to Golf Digest.

It is believed that the three proposed events, the idea for which actually came from the PGA Tour on the back of a new “strategic alliance” with the European Tour, are being considered for immediately after the Masters in April.

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The circuit is scheduled to visit Tenerife, Gran Canaria and Portugal in successive weeks, but visitors to Spain from the UK and South Africa are currently banned while Portugal is on a red list.

That means an “elite athlete” exemption would not apply and, with players from South Africa and the UK providing a large chunk of most European Tour line ups, going ahead with those events under the current travel restrictions would leave the fields decimated.

“As a global Tour, we face challenges due to current international travel restrictions,” a spokesperson for the European Tour told The Scotsman in reply to being asked about the possibility of that segment of the schedule becoming a Florida Swing.

“We will therefore continue to explore all options available to enable our members to play a full schedule.”

While no concrete decisions have yet been made, Pelley has already shown that he will pull out all the stops to provide playing opportunities for his membership.

Last year, the Canadian witnessed more than 20 tournaments being either cancelled - the casualties included the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland - or postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, after a three-month lockdown, he managed to pull together a schedule comprising 22 events between mid-July and the end of the year, including a new six-week UK Swing.

Richie Ramsay, a three-time European Tour winner, welcomed the possibility of the circuit now breaking new ground in the US, though no mention of locations has yet been made.

“I think it would be good,” said the Aberdonian, who won the US Amateur Championship at Hazeltine in 2006. “Opportunities are hard to come by, so you need to seize them.

“I have spent a good amount of time in Florida. They have some world-class courses and plenty of resorts for a tournament in a bubble.”

The European Tour had been due to be in the Middle East this week until the Oman Open was postponed after the Omani government ordered a half on all sporting events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The circuit is scheduled to resume next week with the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters before staging back-to-back events in Kenya - the Magical Kenya Open and the Kenya Savannah Classic.

In his confidential memo to members, Pelley was reported by Golf Digest as saying the preparations for those events are “progressing well”.

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