Torrance hails PGA Tour takeover of European golf prospect

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SAM Torrance, who holds the record for most appearances on the European Tour, has welcomed the possibility of the citcuit being bought over by the PGA Tour.

While reports of an attemped buyout by the Americans have been denied by both European Tour and PGA Tour officials, Torrance said he can see sense in such a move and is adamant that it would be beneficial for the game on this side of the Atlantic.

“I think it’s fantastic,” said the 2002 Ryder Cup-winning captain as he broke off from his preparations for the SSE Scottish Seniors Open starting at Fairmont St Andrews today to join four fellow competitiors in donning university gowns and mortar boards for a putting competition in the town’s St Salvator’s Quadrangle.

“It didn’t do Manchester United any harm when they were bought by Americans. The PGA Tour is the best in the world and, if they’re considering buying us and then running us, I don’t see a problem with that.

“[European Tour chief executive] George [O’Grady] is ready to retire in the next five years or so and it looks like perfect timing to me. As long as they can give us a pension fund and backdate it 43 years! No, I think it’ll be great for Europe, I really do.”

The PGA Tour has already purchased the flagging Canadian Tour and re-named it the PGA Tour of Canada while it also has a strong foothold in both Latin America and Asia, staging an event in Malaysia.

“They’re expanding and we are the second best tour in the world,” added Torrance when asked why he felt such rumours had surfaced. “It’s become a world tour now, anyway. It’s the same with all the tours, even the American Tour is an all-world tour now. We [the European Tour] are, very much so, with the Asian tournaments and the WGC events.

“Our Senior Tour needs a lift, we’ve got just 10-11 tournaments and you can’t earn your keep off that. But I’d much prefer to see the main tour solidified, because the European game has not been better than it is now. The last 
15 years have been phenomenal for the Tour and we should be 
at the top.”

Torrance, who turns 60 next week, is confident the Ryder Cup would not suffer by any change to the European Tour ownership. “God no,” he declared. “They [the Americans] won’t own the Ryder Cup. They wouldn’t dilute it in any way shape or form. In fact, I think it would enhance it.”

Torrance was speaking 24 hours after his appointment as captain of the Great Britain & Ireland team to take on a Continental Europe side led by Jose Maria Olazabal in the Seve 
Trophy in Paris in early October.

He wouldn’t be drawn on whether the move by Paul McGinley indicated he was set to include the Scot in his backroom team for next year’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles but the glint in his eye spoke louder than words.

“I can’t answer that,” replied Torrance to being asked about a possible role in Perthshire. “I know what you’re thinking and obviously reading between the lines it’s pretty obvious what he’s doing, but I don’t know 
anything about that.

“I’d be delighted to do it. It would be a great honour. But, in the meantime, I’m thinking only about next month. I thought this captaincy lark was over for me and I never thought for a million years my next captaincy would be against Europe!”

Torrance hinted he may now attend next week’s Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles to run the rule over contenders for his team. “Quite a few of the top players will be in the US and won’t be able to play but that’s fine,” he said. “In some ways it’s even better, I think, because it’ll give younger players a chance to get into that environment. Ultimately, the Ryder Cup’s the one they want to be in, but this is like a breeding ground for them. It’s brilliant.”