PGA European Tour
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The PGA European Tour is an organisation which operates the three leading men's professional golf tours in Europe: the elite European Tour, the European Senior Tour and the developmental Challenge Tour. Its headquarters are at Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, Surrey, England. The European Tour is the primary golf tour in Europe. The European Tour was established by the British-based Professional Golfers' Association, and responsibility was transferred to an independent PGA European Tour organisation in 1984. Most events on the PGA European Tour's three tours are held in Europe, but in recent years an increasing number have been held in other parts of the world outside Europe; in 2015 a majority of the ranking events on the European Tour were held outside Europe, though this included both Majors and World Golf Championship events that are ranking events for multiple tours.
|Current season, competition or edition:|
2019 European Tour
|Director||David Williams (Chairman)|
|Countries||Based in Europe.|
Schedule includes events outside Europe,
in Asia, Africa, and the United States.
|Most titles||Seve Ballesteros (50)|
The PGA European Tour is a golfer-controlled organisation whose primary purpose is to maximise the income of tournament golfers. It is a company limited by guarantee and is run by a professional staff but controlled by its playing members via a board of directors composed of 12 elected past and present tour players and a tournament committee of 14 current players. The chairman of the board is David Williams who replaced Neil Coles who had held the post for 38 years. The chairman of the tournament committee is Thomas Bjørn.
The European-based events on the European Tour are nearly all played in Western Europe and the most lucrative of them take place in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France and Spain.
The PGA European Tour is the lead partner in Ryder Cup Europe, a joint venture also including the PGA of Great Britain and Ireland and PGA of Europe that operates the Ryder Cup Matches in cooperation with the PGA of America. The PGA European Tour has a 60% interest in Ryder Cup Europe, with each of its junior partners holding 20%.
Professional golf began in Europe, specifically in Scotland. The first professionals were clubmakers and greenkeepers who also taught golf to the wealthy men who could afford to play the game (early handmade equipment was expensive) and played "challenge matches" against one another for purses put up by wealthy backers. The first multi-competitor stroke play tournament was The Open Championship, which was introduced in 1860. That year it was for professionals only, and it attracted a field of eight. The following year, amateurs were permitted to enter. In contrast to many other sports which originated in the United Kingdom, the amateur-professional divide never created major problems in golf, at least at the elite competitive level.
Over the few decades following the creation of The Open Championship, the number of golf tournaments with prize money increased slowly but steadily. Most were in the United Kingdom, but there were also several "national opens" in various countries of Continental Europe. However, for many decades it remained difficult if not impossible for golfers to earn a living from prize money alone. From 1901 the British professionals were represented by The Professional Golfers' Association, and it was this body that ultimately created the European Tour.
By the post-World War II period prize money was becoming more significant, encouraged by the introduction of television coverage. However, each event was still organised separately by a golf club or association, or a commercial promoter. In the U.S. a formal PGA Tour had existed since the 1930s, and in 1972 The Professional Golfers' Association introduced the PGA European Tour. In its early years the season ran for six months from April to October, and was based entirely in Europe, mainly in Great Britain and Ireland. For example, the 1972 season consisted of 20 tournaments, of which 12 were in the United Kingdom and one was in Ireland. Of the seven events in Continental Europe, six were "national opens", namely the Dutch, German, Italian, French, Spanish and Swiss Opens, with the seventh being the Madrid Open.
Over the next three decades the tour gradually lengthened and globalised. The first event held outside Europe was the 1982 Tunisian Open. That year, there were 27 tournaments and the season stretched into November for the first time. In 1984, the PGA European Tour became independent of The Professional Golfers' Association.
The European Tour has always been sensitive to the risk that its best players will leave to play on the PGA Tour for many reasons. The PGA Tour usually offers higher purses and European players want to increase their chances of glory in the three majors played in the U.S. by playing on more U.S.-style courses to acclimate themselves. In an attempt to counter this phenomenon, the European Tour introduced the "Volvo Bonus Pool" in 1988. This was extra prize money which was distributed at the end of the season to the most successful players of the year—but only golfers who had played in a high number of the European Tour's events could receive a share. This system continued until 1998, after which renewed emphasis was placed on maximising prize money in individual tournaments.
In 1989, the tour visited Asia for the first time for the Dubai Desert Classic. By 1990, there were 38 events on the schedule, including 37 in Europe, and the start of the season had moved up to February. A first visit to East Asia for the Tour occurred at the 1992 Johnnie Walker Classic in Bangkok. This has since proven to be one of the most notable initiatives in the history of the tour, as East Asia is becoming almost its second home. Shortly afterwards the tour also made its debut in the former Soviet Bloc at the 1994 Czech Open, but much less has come of this development as participation in golf in the former Soviet region remains low and sponsors there are unable to compete financially with their Western European rivals for the limited number of slots available on the main tour each summer. However, the second-tier Challenge Tour has visited Central and Eastern Europe somewhat more frequently. In 1995, the European Tour began a policy of co-sanctioning tournaments with other PGA Tours, by endorsing the South African PGA Championship on the Southern African Tour (now the Sunshine Tour). This policy was extended to the PGA Tour of Australasia in 1996, and most extensively to the Asian Tour.
There is no overall governing body in the worldwide sport of golf. While the golf authorities in the various parts of the world cooperate harmoniously overall, there is still some rivalry. The European Tour is very self-conscious about its position relative to the PGA Tour, but the two have also steadily formed a partnership. In 1998, the European Tour added the three U.S. majors — the Masters Tournament, the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open — to its official schedule. The leading Europeans had all been competing in them for many years, but now their prize money counted towards the European Tour Order of Merit, which sometimes made a great deal of difference to the end-of-season rankings. The following year three of the current four individual World Golf Championships, also usually played in America, and also offering far more prize money than most European events, were established and added to the European Tour schedule.
Since the minimum number of events that a player must play to retain membership of the European Tour was long eleven, this meant that international players could become members of the tour by playing just four events on it apart from the majors and the World Golf Championships, which all elite players enter in any case. Players such as Ernie Els and Retief Goosen have taken advantage of this to play the PGA and European Tours concurrently. For the 2009 season, the minimum number of events required for members was increased to twelve; this coincided with the elevation of the HSBC Champions, previously a European Tour event co-sanctioned by three other tours, to World Golf Championships status. The minimum increased to 13 in 2011, but beginning in 2013 team events such as the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup were allowed to count towards the minimum. In 2016 the 13-event minimum was changed to five events, not counting the four majors and four WGCs; while this change did not affect players eligible for all the majors and WGCs, it made it easier for players not eligible for these to retain European Tour membership while playing a full PGA Tour schedule. The minimum will be reduced from five to four in 2018.
Status and prize moneyEdit
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It is beyond dispute that the European Tour is the second most important tour in men's golf, behind the PGA Tour and well ahead of all the others. What is harder to define is its standing relative to the PGA Tour and whether that has risen or fallen in recent years.
At the start of 2006 five of the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking were full members of the European Tour, namely Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Sergio García, Adam Scott and Colin Montgomerie. Two years later, at the start of 2008, the number of full European Tour members in the top 10 remained at five, namely Els, Justin Rose, Scott, Pádraig Harrington, and Vijay Singh. At the start of 2009, that number increased to seven—García, Harrington, Singh, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson, Els, and Lee Westwood. At the start of 2010, that number went back to five, with Westwood, Harrington, and Stenson joined by Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy. Apart from McIlroy, who was only 20 years old at the end of 2009, and longtime European Tour veterans Montgomerie and Karlsson, all of the named golfers are also members of the PGA Tour, and moved to it as their main or joint main tour after playing in Europe first. Singh had largely abandoned the European Tour for the PGA Tour in the late 1990s, but rejoined the European Tour in 2006. 2010 saw much success for European Tour members, including major wins for Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer, and a victory in the 2010 Ryder Cup. Lee Westwood ended the year as world number one. As of 24 January 2011, the no. 1 and 2 positions in the golf rankings were occupied by Europeans (Westwood and Kaymer), for the first time in 18 years. Westwood, Kaymer, no. 4. McDowell and no 7. McIlroy all see the European Tour as their primary tour.
The European Tour is traditionally the first overseas move for outstanding players from non-European countries in the Commonwealth, long a major source for elite golfers, such as Greg Norman and Nick Price. These players tended to move to the PGA Tour as a second step. However, lately the European Tour is losing this role as more Commonwealth golfers choose to move directly to the U.S. There is also a current trend for young UK golfers to play primarily on the PGA Tour. In some cases, such as that of Luke Donald, this is a natural consequence after completing a golf scholarship at a U.S. university. Such scholarships are not available (or even legal) in Europe.
When Continental Europe produced its first global golf stars in the 1970s, such as Seve Ballesteros, and especially when Europe began to notch wins over the United States in the Ryder Cup in the mid 1980s, there was widespread optimism about the future standing of the European Tour relative to the PGA Tour. This has ebbed away as several major European countries, such as Germany and Italy, have not produced high-ranked golfers on a regular basis as was formerly anticipated. Nonetheless, the number of European countries which have produced winners on the European Tour has increased steadily, with notable golfing depth developing in the Scandinavian countries. The latter point is illustrated by developments in 2008 and 2009. Not only did the 2008 end-of-year world top 10 feature two Swedes (Karlsson and Stenson), but five other Swedes won events on either the PGA Tour or European Tour in 2008; Karlsson and Stenson were joined by the Dane Søren Hansen on Team Europe at the 2008 Ryder Cup; and the season-ending Volvo Masters was won in 2008 by Hansen's countryman Søren Kjeldsen. In 2009, Karlsson dropped out of the top 10 and Stenson remained. Nine Scandinavians won events on either the European or PGA Tour in 2009; four of them—Dane Jeppe Huldahl and Swedes Oskar Henningsson, Christian Nilsson, and Alexander Norén—were first-time European Tour winners.
The total 2005 prize fund on the PGA Tour is approximately $250 million. On the European Tour, it is over £80 million or around $130 million, a little over 50 percent of what the American tour offers. However, both of these totals include around $50 million in prize money for seven co-sanctioned events, namely the majors and the World Golf Championships. Excluding these, the European Tour offers less than 50 percent as much prize money as the PGA Tour. It can be argued that since PGA Tour members have had far more wins and top 10 finishes in the seven co-sanctioned events in recent years, the 50 percent figure is a better reflection of the actual financial resources of the European Tour relative to its rival.
Leaving aside the majors and World Golf Championship events, which are the most lucrative on the schedule, there is still much more variation in prize funds on the European Tour than on the PGA Tour. Two key tiers can be identified: those not far away from a million Euro, and those in the three to four million Euro range. Most of the former group are for co-sponsored events outside Europe and most of the latter are for events staged in Europe. At the January 2010 exchange rate of roughly USD 1.40 per euro, the richer group of European tournaments offers purses approaching and sometimes surpassing those of typical "regular" events on the PGA Tour, with their 2010 prize funds of $5–6 million.
The prize funds of many European Tour events have increased rapidly since the late 1990s. Nonetheless, in 2005, an increasing amount of media attention was given to the perceived failure of the European Tour to attract as many leading players to its events as in the recent past. It is unclear how this contradiction between the Tour's apparently weakening on-course position and its seemingly strong sponsorship position will play out in the future. The role of Asia may be crucial; in November 2005 a new European Tour-sanctioned event in China called the HSBC Champions tournament was played for the first time. With a purse of $5 million, it was by far the richest tournament ever played in Asia. It now has a purse of $7 million, and became a World Golf Championships event starting in 2009.
In a decision that, according to the Associated Press, "reflects the changing nature of a global game", one of the top young American amateurs, Peter Uihlein, announced in December 2011 that he would not return for his final semester at Oklahoma State University and would begin professional play in Europe the following month—both through sponsor's exemptions on the main tour and on the developmental Challenge Tour.
The finances of the European Tour are heavily dependent on the Ryder Cup. Days before the start of the 2014 Ryder Cup, American golf journalist Bob Harig noted,
In simple terms, the European Tour loses money in non-Ryder Cup years, makes a tidy profit in years the event is played in the United States (where the PGA of America, not the PGA Tour, owns the event and reaps the majority of the income), and then hits the lottery in years the tournament is staged in Europe. Earlier this year, Golfweek reported that the European Tour made more than 14 million pounds in pre-tax profit in 2010, the last time the Ryder Cup was staged in Europe. A year later, when there was no Ryder Cup, it lost more than 2.2 million pounds.
Harig also added that the PGA European Tour extracts significant concessions from Ryder Cup venues. The owners of the 2006 and 2010 venues (respectively Sir Michael Smurfit and Sir Terry Matthews) committed to hosting European Tour events at their venues for more than a decade after winning bidding, and also guaranteed the purses for those tour events.
The standard 36-hole cut for a European Tour event is the top 65 professionals plus ties.
The structure of the European Tour seasonEdit
Outline of the seasonEdit
Since 2000, with the exception of 2012, the season has actually started late in the previous calendar year, but the seasons are still named by calendar year, rather than for example 2005–06, which would reflect the actual span of play. All of the events up until late March take place outside Europe, with most of these being co-sanctioned with other tours. From then on, the tour plays mainly in Europe, and the events in its home continent generally have higher prize money than those held elsewhere, excluding the major championships, which were added to the tour schedule in 1998; three individual World Golf Championships events, added the following year, most of which take place in the United States; and the HSBC Champions, elevated to World Golf Championships status in 2009.
There are generally only minor variations in the overall pattern from one year to the next. Occasionally tournaments change venue, and quite often change name, particularly when they get a new sponsor, but the principal events have fixed and traditional places in the schedule, and this determines the rhythm of the season.
For the 2017 season, the European Tour launched the Rolex Series, a series of events with higher prize funds than regular tour events. The series began with eight events, each with a minimum prize fund of US$7 million; plans are to increase the number of series events in the future. The initial Rolex Series events are:
- BMW PGA Championship
- Open de France
- Irish Open
- Scottish Open
- Italian Open
- The three events of the Final Series (see below):
Race to DubaiEdit
In 2009, the Order of Merit was replaced by The Race To Dubai, with a bonus pool of $7.5 million (originally $10 million) distributed among the top 15 players at the end of the season, with the winner taking $1.5 million (originally $2 million). The new name reflected the addition of a new season ending tournament, the Dubai World Championship, held at the end of November in Dubai. The tournament also had a $7.5 million prize fund (originally $10 million), and was contested by the leading 60 players in the race following the season's penultimate event, the Hong Kong Open. The winner of the Race To Dubai also receives a ten-year European Tour exemption, while the winner of the Dubai World Championship tournament receives a five-year European Tour exemption. The reduction in prize money, announced in September 2009, was due to the global economic downturn. In 2012, the bonus pool was reduced to $3.75 million with the winner getting $1.0 million and only the top 10 golfers getting a bonus. The bonus pool was increased to $5.0 million in 2014 with the top 15 players earning part of the pool.
Final Series individual tournament winnersEdit
|Year||Turkish Airlines Open||Nedbank Golf Challenge||DP World Tour Championship|
|2016||Thorbjørn Olesen||Alexander Norén||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
Order of Merit winnersEdit
The European Tour's money list was known as the "Order of Merit" until 2009, when it was replaced by the Race to Dubai. It is calculated in euro, although around half of the events have prize funds which are fixed in other currencies, mainly pounds sterling or U.S. dollars. In these instances, the amounts are converted into euro at the exchange rate for the week that the tournament is played. The winner of the Order of Merit receives the Harry Vardon Trophy, not to be confused with the Vardon Trophy awarded by the PGA of America.
Leading career money winnersEdit
The table below shows the top 10 career money leaders on the European Tour. Due to increases in prize money over the years, it is dominated by current players. The figures are not the players' complete career earnings as most of them have earned millions more on other tours (especially the PGA Tour) or from non-tour events. In addition, elite golfers often earn several times as much from endorsements and golf-related business interests as they do from prize money.
|Rank||Player||Country||Prize money (€)|
|2||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland||35,542,232|
|4||Ernie Els||South Africa||28,822,164|
|10||Miguel Ángel Jiménez||Spain||24,233,436|
As of 31 March 2019.
There is a list of the top 100 on the European Tour's website here .
Golfers and rookies of the yearEdit
The European Tour Golfer of the Year, since 2009 official known as The Race to Dubai European Tour Golfer of the Year is an award handed by a panel comprising members of the Association of Golf Writers and commentators from television and radio.
The European Tour's Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year award is named after the English three-time Open Champion Sir Henry Cotton. Originally chosen by Henry Cotton himself, the winner was later selected by a panel comprising the PGA European Tour, The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the Association of Golf Writers. It is currently given to the rookie who places highest in the Race to Dubai. The award was first presented in 1960, and thus predates the founding of the tour in 1972. There have been five years when no award was made.
Multiple winners – Golfer of the YearEdit
|Rank||Player||Country||Wins||Last win||First win|
|T2||Rory McIlroy||Northern Ireland||3||2015||2012|
|Ernie Els||South Africa||3||2003||1994|
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- "Sharma leads the race for European Tour Rookie of the Year". PGA European Tour. 31 October 2018.
- "Anglo-Scot gains Special Prize". The Glasgow Herald. 18 October 1960. p. 6.