News & Opinion

Europe picks up where PGA Tour lets off

Contrary to those who think the PGA Tour is the only tour that matters in the wide, wide world of golf, the game goes on – even after the first kickoff of college football – and there are plenty of significant championships remaining on the 2019 calendar.

Contrary to those who think the PGA Tour is the only tour that matters in the wide, wide world of golf, the game goes on – even after the first kickoff of college football – and there are plenty of significant championships remaining on the 2019 calendar.

The PGA Tour went to great lengths to end its season before college football began in earnest, which is more than a little disingenuous. Plus, it doesn’t make much sense, because next season – 2019-20, if you’re following along – begins next week with A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.

Apparently, the European Tour doesn’t worry about competing with its football for TV viewers. Golf fans in Europe seem to be able to watch both sports without much extra effort or inconvenience. They don’t limit themselves to one over the other the way some people think Americans do.

Which is why, for dedicated golf watchers, the rest of the calendar year is still relevant. Between now and then, many of the top Europeans – and some top Americans – will compete in Europe’s most important events.

The European Tour’s Race to Dubai culminates at the end of November with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. Out of an $8 million purse for the final event, the winner will take home $3 million, the richest first prize for a tournament winner in the world. (The $15 million that Rory McIlroy won at the recent Tour Championship was from the $70 million bonus pool for the FedEx Cup yearlong points championship.)

Patrick Reed
Patrick Reed

The top five points earners in the Race to Dubai will divide a $5 million bonus pool. Spain’s Jon Rahm, who plays a full PGA Tour schedule, is third in the Race to Dubai standings. Americans Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele rank seventh and 10th, respectively.

This week, Schauffele and compatriots Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar and Troy Merritt are among the Americans in the field for the Porsche European Open in Germany, along with Slovakia’s Rory Sabbatini (formerly of South Africa) and England’s Paul Casey, all of whom play the PGA Tour full-time (tee times).

Reed, one of the few Americans to hold dual PGA Tour and European Tour membership, is scheduled to play each of the next three weeks, including the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event, on Sept. 19-22.

The BMW PGA was forced from its traditional May date to September after the PGA Tour and the PGA of America agreed to move the PGA Championship from August to May.

It couldn’t have been a move that made European Tour CEO Keith Pelley very happy. He had little choice but to relocate the BMW PGA to a date after the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs. Had Pelley left the event in its May date, none of the game’s top players would have entered. And the weather in Virginia Water, England, in late September likely will be much chillier that it is in May.

As it stands now, eight of the top 20 in the world are in the BMW PGA, including No. 2 McIlroy, Justin Rose (No. 4), Rahm (6), Francesco Molinari (10), Tommy Fleetwood (13) and Casey (17). Americans Reed (No. 16) and Tony Finau (12) are in the field, along with No. 35 Billy Horschel and No. 44 Andrew Putnam.

The following week, the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is the European Tour’s version of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The European Tour telecast mercifully keeps the shots of the amateurs to a minimum as viewers get to see the Old Course at St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.

The Italian Open, on Oct. 10-13, is one of the tour’s eight Rolex Series events, which offer a minimum $7 million purse. That’s a sharp bump from most European events, which feature purses of $2 million-$3 million. The Rolex Series attracts top fields.

Three weeks later, Oct. 31-Nov. 3, the WGC HSBC Champions will be played in Shanghai as a PGA Tour co-sponsored event, and the limited field will feature many of the top Americans and Europeans.

The last three events on the Race to Dubai schedule: Turkish Airlines Open, Nedbank Golf Challenge and DP World Tour Championship.

The best news is that European Tour telecasts are early in the morning in the U.S., which means that Americans can watch golf and college football. You don’t have to choose.

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: golfedit@gmail.com; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf