PARIS (AFP) - Golf's European Tour could be facing the biggest challenge in its history, with rumours swirling on the circuit about a possible US PGA Tour buyout of the Wentworth-based body.
The PGA Tour, which organises men's pro-golf in the United States and north America, has already purchased the flagging Canadian Tour and renamed it the PGA Tour of Canada.
It also has a strong foothold in Latin America and Asia, where the European Tour first moved successfully in the late 1990s, with a yearly US$5 million (S$6.3 million) event in Malaysia.
Just recently, the PGA Tour appointed an experienced executive to a newly created role to help the Tour "increase its efforts in China".
It is understood that PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has already been in discussion with his European Tour counterpart, George O'Grady.
The PGA European Tour was founded in 1972 and organises men's pro-golf tours in Europe but is under increasing pressure to find European-based sponsors given the current economic climate.
In Spain, for example, where there were seven tournaments on the 2011 Race to Dubai schedule - the former European Tour money list - there is only one this season.
Greater prize money is also on offer in the US, attracting top players from Europe. Of the 40 or so events this season, only three carry a prize purse of less than US$5 million.
In Europe, however, there are 44 events but the prize purse is two million euros (S$3.36 million) or less in exactly half.
In addition, while there have been 72 players on the PGA Tour earning in excess of US$1 million this season already, just eight players on the Race to Dubai have banked more than one million euros.
Added to that, there will be five events on US soil in August compared with just two in Europe, meaning some players not on the US tour will have no competition for a month.
England's Paul Casey, a member of the Tournament Players Committee, is pushing hard for an established corporate executive to take charge of the European Tour that could fight off the PGA Tour's interest.
"I want to help and I want to inject my ideas," he told reporters recently.
"There are so many good things about the European Tour and it can be such an unbelievable product given the places we go to and the players we have.
"But we are so far from maximising what we have and we need to freshen things up.
"It should start at the top, which is the European Tour board of directors."
Casey, in particular, questioned why it had taken the European Tour so long to appoint a successor to chairman Neil Coles and suggested bringing in top business leaders already involved in the sport.
"We need to do this as the European Tour has the opportunity to be an even better product," he added.