European Tour eases rule, cuts Final Series

DUBAI • Golf's European Tour has announced new membership regulations and a revamped Final Series for its new season.

A player will have to play just five tournaments during the season to remain a member of the Tour, as against 13 that was the current mandatory requirement. And the Final Series, which was introduced in 2013 and comprised four tournaments, will become a three-event series in next year's Race to Dubai.

The WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in Shanghai will no longer be a part of the Final Series, while the BMW Masters, also held in Shanghai, is no longer part of the European Tour schedule.

The new Final Series will be the US$7 million (S$10 million) Turkish Airlines Open (Nov 3-6, 2016), the US$7 million NedBank Challenge (Nov 10-13) in South Africa and the US$8 million DP World Tour Championship in Dubai (Nov 17-20).

The mandatory requirement cut is not as drastic as it sounds, with the only change being the exclusion of the four Majors and the four World Golf Championships events.

The step has been taken to protect some of the leading European Tour members who are also part of the PGA Tour, but are ranked outside the top 50 of the world rankings - which does not guarantee them a start in all the Majors and the WGC tournaments.

Keith Pelley, chief executive of The European Tour, said yesterday, ahead of the DP World Tour Championship: "We are in the midst of structuring our overall Tour in a more, what I call, players-first philosophy. That will be something that will be absolutely critical."

The new schedule will feature 45 tournaments in 25 different countries, including three special events - the EurAsia Cup (Jan 14-17), the Olympic Games (Aug 11-14) and the Ryder Cup (Sept 30-Oct 2).

The change in the Final Series has been prompted by BMW dropping the sponsorship of the Masters in Shanghai and also the fact that many top-ranked players in the Race to Dubai are not able to gain an entry into the HSBC Champions.

Pelley did not disclose much about the other important issue facing his organisation - the proposed merger of the Asian and European Tour membership - saying that the talks were on track and that the parties were bound by a non-disclosure agreement.

But he added that both sides were looking at a deadline of the end of next year for the proposed merger.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'European Tour eases rule, cuts Final Series'. Print Edition | Subscribe