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Schofield unhappy at PGA Tour restrictions

Ken Schofield, the executive director of the European Tour, is preparing for a showdown with the mighty US PGA Tour over what he regards as the "Fortress America" mentality which stops some Americans from playing in more international events.

Schofield was left fuming after John Daly revealed he might not be able to play at Loch Lomond this summer in the Barclays Scottish Open unless he tees up in additional American events to secure an extra release.

When told of Daly’s situation yesterday, Schofield admitted his patience with the Americans was running out. He feels the PGA Tour may be guilty of restrictive practice and that the matter could be challenged.

"The Scottish Open is an event which many international golfers want to enter in the week before the Open, and to place barriers in front of a guy because he happens to have joined our Tour after winning in Germany last season is not right," insisted Schofield.

In an interview which pulled no punches, Schofield said of the US Tour: "You don’t mind anyone protecting their business, but this is just wrong. We in Europe have to find out if the extent of the PGA Tour’s ideas on the globalisation of the game are to make it easier for international golfers to play in America but maintain Fortress America for those players who want to play abroad."

While the majority of US Tour members are American golfers who don’t travel abroad other than for the Open, a handful of players such as Tiger Woods, Daly and Greg Norman see themselves as international players.

Woods has taken a stance before and once hinted he might join the European Tour. Rather than face another battle at a relatively advanced stage in his career, Norman decided to give up his US Tour card and the Australian is now free to pick and choose his tournaments around the world.

Daly has run into difficulties at a time when European Tour members such as Jose Maria Olazabal, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia and Colin Montgomerie among others have all enhanced US Tour events by their presence this year.

"Let’s be quite clear - we have a major difference with the PGA Tour on this and have done so for some time," added Schofield. "My feeling is it’s going to come to a head.

"We have a saying in Scotland about one-way traffic and that’s the situation here. Tim [Finchem], the commissioner of the PGA Tour, and I are pretty good mates but we are on opposite sides of the fence on this one. My view is that the one-way traffic approach is not consistent with the emergence of an International Federation of Tours and not consistent with the World Golf Championships which are already heavily balanced towards America."

Schofield describes the US Tour rule which offers three automatic releases to play abroad if you enter 15 American events as "outrageous". If a golfer wants a fourth release, he must first play in another five US events.

"This is the 21st century and our game is now a global sport," added the Scot. "Two wrongs don’t make a right and there’s no chance of us adopting a similar policy and trying to stop our players from exercising their right as independent contractors to play where they wish."

In any business, restrictive practice is rarely best practice and it’s difficult to understand what the US Tour would have to fear if they allowed their members to play when and where they wish.

One can only guess they don’t want to lose Woods’ presence more often than they do already. The world No1, though, has never shown any inclination to play at Loch Lomond and putting an obstacle in Daly’s path seems petty. That said, Brad Faxon, the best putter in golf, former champion Tom Lehman, Honda Classic winner Matt Kuchar, two-time US Tour winner Stewart Cink and Jacksonville’s Fred Funk all announced plans yesterday to play on the bonnie banks.

The reason PGA Tour members such as Faxon, Lehman, Kuchar, Cink and Funk can enter the Scottish Open is because they haven’t used up their exemptions while Daly, who has already competed this season on the European Tour at the Heineken Classic, Benson and Hedges and Deutsche Bank, is out of credits.


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