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Changes coming for European Tour qualification

The European Tour’s plans to tighten membership rules have been put on hold, a tournament committee meeting decided on Thursday.

However, the plan for a stringent directive to insist players play at least four events on European Tour soil from a list of six big-money tournaments will not now go ahead.

Instead, a points system is being thrashed out by tour executives and players which it is hoped will encourage participation in those six key events—PGA Championship, French, Scottish and Irish Opens, Dunhill Links Championship and this week’s tournament, the Portugal Masters—next year.

“Nothing has been finalised yet,” European Tour chief executive George O’Grady told reporters.

“The executive (board) has got to come up with an exact plan before the first tournament of next season.

“Members will still have to fulfil a minimum of 12 events, but we feel the way forward is for membership points at every event played to qualify for that membership.

“More points will be given for full-field or key events than at others so membership can be earned easier or harder. It’s an encouragement to play, rather than a penalty.”

The suggested move, though, is still to appease European sponsors who are threatening to pull out of top events because they are dismayed at the poor fields they have been getting.

“We are saying to players: ‘Show some loyalty to your long-term sponsors a bit more’,” added O’Grady.

Three times major winner Padraig Harrington, who urged the committee at the meeting not to put punish those playing both sides of the Atlantic, declined to comment on the outcome.

However, the Irishman, who was passionately against any change he felt would make the tour less attractive, will be delighted no restrictions have been put in place.

As expected, tournament committee chairman Dane Thomas Bjorn has resigned, worried his position was affecting his play.

O’Grady and his executive committee will now be responsible for the chairmanship of meetings.


October 16, 2009

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