The European Tour is set to make history by playing three back-to-back tournaments in Florida. If the plans are successful, it will be the first time the circuit has ever hosted an event in the the previously off-limits United States.
Officials at Wentworth HQ have had to act quickly and creatively to fill the void that will most likely be left because of the Covid-19 situation, and restrictions on travelling to and from Spain and Portugal. The proposals are still being worked through but it is understood that the respective parties have arrived at a solution that would have been unimaginable until the “strategic alliance” between the two main male tours was signed four months ago.
Not only has the PGA Tour given their sanction to the prospective tournaments, but it is understood they first proposed the idea as they saw their new partners struggling with the schedule due to the ongoing pandemic.
Immediately after The Masters at Augusta, the Tour is down to visit Tenerife, Gran Canaria and the Algarve. But with Spain banning visitors from the UK and South Africa and with Portugal on the red list, the “elite athlete” exemption would not apply.
On average, roughly a third of European Tour fields are made up by South African and UK pros, making it doubtful this trio of stops could justifiably go ahead. At the moment the Tour is undergoing a frustrating four-week blank period of regular events and Keith Pelley, the wily chief executive, has made it his mission to give his membership ample opportunities.
Last year, Pelley witnessed more than 20 tournaments being either cancelled or postponed because of coronavirus, but after a three-month hiatus was still able to compile a running order that featured 22 events until the end of the year, including a six-week “UK Swing”. It was a phenomenal achievement under the circumstances, but Pelley’s canniest bit of business came in December.
With the Premier Golf League offering Pelley 10s of millions to lend its World Tour series some credibility by sanctioning the first events, Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour commissioner came in to buy a portion of its rivals media company – estimated to be more than £50m – and sign up to an agreement finally to co-operate with each other after decades of a fragmented global calendar.
Monahan was invited on to the European Tour’s board and the benefits of the arrangement are set to pay off so rapidly and so welcomely for Pelley’s circuit.