“I consider the European Tour my home. It’s where I feel comfortable. You get to play with all the best players in the world.”
The comforting words of Martin Kaymer ahead of the season-ending Dubai World Championship two years ago, in response to why he snubbed PGA Tour membership for 2011.
Kaymer, who was afforded a ten-year exemption on the US circuit having won the PGA Championship in August of that year, even joked he was awaiting a tearful plea from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem to switch allegiance: “Maybe I’ll get one soon.”
But the German wasn’t alone in his thoughts. The then World No.1 Lee Westwood and current man in the top seat Rory McIlroy had also opted to remain faithful to the European Tour - and both went on to bypass the PGA Tour’s flagship event at TPC Sawgrass, much to the dislike of those across the Atlantic.
Fast forward a year and the pair would confirm themselves as PGA Tour members.
Fast forward a further 12 months and Kaymer has also had a change of heart - and is joined by fellow Ryder Cup heroes Peter Hanson and Nicolas Colsaerts, as well as Englishman and PGA Championship runner-up David Lynn.
And with the likes of Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Graeme McDowell already Stateside, 2013 will be the first season since the Official World Rankings inaugurated in 1986 that the top-25 players are now members of the PGA Tour. And all but two occupy the top-30.
Europe has no difficulty creating stars. Just look at the way this continent has dismantled America in seven of the previous nine Ryder Cups. It’s keeping hold of them which is the problem.
Of course, the majority of these Europeans will retain dual membership and continue to make their presence felt at the flagship BMW PGA Championship, as well as Dubai World Championship and tournaments across Asia, yet their absence from lesser-like events on the calendar has hit the Tour hard.
With a decline in Euros and sponsorship leading to a loss of five tournaments in 2012, most notably in Spain, the European Tour has been left with one almighty headache as it attempts to compete with the financial prowess of the PGA Tour and its FedEx Cup.
Add in the deluge of rain that Europe endures for much the season in contrast to the year-long golf climate in America, on top of living out a suitcase and boarding planes across what has now become more of a world tour than ever before, you begin to see why a move to the States makes so much sense.
All of which has prompted World No.2 Donald to speak of a ‘talent drain’ on the European Tour.
“The PGA Tour is an attractive Tour,” says the Englishman, who joined the PGA Tour in 2001, straight from Northwestern University in Chicago. “You play in one place and it’s quite an easy Tour to travel around.
“Europe is becoming increasingly difficult. There are a fewer events in Europe and more in Asia. They have done well to create a schedule with lots of events in Asia, but it has its disadvantages through travel. You can’t blame any player for wanting to go play on the PGA Tour.”
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