It is no doubt a matter of coincidence rather than design but how appropriate that the new sponsor of the Scottish Open should be called Genesis.
From next year, as part of a deal through to and including 2025, Scotland’s national open will be supported by the luxury car brand and, for the first time, be co-sanctioned by the European Tour and PGA Tour.
The field will offer 73 places to members of each tour, creating what is expected to be one of the strongest player line-ups outwith the major championships. The prize money on offer and venue have still to be confirmed but there’s little doubt that it’s an exciting development, not to mention an astute move on the part of the PGA Tour.
Ponte Vedra Beach office-bearers might resist this but at the height of the season – July specifically – their circit is, at best, a support act for the biggest events: the Irish Open, the Scottish Open, The Open and now, every four years, the Olympics.
Today, that all changed, potentially paving the way for bigger things to come.
Bigger things like the PGA Tour's absorption of the European Tour, creating, in effect, PGA Tour Europe.
And why not?
The PGA Tour already has a number of similar arrangements in place. In 2012, it took over the Canadian Tour, creating PGA Tour Canada, currently known as the Mackenzie Tour under the terms of a deal with Mackenzie Investments. The same year, it assumed control of the Tour de las Americas, creating PGA Tour Latinoamérica.
Two years after that, it expanded into China, creating PGA Tour China from the remains of the former Omega China Tour which ran from 2004 to 2009.
All of which has strengthened the PGA Tour’s global footprint. By bringing the European Tour more directly under its auspices, it would not only lay claim to Europe but, presumably, Africa, Australia and other parts of the Asian market that have become cornerstones of a tour that, for many years, has been European in name only.
When the two bodies announced their much vaunted ‘Strategic Alliance’ in November last year, most onlookers agreed that it felt more like a roadmap for the PGA Tour to consume the European Tour.
Despite protestations from both sides. this does not feel and has never felt like a partnership of equals. More like Goliath standing shoulder-to-shoulder with David.
Where once the European Tour had ambitions of matching, if not overtaking, the PGA Tour as the game’s most lucrative, most influential and most dominant professional tour, its position has been weakened in recent years, whilst the PGA Tour has become richer, stronger and more influential.
The coronavirus has only increased the disparity between the two tours. What was once a gap is now a yawning chasm. In the last year, the PGA Tour has moved its 800 employees into a spectacular new $65million in Florida, whilst also offering financial support to its players to help them through the worst of the pandemic.
No new $65million premises for the European Tour. Instead, it made a reported 68 staff redundant last year, with Keith Pelley and “other key members of the tour” taking salary reductions. Pelley attempted to allay concerns in November when he stated that the tour was “categorically not in financial difficulties” and, instead, was in “robust financial health with a very strong balance sheet”. If so, why the lay-offs and pay-cuts?
As recently as last week, the tour cancelled two more tournaments due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic: the Trophée Hassan II and, for the second year running, “South Africa’s major”, the Nedbank Challenge.
That it managed to salvage a schedule from the chaos of 2020 and present one as ample as it has for 2021 is testament to the talented team Pelley, above, has at his disposal. You honestly will struggle to meet a more innovative, passionate, hard-working bunch.
But is their product sustainable in the long-term? Questionable, and even more so when you consider the ambitions of breakaway golf tours that have started to make both noise (see the Premier Golf League) and gather momentum (a Saudi-backed proposition recently took a stake in the Asian Tour, for example).
The PGA Tour has made a calculated move in putting an arm around the European Tour. In so doing, it has eliminated the risk that it might partner – or indeed be taken over – by a rival faction. The next logical step, surely, is consolidation under a single, stronger naming convention.
The European Tour integrating with the PGA Tour and giving way to PGA Tour Europe feels completely inevitable; a matter of when, not if.
A fresh start. A new beginning.
The genesis of professional golf’s next chapter.