Harrington on Europe's PGA Tour drain: "We should discriminate"

Harrington on Europe's PGA Tour drain: "We should discriminate"
Pádraig Harrington agrees with Andrew Coltart and believes the European Tour should use the Ryder Cup as a weapon to get Europeans to support more events on their home tour. Battling the world tour schedule and appearance fees makes it tough for traditional European Tour stops, such as the Irish Open. Picture Manus O'Reilly/www.golffile.ie

Pádraig Harrington agrees with Andrew Coltart and believes the European Tour should use the Ryder Cup as a weapon to get Europeans to support more events on their home tour. Battling the world tour schedule and appearance fees makes it tough for traditional European Tour stops, such as the Irish Open. Picture Manus O'Reilly/www.golffile.ie

Scotland's Andrew Coltart told Scotland on Sunday recently that Europe must use the Ryder Cup as an offensive weapon to lure the top Europeans back home. Pádraig Harrington agrees with him.

As he plays on both sides of the pond, he admits that it could be a headache to play 15 events in the US and another 13 in Europe, especially if he doesn't qualify for two of the majors and all the big World Golf Championships.

"We have no leverage over a player not born in Europe," Harrington said in Dublin yesterday. "But we have massive leverage over a player born in Europe.

"They [the European Tour] should discriminate. If they want to turn around and say a European born player has to play 15 times, so be it. You can't say that to a South African. He doesn't have to play in Europe."

Unlike his European counterparts in the world's Top 50 who play on both sides of the pond, Harrington does not have the luxury of counting the Masters or US Open on both tours as he has not yet qualified for either.

He isn't in big WGCs either, which makes a seventh Ryder Cup appearance look highly unlikely right now.

Convincing European players who want to play in the Ryder Cup that they must support  more European Tour events is a tricky balancing act for George O'Grady and his team and one the players are away of. 

Coltart is not happy and believes the powers at Wentworth have bowed to player power, as he told John Huggan:

"One of the problems is that the tour has never really penalised its top players for a lack of support,” says former Ryder Cup player Andrew Coltart, now one of the more interesting and informed contributors to Sky’s golf coverage. “It has always given them a choice when it came to where they should play – here or in the States. But that strategy hasn’t worked. Virtually all of them have all but disappeared in any case. That’s disappointing on two counts. The players have displayed little loyalty to the place where they all came from. And the tour hasn’t stood up to them enough."

At a time when sponsors are harder to find than pictures of Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods in a warm embrace, it's no wonder than so many European Tour events are hanging on for dear life.

Appearance money is partly to blame, as Harrington explained in relation to the Irish Open, which is the first of a run of big events in Europe between the US Open and The Open.

Unlike the BMW International Open in Munich, the Alstom French Open or the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, the Irish Open lacks a sponsor with deep pockets.

And as Harrington points out, enticing players who can pick and choose their rare European Tour starts is more complicated in the global golf era.

"The problem is we have the choice of playing in an event in December instead of June," he said. "It is not just do we have the choice of playing that week in the States or here or somewhere else or in two weeks' time. We want to play X amount of events during the year and if we play a lot in the summer, it means we need to take a few weeks off in the winter. There is a big trade."

With so much choice, even a prestigious national open like the irish Open has little chance of attracting a player from the Top 15 in the world without paying appearance money or getting them an Irish passport. 

"Players love coming to it," he said, adding that the introduction of three Open championship exemptions at Fota Island this year will make a difference. "You will find everybody up to slightly below the elite status in Europe would want to play the Irish Open.

"Once you get to the elite status, now they’re the ones playing the US Open, the Open, they’ve got the choice of playing Memorial a couple of weeks before, of playing the world events. They are going, ‘I have got to find events not to play’.

"If you could draw a line in the sand, everybody from outside the Top 15 in the Race to Dubai will be turning up. If they are above 15th, they are playing really well, so they’re in the US Open, they are in the Open.

"Those sort of players will be trading off. Do I want to play the Irish Open or do I want to play the BMW International in Munich the week after?

"The Irish Open is competing with events that pay appearance fess, so if a player is getting paid an appearance fee to turn up two weeks later or three weeks before, something like that, what do you do?

"The Irish Open could be a bigger event than another  event, but if a player is guaranteed something, he is probably going to go to that. The tradition of an even only means something when you win it."