European Tour chief George O'Grady has invited Padraig Harrington to thrash out his differences with Thomas Bjorn at this week's Tour Players Committee meeting in Portugal.

Don't mess with Thomas BjornAnd political mover and shaker Paul McGinley reckons the high-powered powwow on the possible tightening of membership criteria will be the most important in the history of the European Tour.

Harrington came under attack from players’ boss Bjorn last week for speaking out against moves to effectively force the marquee names to tee it up in four of six “core” events on European soil.

With sponsors crying blue murder, the plan is to avoid a scenario whereby players can play the four majors and four WGCs and only need another four appearances to fulfill their 12 event obligation. In theory, a player could keep his card without having to set foot on European soil more than once or twice, if at all.

When asked about the proposed changes during the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship two weeks ago, Harrington said: “If we want the best players in the world to play in Europe we have to make it easier for them to compete rather than putting in place restrictions. I don't believe in protectionism - I wonder if there may be a case for the European Union."

Just two days before the start of the Portugal Masters, Harrington confessed in Vilamoura that his remark about Europe was said with tongue in cheek. But he has no regrets whatsoever about giving a straight answer to a straight question.

"If I’m asked a question, I’m going to answer it honestly and say what I think,” Harrington said. “My opinion is my opinion and I am allowed to give my opinion. I’m not a member of any committee. I can lobby all I like if I want to lobby.

“My opinion is only as valid as the next person’s, but the fact that I’ve done well in golf means I am asked it more – and I’m always going to give it. I always answer honestly.”

Bjorn, who is chairman of the 15-man Players Committee, appears to have forgotten how the player-press relationship normally works and was incensed that Harrington spoke out in public. 

"He never comes to people on the committee and never will do," Bjorn rapped. "It's his committee - he does not seem to understand that. He seems to think that he is above it. We have discussions, he gets word of it and then he uses the press to slam the Tour. "

But Harrington did nothing more than give his opinion, in response to a simple query from a journalist.

Ironically, Bjorn decided to slam Harrington in the press before speaking to him, adding: "Padraig would need to play only one more event here if this proposal goes through. That’s not asking a lot – and for him to threaten going to the European Union is out of order.”

This farcical incident is not doing much to solve the problem, which is why the tour's Chief Executive, George O’Grady, has asked Harrington to attend this week's committee meeting.

In era when the tour needs as many star names as it can get to support the lame duck Race to Dubai, who better than Harrington to gauge the mood of the jetset i.e. Ogilvy, Goosen, Mickelson, Els et al.

“I’m sure I will catch-up with Thomas at some time this week, and besides I’m in no hurry,” said Harrington, who stood just a few yards from Bjorn on the practice range at one stage during the day. “George (O’Grady) has invited me to the Players meeting on Thursday, so I guess will see Thomas there, though I am not too sure what the protocol is because I’m not on the Committee.  

"I’ve already voiced my opinion about any changes to the membership criteria and if so, I will voice those to the Committee on Thursday night.”

McGinley denied there was now a personal rift between Harrington and Bjorn, explaining: “I don’t think it’s gone as far as that. How can you be personal with Padraig, he's such a nice guy.

“There's a lot of pressure on Thomas and the Committee. There is a huge debate going on and it’s a major issue that needs to be resolved. It’s not just solely an issue for the European Tour. The Americans are fighting the same issues, the same problems. 

"One of the reasons for the change in the world rankings – we’ve been talking about it and talking about it for ages and ages, it never happened. But once this economic crisis has hit, things have started to happen, one of them being the world rankings change. So sponsors are looking for bang for their buck.

"It’s a dilemma. This is the biggest issue we’ve ever come across. In a tough economic climate, sponsors are looking for more value for money."