European Tour events, particularly those in the U.K. and Ireland, have struggled massively in recent years. A ban on tobacco-related sponsorship, the collapse of the European economy and the migration of Europe’s top players to the U.S. have all contributed to these worrying times.
A lack of sponsors, and as a result depleted prize funds, have kept the European stars on the other side of the Atlantic, but things may be about to change.
A brainstorming session took place last month with approximately 15 of Europe’s top golfers in a bid to rescue the ailing status of the tour’s events. Sourcing new sponsors and increasing prize funds are believed to be a priority. Also discussed was the possibility of grouping a number of larger tournaments together, perhaps around the time of the British Open, to entice top players to spend a larger chunk of time on the continent.
This week’s Irish Open is perfect example of an event that has fallen from grace. Despite the presence of the Irish major-winning quarter of Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, the rest of the field is seriously lacking in world top-50 players.
Without a title sponsor this year and a prize of fund of just €2 million, it’s little wonder that the game’s elite, apart from home players, have bypassed this one.
Padraig Harrington spoke this week of his efforts to source a financial backer for next year’s event in a commendable bid to save his home open from oblivion. It is a sad reflection on the tour that such an intervention is required to save an event whose multiple winners in the past have included the likes of Nick Faldo, Severiano Ballesteros and Bernhard Langer.