Everyone, that is, except Ernie Els, who is the European Tours top money winner. And Retief Goosen, who is No. 2.
Those two wont be around when they call the players to the No. 1 tee at Valderrama. The entire European Ryder Cup team will participate. But No. 1 and 2? They will tee it up in America when they play next.
At one time, this would have been absolute heresy. You mean, the first and second-place players arent playing the final event in Europe? Great shades of Old Tom Morris!
Actually, though, neither Els nor Goosen are from Europe. Both are from South Africa. Both have homes near London, as well as their South African and Orlando residences. Because they are not European, they dont feel a particular affinity for Europe, other than in a professional sense. Both are extremely grateful to the continent for making them feel welcome. But they dont feel overwhelmed with responsibility for ending the year on the European Tour. Imagine saying that about Colin Montgomerie, for goodness sakes!
Goosen is playing this week at the Chrysler Championship in Florida, where he is the defending champion. Els had entered the Chrysler, but a finger injury caused him to drop out. Both will play next week in the PGA Tours Tour Championship in Atlanta.
In reality, there are six players who were eligible for the European event who aren't playing. And included in that number is Swede Fredrik Jacobsen, who won the tournament last year. Oh - he is playing in Florida also.
Perhaps its a sign of the times. Despite the fact that the Volvo Masters Andalucia is a real biggie on the European Tour, still its payout is less than the Florida event, which is just a regular U.S. tournament. The Chrysler winner gets $900,000. The Volvo has a first-place payout of 625,000 euros, which is about $800,000.
It's been awhile since a European won Europe's golf title. Els won in 2003, Goosen won in 2001 and 2002. You have to go back to 2000 when Englishman Lee Westwood won the money title. That was the last time the European Order of Merit (the official name) really meant something.
The European money ranking has become a little skewered by the inclusion of the three majors that are played in the U.S. and the two World Golf Championship events that are played in America. This year that meant five tournaments that were played in the U.S. counted toward European Tour money. And both Els and Goosen did pretty well in those events.
Els didnt play the WGC Accenture Match Play in California, but in the Masters, U.S. Open, PGA and WGC-NEC, he won $1,145,532. That was a pretty big chunk of the $5,186,239 he won to lead the European Tour this year (4,061,904 euros).
And Goosen, the U.S. Open champion, won an even bigger percentage in America - $1,284,642 of his European total of $2,962,074 (2,325,202 euros). Thats better than one-third of his European Tour money that came in the U.S. Els won approximately one-fifth of his Euro money in the U.S.
You can see you dont have to do a whole lot on the European Tour to be credited with a nice Euro bank. Play the U.S. tournaments (three majors and two WCG events) well, and you have a sizeable leg up on the field.
To someone who isnt European, chasing the dollars and coming to the States at the end if the year isnt such a bad idea ' regardless of the fact that you are No. 1 or No. 2 on the European money list. You just cant find fault with that. Goosen won in Florida last year ' though he didnt play the Volvo tournament then, either. Els has made no secret of the fact that he considers himself a world player, not just a European player.
Montgomerie made the point this week that it is all the more obvious that this is a world tour ranking we're talking about, not just a European Tour ranking. The U.S. tour and the European Tour have made it so by recognizing so many mutual events, blurring the lines between the tours. Players routinely jump between tours, as well as own membership in both. Next week, expect European Tour regulars Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Darren Clarke to join Els and Goosen in the U.S. for the Tour Championship.
'The situation we find ourselves in is that it is a world tour and the European Order of Merit is not a European Order of Merit anymore,' Montgomerie told a European newspaper.
'It's less European in flavor and I'm not taking away from Ernie Els' achievements this year or Retief's over the last few years. But it's less European in its feeling now.'
Who can blame Els and Goosen? To forego the Florida event could mean a difference of $100,000 to Goosen - the difference in first-place money between the U.S. event and the European event. And next weeks tournament has a first-place check of just over $1 million ' money that might be jeopardized by trying to play through the jet lag of coming directly from Spain.
Except for the little thing of being Europes 1 and 2. That does seem a little cold. But neither feels a particular affinity to the U.S., either. If the shoe were on the other foot and the most money were in Europe, they would be spending the week in Spain. Its the sound of the dollar, and dont think this is a criticism. Its merely the facts ' the cold-blooded facts.
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