One-in-Four for Europe

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It’s been a while since I’ve been behind the mic on the European Tour, Jan 24th to be exact, for the final day of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Whilst the tour continued in the Middle East and then headed to India, I ventured to a mystery location to host the new season of the Big Break. I’d love to tell you more but my lips are glued on that topic. All I can say is: We had a lot of fun and I think you’ll enjoy the new installment when it airs later this year.

The European Tour, meanwhile, is in the midst of a tough stretch in terms of attracting top name players and eye balls on the television screen. I was asked recently whether the “one-in-four rule,” which is employed on the LPGA, would work on other tours. The rule states that players must play each event on tour, once every four years. It might work on the PGA Tour but not on the European Tour and one of the reasons is because of this stretch.

Sandwiched between two WGC events, the Maybank Malaysian Open struggles to attract the top players. You can’t blame the players; trekking back and forth across the Pacific Ocean isn’t fun, even in the luxury of first class. Following the WGC-CA Championship next week, the European Tour heads to Morocco, Spain and Portugal whilst the PGA Tour warms up for the Masters with two tournaments in Florida and a trip to Houston. You can’t expect the tour’s big names to play outside of the U.S. when they are prepping for one of the most important weeks of the year in Augusta.

Despite the weaker fields, we still have some good tournaments coming-up in diverse places. Kuala Lumpur is slated for a PGA Tour event this season, but this week it’s the European Tour’s turn to visit Malaysia with the field highlighted by K.J. Choi, Daniel Chopra, Darren Clarke and Thongchai Jaidee, American Anthony Kang is the defending champion in this co-sanctioned tournament. Our coverage begins 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday on Golf Channel.

Last week the LPGA ventured to Singapore for the HSBC Women’s Champions. I’ve watched Ai Miyazato for a while now and wondered why she doesn’t win every week with that silky smooth swing. The reason must have been her short-game and her mental approach, because for the past two weeks her short-game has been on-song and recent work with Pia Nilsson and Lynn Marriott has obviously put her in the right frame of mind. Miyazato is great for the LPGA; she’s personable, attractive and dignified, and I very much look forward to our broadcast of the Kia Classic in a few weeks time from Carlsbad, Calif., as she bids for a hat-trick.

In Singapore, players were peppered with questions about the tournament having the feel of a major, much like they are at the Evian Masters. And like Evian, the local campaign to install that event to major status begins to pipe-up; it’s the same for the CN Canadian Women’s Open. The women have four majors; they don’t need to go down the Champions Tour route of adding any more. I can see why officials, fans and media in Asia, Continental Europe and Canada feel left out, so I propose this: Keep the Kraft Nabisco in Palm Springs, the U.S. Women’s Open in the States, and the Women’s British in Britain, but take the LPGA Championship and rotate it around the world each year.

New LPGA commissioner Mike Whan has said he is keen to grow the brand internationally. This would show the world he means business. Take the LPGA brand around the world to diverse countries and courses. Yes, the LPGA is an American-based tour, but why does its championship have to be played on home soil. Bring in a global sponsor on a long-term agreement and build an identity for an event, which this year is piggy backing another tournament – that’s no place for a major. The game in Asia is growing so rapidly there is no point trying to ignore it. If Whan wants to make the LPGA the main player in women’s golf – which it should be – then having a flexible major is a great way to showcase his product to the world market and encourage investment in American-based events.

The Ladies European Tour kicked-off their season last week. Laura Davies captured her 73rd career world-wide win at the Pegasus New Zealand Women’s Open. At the Solheim Cup last year, Davies, 46, limped away from the singles having only won half a point from the five matches [she played just twice]. At the time, I thought her Solheim career was almost certainly over, but with this win there is renewed hope that she may appear in Ireland next autumn to take a bow on a higher-note, which is what she deserves.

And finally, the European Senior Tour is back to business this week with the Aberdeen Brunei Senior Masters. Sandy Lyle, T.C. Chen and Ian Woosnam are among the notables making the trip to the Far East.