PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – The European Tour’s proposed new membership requirements have Graeme McDowell breathing a sigh of relief.
Minimum starts and global eligibility requirements have gained traction in recent weeks, from Martin Kaymer losing his PGA Tour status to Ian Poulter scrambling to save his European Tour membership with the Ryder Cup on deck.
The European circuit will reportedly announce new bylaws this week, swapping a minimum of 13 events that included the majors and WGC events for a new minimum of five starts outside those limited-field tournaments.
The change won’t impact players like Rory McIlroy or Justin Rose, but for a player like McDowell – who is not yet eligible for the first two WGC events or the Masters next spring – it offers a welcome safety net.
“It takes pressure off a guy like me,” McDowell said Wednesday at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. “If the worst-case scenario happens and I’m not back in the top 50 by the middle of next year, I’m going to have some serious number problems in Europe.”
The rule change could also make it easier for U.S.-based players to qualify for the European Ryder Cup squad. That group now includes Russell Knox, who rose to No. 31 in the world with his breakthrough win at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Unlike McDowell, Knox is now assured of spots in all of the biggest events next year, and he plans to sit down with his agent next week at his home in Florida to iron out his upcoming schedule – one that could pave the way to a Ryder Cup berth that seemed improbable only a few days ago.
“It looks promising now that I will join (the European Tour),” Knox said. “I’d be stupid not to pursue it. I look forward to giving it a crack.”
McDowell has been a stalwart on recent Ryder Cup teams, and he hopes to again represent Europe at Hazeltine next fall. But with his home in Florida, the Ulsterman said his priority lies with retaining his PGA Tour status, which is not guaranteed beyond this season.
“My playing privileges on this side of the Atlantic are more important to me than my playing privileges on the European Tour, simply because when you boil it all down and look at it from a purely monetary point of view, I want to be employed in the best possible job I can,” he said. “The European Tour means a lot to me. I’m very proud of it, I’m very loyal to it. The Ryder Cup is really important to me. But making a living is what it’s all about.”