What a global golf tour might look like
European Tour PGA Tour

What a global golf tour might look like

It's coming. A new world order.

Take off the tin-foil hat, conspiracy-theorist friends. We mean a global tour for golf's elite. It's coming, or at least that's what Matt Kuchar expects in his time.

Nostradamus predicted it. So did Greg Norman. The world of golf is getting smaller, but it's also getting bigger. In each of the last three years, the PGA Tour has acquired or created feeder tours in Canada, Latin America and China. It wouldn't be surprising if the PGA Tour turns inward to establish its own domestic feeder series. The PGA Tour of Australasia is a sitting duck to be picked off by Ponte Vedra Beach.

While the PGA Tour is embracing golf imperialism, elements of the game are trying to resist the inevitable.

The European Tour, still looking for a panacea for its brain drain to the U.S., has created playing rules that enrage rather than encourage top talent to participate.

OneAsia and the Asian Tour are constantly bickering about who can play whose tour. Our friends Down Under are an unintended victim of the PGA Tour's wraparound season.

Where this all is going is clear. The tiers of tour that professional golfers must pass through to get to the biggest bucks and biggest moments will become more defined in the coming years. And all roads will lead to the PGA Tour, no matter if the European Tour ties in more formally to that burgeoning umbrella or not. But it would make the most sense for the European Tour, which has struggled mightily as the continental economic malaise rolls into the second half of a decade, to forge some kind of formal partnership with the PGA Tour.

The European Tour is really the tale of three circuits. There are events like those in the Middle East -- backed heavily by governments looking as much to make a point about their wealth and stature as an investment in golf -- that can boast good-sized purses and pay top players under the table to show up with a smile on their face, ready to perform some kind of PR stunt-turned-viral-video.

There's the part of the European Tour that is really the PGA Tour, including all four World Golf Championships events. Then there are the four majors. And the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour's flagship event, is an admirable and prestigious event, but it still fails to have the same magnetism as The Players, leaving space in the field for gamers ranked worse than No. 1000 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Then there's the rest of the schedule. Occupying the space between the European Challenge Tour and those top-tier, well-backed events are the tournaments that are always a question mark for the next year. The purses rival LPGA Tour events but cannot touch the support those events get from the game's top female players. They're events that are the perfect Petri dish for a Peter Uihlein to nab his first pro win, or for Darren Clarke to eek out a victory from the unprepared, like Chris Wood. Some are national opens that deserve better.

The solution for the European Tour to thrive, then, is clear. It must partner with the PGA Tour to create a global docket for the game's best players. The bulk of the game's wealthiest tournaments may belong in the U.S., but some of the game's most historic belong in Europe. Separate those events, along with the most lucrative on the schedule, and create a 30-event series for the world's best.

With the top talent set to play those events more often than not, the European Tour can boost the Challenge Tour by getting more events into the range of seven-figure purses. American collegiate talent, likely frustrated by the crystallizing path to the PGA Tour, will come over and play this hybrid tour akin to a semester abroad to gain world-ranking points and vital experience. Of course, the European Tour would have to demand opportunities for their top players to compete in the global series, which it should have.

So what tournaments make the cut for a hypothetical global tour? This is the hardest part. There are so many well-run events on the PGA Tour that many would be unfairly deemed worthy of a global tour event. Europe has its fair share, too -- enough that some would legitimately feel snubbed. But what about key events in South Africa, Japan, China and Australia, to say nothing of goals to grow the game in South America, India and the rest of Africa?

Hypothetical decisions should hypothetically be easy to make. They're not, but here's how my version of the global tour schedule would take shape.

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The majors are all clearly in. The World Golf Championships have to be, too, you say? No.

Firestone and Doral will stay, the latter entirely dependent upon Donald Trump's behavior. The HSBC Champions will remain because it has evolved into Asia's major. The Accenture Match Play, however, will merge with the European Tour's World Match Play Championship (now sponsored by Volvo) and travel the world. We're done with Dove Mountain.

Several other national opens make the cut. Canada, South Africa, Scotland, France and Ireland, you're in the clear. Australia and Japan, you're good, too. That makes 15 events.

The Middle East, however artificially it has done so, has attracted top talent to its well-run string of early season events. Abu Dhabi and Dubai have to be included.

South America deserves to be a stage at least once on this circuit. Maybe Gil Hanse's Olympic course in Brazil hosts this global tour. Maybe it's the Argentine Open. But there has to be one. India needs a tournament, too.

The Players Championship and BMW PGA Championship aren't going anywhere, nor should they. We're up to 21.

Mr. Nicklaus and Mr. Palmer must be on the schedule. Mr. Player's South African event should get major corporate backing as a place on the global tour schedule as a tribute. The Aussie Masters should be hosted by Greg Norman. Spain should have an event held in Seve's honor, and it should be contested under the modified Stableford scoring system to inspire Seve-like aggression. There's 25.

That leaves a handful of events to put on the schedule. Now is where it gets especially subjective.

Pro-am tournaments are awful, but the Clambake needs to soldier on because of its incredible scenery and Pebble Beach's place in golf history. Take out the ams and I'd be especially happy. Do the same for the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, too.

The Phoenix Open is the most unique fan experience in golf. The world needs to understand just how fun drunk American college kids congregated at a single golf hole with a singular mission can be.

New York needs a tournament, so The Barclays should hold a place on the schedule. Chicago golf is unbelievably good for its short season, so the Western Open -- known as the Western Open presented by BMW -- is in. That's 30.

Then there's tournament No. 31. The global tour would have one wild-card, pop-up tournament it creates each year that would travel the world to places where the game is developing or needs to be developed further. The tournament would be played in the spirit of the LPGA Tour's Founders Cup, inspiring charitable donations to help spawn the future of the game in all corners of the planet.

So that's it. That's the future. Get ready for it.

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for over a decade, working for NBC Sports, Golf Channel, Yahoo Sports and SB Nation. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He used to be a good golfer.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

Ryan occasionally links to merchants of his choosing, and GNN may earn a commission from sales generated by those links. See more in GNN's affiliate disclosure.

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