European golfers choose to go the American tour way

Graeme McDowell says there are many reasons but most of them are economic when it comes to top European players playing primarily on the US tour.

Stalled economies in Europe and travel expenses for a tour that has tournaments scattered as far away as Asia are reasons Graeme McDowell lists for European players preferring to make the American tour home.
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As the migration of elite European players abroad continues, the temblors from the so-called continental divide have begun to register on the Richter scale.

With Ryder Cup players Nicolas Colsaerts and Peter Hanson this year joining Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood in setting up shop in the United States, the exodus has been a talking point for weeks.

A little over one month into the season, the assumptions that the European Tour would take a hit are already being reflected in field strength.

At last week's Omega Dubai Desert Classic, part of the European Tour's traditionally strong Desert Swing, only two players from the 2012 Ryder Cup team showed up.

Graeme McDowell underscored the task ahead for the European Tour as top players straddle the membership fence. The top 28 in the world are US tour members.

"The European Tour has probably never been as strong a product as it is right now," McDowell said in a television interview.

"Rory McIlroy, the No 1 player in the world, winning major championships, guys like Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood - all No 1 players the last couple of years.

"Quality, quality players. But, yeah, Europe has been in a deep financial depression and great sponsors are hard to find. Countries like Germany that had three and four European Tour events historically the last five or 10 years, with only one event. Spain losing a lot of its events."

McDowell noted that the European Tour has "one event in Ireland, one event in England, one event in Scotland and one event in Wales - as strong as Britain and Ireland are as a golf [hub]. We have struggled as the European Tour to keep up with the PGA Tour, financially."

McDowell will play 26-27 times this year, but only a few times outside the States.

He is required as a member to play 13 times in European Tour events, but can scratch eight from that tally by playing in the four co-sanctioned majors and four World Golf Championships events.

Thus, more top players need five regular European Tour events to meet the minimum.

The Dubai event averaged 3.5 players from the world top seven from 2009 to 2012, yet drew zero last week. Most in the top seven from those past Dubai fields have since moved to the States as members or full-time residents.

"All of a sudden the European Tour is spending so much time in Asia, the Middle East, all over the world," McDowell said. "The European Tour player has to be a guy who has got a lot air miles. He has to commit himself to a global schedule and that's tough on a family environment. Hence, a lot of those guys find themselves on the PGA Tour."

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