The 2021 season on the European Tour has, understandably, been a bit different in many ways. One of those is that the players are competing with rankings “frozen” entering the 2020 season. Because of the disruption of the 2020 season provoked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many tour members were unable to play a full schedule, such was the difficulty of the logistics involved. So it was felt that the fairest way forward was to stick with what the tour already had in terms of player categories for another 12 months covering the 2021 season.
Still, despite the fact that travel issues remain ongoing for many players on such an international circuit, that system is not going to be repeated. After a survey of members that saw 204 of 290 respond, European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has decided not to freeze 2021 categories into next season. Which is not to say that things are going to carry on as before. Not quite.
In a recent memo to the membership, Pelley explained his position, one that will see the implementation of a “safety net” for those who fail to finish inside the top 110 – all of whom will be exempt for the 2022 season – on the Race to Dubai standings.
So it is that, in order to maintain the performance targets set at the start of the season, the tour will recognise a new top 110 from the Race to Dubai and a new top 20 from the Challenge Tour. But to provide space for the so-called “safety net” for those who do not perform well this year, there will be no Qualifying School. Thus, no current ranked member will lose his membership. Those existing ranked members not making the top 110 will be re-ranked based on the 2021 Race to Dubai but won’t be relegated downward within the category system.
“Altogether, we believe this model does four important things,” Pelley explained. “It allows for promotion within the current membership. It provides a level of protection for the current ranked membership in these challenging times. It enables the 2021 Challenge Tour to be a counting season with promotion to the European Tour. It ensures that commercially we do not jeopardise any of our current sponsor/promoter/partner and broadcast relationships thus allowing us to continue to maximise playing opportunities and prizemoney both this year, next year and beyond for the entire membership.”
As part of the above decision-making process, Pelley is currently liaising with the tour’s tournament committee in order to work out what he calls the “finer details”. He was also at pains to underline his intention to take on board the feedback gained from the player survey. Many had clearly complained about how difficult and expensive tour life is right now. As a result, wrote Pelley, he “will be working on improving and relaxing tournament bubbles plus trying to reduce the costs for both players and caddies on a week-to-week basis”.
The first step in this process will be changing the testing policy, with the tour covering all costs of exit testing for players and caddies on both the European Tour and the Challenge Tour, including testing that has been done to date and for the rest of the 2021 season.
PHOTO: Warren Little