Fabrizio Zanotti was waiting to find out where he would be this week.
Ranked 38th on the DP World Tour, he was set to compete in the Genesis Scottish Open. But since last summer, an alliance between the PGA Tour and the DP tour meant he had a spot in the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship, nearly 4,000 miles away in Nicholasville, Ky., if he didn’t participate. at the Scottish Open.
Zanotti, originally from Paraguay, was not complaining. “It’s really good,” he said. “The partnership is nice for us here in Europe to have the opportunity to make it happen.”
Just a few months ago, the PGA Tour and the European Tour, which oversees the DP World Tour, had an alliance that seemed fruitful. After competing for players for several decades, the tours came together in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic and by November 2020 had formalized a partnership.
Last August, the tours announced they were co-sanctioning three events: the Scottish Open and Barbasol, which run from Thursday to Sunday, and the Barracuda Championship next week in Reno, Nevada, opposite the British Open.
This meant that players from the PGA and DP World Tours could compete in either event if their ranking was high enough to enter. tournaments on the most prestigious PGA Tour.
When this deal was announced in August, it was advertised as a sign of deepening cooperation between the tours and sold as a benefit for members of both tours.
“With us co-sanctioning three events this year, we are no longer competing for the best players,” European Tour commissioner Keith Pelley said in an interview earlier this year.
“Everything changed after November 2020. It was a change of mindset for our two organizations to work as closely as possible and share all facets of our business. We have gone from competitors to partners.
It was then. This alliance is being tested publicly and politically by the new Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour. The high-priced invitational series has attracted a group of PGA and DP World Tour players and sent more established tours scrambling to make changes.
In the first event, the winner took home $4 million, but there was guaranteed money for every player, including the latest, Andy Ogletree, who won the US Amateur in 2019. (He didn’t not made the field at the first LIV event in the United States, in Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon, putting his professional future in question.)
For golfers trying to work their way up the leaderboards and into tournaments, money surely matters, but it’s the Official World Golf Ranking points that matter most. This is what determines how much control players have over their schedule.
“The playing opportunities with the fusion are great,” said Maverick Antcliff, who played varsity at Augusta State University in Georgia and is ranked 171st on the DP Tour. “If you have a good week in this event on the opposite court, you have the possibility of being transferred to the United States. This is the avenue I want to take. This strategic alliance has given us a clearer path.
Before the alliance, the way European players received invitations to the PGA Tour and majors was by being ranked in the top 50 in the world – not just on a particular tour – or by qualifying for the United States or the British Open through their qualification process. The strategic alliance gave talented but lower-ranked players a chance to compete on the PGA Tour and possibly finish high enough to have more control over their schedule.
While it presents larger existential questions for professional golf, it has more practical week-to-week implications for players trying to compete in tournaments like the Scottish Open. Will LIV Golf defectors being excluded from events give other players a chance to compete? And it’s another way for players about to ask if they have a spot in events after sticking with the tour they played on.
The answers are unclear. On the one hand, the two circuits are structured differently. The PGA Tour is a non-profit organization. The European Tour is essentially a union of its members. Thus, their punishments differed because their members ostensibly have a say.
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan has threatened to suspend or ban players who go to the LIV tour (along with a number of players like Dustin Johnson and Kevin Na who resigned from their membership during the switch to the LIV).
Pelley, the commissioner of the European Tour, had to adopt a different tact with his players: they were fined $120,000 for taking part in the first LIV event in London and were banned from playing in all three events co-sanctioned. Pablo Larrazabal and Oliver Bekker paid their fines and were playing on the European Tour again at the recent Horizon Irish Open.
Yet the LIV Tour, which set out to challenge existing circuits, does so at the expense of future players. Consider Ogletree, who struggled on the PGA Tour but had his status as an American amateur champion to fall back on. Now it remains to be seen what his defection to the LIV Tour means for his professional career.
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The tours announced significant improvements to their partnership in late June. Among them, the PGA Tour is increasing its stake in the European Tour to 40% from 15%, which will lead to higher prize money on the DP World Tour. It also gives players on this tour a pathway to advance to the PGA Tour, with the top 10 European players at the end of the season earning playing privileges in the United States.
“The involvement of DP World Tour and these players will only help grow our tournament, and that’s great for our sponsor, Barracuda Networks,” said Barracuda Championship Tournament Director Chris Hoff, noting that there will be 50 DP World Tour players in more than 106 PGA Tour.
“There are plenty of guys who want to come. This is a mid to upper mid tournament in terms of the number of Race to Dubai points available in addition to the money purse.
These points are important, and since none of the players who went to the LIV Tour are able to play in all three co-sanctioned events this season, it gives other players who stayed on the tours an opportunity.
For a player like Antcliff, whose 550 world ranking sometimes makes it difficult to get into tournaments, the alternative on-court trials give him hope. “For me, it’s good when there’s an event and you have the opportunity to play in the same week,” he said. “It’s a long season. Your best week is fast approaching. This is another opportunity to play a PGA Tour event.
The co-sanction changes haven’t been great for all tournaments. The recent John Deere Classic was played opposite the Scottish Open. His claim to fame was having a jet waiting to carry the winner to the British Open.
Zanotti will play this week at the Scottish Open. Next week, however, he had planned to play in the Barracuda Championship on the PGA Tour, but his fourth-place finish at the Irish Open got him into the British Open.
“It’s not very easy to go through the world ranking to play on the PGA Tour if you’re not a top 50 player,” said Zanotti, whose world ranking is 237. “That’s why I think it’s great to have these two opportunities.. You can always win or have a good week.