December 9, 2013
Major changes for Open Qualifying
Globalization of golf is hardly a new concept. Gene Sarazen was the game’s first devout missionary, putting on personal travelling exhibitions around the world from the 1930s onward and in later years shepherding Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf to many exotic destinations.
Twenty years ago, Greg Norman visualized a tour where the best players in the game would compete in a world-destination super-league and although his idea was initially scotched by the US PGA Tour, a very similar concept was soon adopted by a consortium of golf tours under PGA Tour leadership as The World Golf Championships.
Within the past 18 months the PGA Tour has not only taken over tour golf in Canada and Latin America but is now playing three of its first five events of the new 2013-2014 season overseas, the recently completed CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (won this weekend by Ryan Moore), the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China and the OHL Classic in Mexico.
The European Tour has long been a forerunner in the globalization game, playing a 45 tournament schedule in 25 countries and within the past few weeks even the PGA of America has floated the idea that someday within the coming decade its most prestigious event, the PGA Championship, could be played somewhere other than mainland North America.
So it comes as no real surprise the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews has also decided to revamp its Open Championship qualifying system.
Announced yesterday, there will be a new International Qualifying Series comprising 14 events in nine countries on five continents, offering players the opportunity to qualify for golf’s oldest major at established events on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Japan Golf Tour and the Sunshine Tour.
Nine qualifying places will be available on both the PGA and European Tours. In the US these are the AT&T National, The Greenbrier Classic and John Deere Classic. In Europe, the events are the Irish Open, the French Open and the Scottish Open. The Qualifying Series also includes the Australian Open, the Japan Tour’s Mizuno Open, a Qualifying Series event in Thailand and the Joburg Open, South Africa.
Peter Dawson, the Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “This is a significant change and one which will make the Championship as open as possible to players from around the world. We believe it will enhance the qualification process by giving players the opportunity to qualify at 72-hole championships as well as being more convenient in terms of their scheduling.”
This certainly resolves past criticism, where previous tailed-made international qualifying events of 36-holes were crammed into Monday-Tuesday slots between other tour scheduling. The new system will produce 32 qualifiers. UK pre-championship Final Qualifying will still exist but more limited than in the past, providing a total of twelve spots from four venues for competitors who get into those fields from the 13 regional qualifiers.
Nothing specific for Latin America yet; hopefully as we get closer to Olympic golf in Rio that will change.