Amid Euro Tour Tensions, Thomas Bjørn Steps Down


Chairman of Europe's Tournament Players Committee is a perilous position in the best of times.

It's said to be the most important job in European golf, but the fact is, as Chairman you're stuck between the proverbial devil and the perennial deep blue sea. It's a continuing struggle to keep sponsors satisfied and top players placated. And the desires of these two groups often diverge. Sharply. It's up to the Chairman to keep it all on an even keel.

Then, suppose in addition to being Chairman, you're trying to maintain your standing on one of the world's most competitive golf tours... as a player?

For Thomas Bjørn, who today officially resigned from the post, it was untenable. So much so that he's recently been treated for dizziness and extreme fatigue. The stress of hesitant sponsors plus chronically complaining players can do that to you.

There was also the issue of his recent smackdown with VIP player Padraig Harrington over a proposed requirement that members play in at least four of six core events in Europe, to qualify for the Race to Dubai next year. It was a war-of-words that escalated, and apparently became quite vitriolic. To the extent that one European Tour player told me, " makes the Kim/Allenby argy-bargy seem like a sandbox squabble".

Well who knew, right? Because let's face it, to the fan base on this side of the Atlantic... and the golf scribes that write for them, the issue of AK's questionable sobriety vs. Allenby's sour grapes is far sexier than say... the future of the European Tour. It was in fact, not only the future of the European Tour, but the future of golf on a global scale that was the source of the EuroGolf Feud, and it subsequently became a main topic at the Player's Committee meeting that took place in Portugal earlier today. The meeting was where Mr. Bjørn ultimately announced his resignation.

As Chairman in a declining economy, the Danish golfer found himself facing European sponsors who were deeply dismayed by top players missing their events. That's where he came up with the idea for "obligatory core events".

While Harrington... who had been invited to the meeting by European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady "to give an alternative opinion"... did just that, and expressed his feeling that "instead of trying to force players to compete in more Europe-based tournaments to qualify for membership, the European Tour should be looking to expand into Asia to aid its future growth."

And it appears as though Padraig Harrington may have won this round. The decision was made NOT to adopt the restrictions for the time being. (Some speculate it's because star player Rory McIlroy is sending strong signals that he'll be heading to the US for the coming season.) A half compromise was proposed in the form of a point system for Tour membership, and the "core" tournaments will be given extra weight. Thomas Bjørn was clearly not satisfied and there went his resignation.

Of course former Ryder Cup partners Thomas Bjørn and Harrington assured everyone that their dispute had done nothing to damage their friendship, but I don't quite buy it.

When Padraig was asked if he'd ever consider serving on the Player's Committee, he responded with a slightly snarky, "I'm playing golf - I don't have time to be on a committee."


  1. It is a difficult situation because in one way, you want our top players coming back to Europe to play their trade. However, if the Tour is to expand. it simply needs Asia.
    Padraig is a highly intelligent individual and everything he has spoken about makes sense. He wants to be part of the European Tour and play in Europe but like so many other top European professionals, it is difficult because 3 of the 4 majors are in the US (which is ridiculous in my view).
    The Tour needs to move forward and continually adapt to the changes in world golf. Padraig realizes this but unfortunately, Bjorn's passion for Europe clouded his judgment. What happened was unfortunate but necessary in my view.

  2. James, given Tim Finchem's recent statements, it is very likely that the PGA Tour is going to expand into Asia and that there will perhaps be direct competition between the European and American Tours.

    It will be interesting to see who wins.

  3. The players on all tours need to be careful. The public has tired of the whining, and honestly the huge purses are getting annoying.

    More than any other pro athletes...golfers need to remember they play a game...and are lucky to be very well compensated.

    In the current world of reduced marketing budgets, and ioncreased scrutiny of "frivolous" tournament sponsorship...and event extras like corporate tents are going away fast!

    In my view...the LPGA is already starting to become a "world" golf tour...merging with LET, would be best for both tours.

    On the men's side...the same things should happen...The European Tour and the PGA Tour need to merge into a super tour....then there is room for a second tier tour on both sides of the pond.

  4. Yes but I keep wondering how things will pan out as this (supposed) recovery takes place.

    In some ways it seems like the rest of the world is recovering quicker than the USA. What if that should continue?

    In any case as the US dollar keeps losing value against other currencies won't that eventually make the players more motivated to play in Europe? The next few years will be interesting.

  5. Phil's got it right. Some of these guys are way, way out of line with their expectations, and the sponsors are starting to see that. The cost/benefit of sponsoring a golf tournament is making less and less sense as they player $$ demands go higher and the players get whinier.

  6. As for the women's game... I think it is going to have to be a consolidation period for the next couple of years.
    The poor economy is not going to help.
    The Asian factor is huge.
    The vitality of the LPGA in the U.S. willdepend heavily on young American stepping up to the tee and beginning to win some events... majors especially... to maintain and grow interest among sponsors and fans.
    Dave A.

  7. One are in which the European Tour very clearly wins is fashion. Hands down especially if you look beyond the top players. It's kind of a cliche but the Europeans dress way better than the Americans. Other than that I'm partial to the US guys. ;)

  8. POD is getting a little uppity these days.:[


Lets us know what you think...