Since I posted my last blog, the European Tour and the PGA Tour have revealed some fruits of the commercial alliance they announced last autumn, notably with regard to the tournament schedule in 2022. The number of World Golf Championship events will be halved from four to two, keeping the HSBC event in China in November and the Dell Technologies Match Play in March, but binning the Mexico Championship and the FedEx St Jude Invitational, which means that Abraham Ancer, who won in Memphis on Sunday evening, will be its last champion in that guise.
From next season, that tournament will become the first leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs. I’m not sure that swapping its status from being a WGC tournament to being ‘only’ a PGA Tour event counts as an upgrade but my bet is that was part of how PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, will have sold it to his sponsors.
Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, is trying to finalise his 2022 schedule, but one of the week’s on it is now definitely sorted. The week before the playing of the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews, the Scottish Open from July 7-10 will have a new sponsor – Genesis, which also sponsors the February tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles (which was where this year Tiger Woods totalled his car the day after it finished) on the PGA Tour.
According to Monahan, the Genesis Scottish Open “presented us an opportunity to demonstrate the impact we can have together”. The new sponsor will replace the asset management company formerly known as Aberdeen, latterly reduced to ‘abrdn’. I am assuming there is not going to be any rebrand that will cause the new iteration to be labelled the ‘Gnsis Scottish Opn’?
Among other outstanding matters to be resolved will be the possibility of ramifications for the Saudi International, which ordinarily would be staged in February. Amid stories sporadically emerging about Saudi money being behind a revamp of the Asian Tour and perhaps creating some stellar limited-field tournaments which could come into conflict with both the European and the PGA Tours, that may be a fluid situation for a while.
Monahan said PGA Tour players would be OK to play in the tournament if it continued to be sanctioned by the European Tour, but otherwise not. The Saudi International, of course, is a European Tour property, and I would imagine Monahan is right now very happy to keep things that way. With the 20th anniversary of the airborne 9/11 attacks on the United States now only a month away, President Biden is coming under increasing pressure to declassify the files that arose from the 2004 conclusion of the commission appointed to investigate the background to the attacks. The suspicion of many relatives is that the government of Saudi Arabia had some prior knowledge about what happened (15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals) and they want the papers to be released.
There really is no keeping politics out of sport, is there?
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