(Reuters) - The U.S. based PGA Tour might partner with the European Tour for some co-sanctioned events in the near future, according to well-connected English sports agent Andrew “Chubby” Chandler.
There has been speculation for some time that the mega-rich PGA Tour might even stage a takeover bid for the European Tour, but Chandler said in an interview with Reuters that he thought it would be a more amicable arrangement.
The European Tour has long lost hope of achieving parity with the PGA Tour in the foreseeable future, either in terms of prize money or strength of fields.
Chief executive Keith Pelley has focused on putting together a small but strong roster of select events, rather than going toe-to-toe with the American juggernaut for the entire year.
This year’s schedule has eight events — known as the Rolex Series — with at least $7 million in prize money — purses comparable with those on offer on the same weeks in the U.S.
Played primarily during quiet stretches on the PGA Tour, these events attract strong fields, except mostly for the glaring absence of American players.
“I think there will be some sort of co-operation between the two big tours, a natural coming together or some sort more than a takeover,” Chandler told Reuters during the recent PGA Championship in St. Louis.
“I think you might find co-sanctioned events in the next two or three years,” Chandler said, mentioning the European Tour’s flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth in England as a likely candidate.
That tournament will move next year from its traditional May dates to September to avoid clashing with the U.S. PGA Championship, with the major switching from August to May.
With the PGA Tour ushering in a more condensed season for a late August conclusion at the Tour Championship, the European Tour should have a chance to enjoy the limelight in September.
“A co-sanctioned event with 50 spots for Americans, you might get some decent ones,” Chandler said. “You’ve got to test these things out to see what way forward and what happens.”
The PGA Tour and European Tour declined to comment.
Chandler also described the state of the European Tour as “pretty good” and said chief executive Pelley has a good relationship with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan.
“I think there’s too big a disparity between the smaller tournaments and the big tournaments (on the European Tour) but I think Pelley’s done a great job getting enough big tournaments for the big players on certain weeks,” Chandler said.
“It’s an inexact science trying to put together a field of golfers. Unless you’re Saudi Arabia and have lots of oil and can pay the top players whatever they ask, then it’s always a fight.
“I told (Pelley) at the start of his tenure (in 2015) it would be hard getting the fields. He said: ‘For $7 million?’ I said it won’t make any difference, they’ll play when they want to play.”
As Chandler, whose clients include British Open champions Darren Clarke and Louis Oosthuizen, was interviewed outside the clubhouse at Bellerive, he was constantly interrupted by a cheery greeting of “Chubby” from seemingly every player, caddie, agent and insider who walked past.
Such is the not-unpleasant fate of someone who knows everyone who’s anyone in the golf world.
Chandler’s long-term relationships with tournament directors in every corner of the globe means he knows better than most which players are coveted, and which are not.
Not surprisingly, he said Tiger Woods remained the game’s biggest global attraction, more than a decade after the 42-year-old last won a major.
“By a mile,” he said. “His fee’s worth more than anybody, because he just attracts attention.”
Chandler thinks Rory McIlroy is the number two draw card, notwithstanding the Northern Irishman’s four-year major drought.
But he is not convinced that world number one Dustin Johnson has the charisma tournaments are looking for when deciding how to spend their appearance fee budgets.
“I like him. The way he plays the game is fantastic,” Chandler said. “To be fair to him, he delivers. He’s personable with everybody, he (does) interviews, signs autographs.
“He’s just laconic.”
Reporting by Andrew Both; Editing by Ken Ferris