Mix up could cost Els Euro money title

SOTOGRANDE, Spain (AP) — Failed negotiations over a scheduling conflict between the European and Asian tours could cost Ernie Els the Order of Merit title.

European Tour chief executive George O'Grady said Thursday that a lack of communication between the two golfing bodies meant that the Volvo Masters and Singapore Open were scheduled for this week.

"We agree this is an unfortunate clash," O'Grady said. "(Els) is a very important player for the European Tour and I can't criticize him at any moment."

Els said Wednesday that "somebody missed the ball" on the issue.

"These were dates we could not change. We tried to resolve it in direct discussions with them," O'Grady said. "The alternative was to walk away from a very good tournament in Portugal."

The Volvo Masters is normally played on the last weekend of October, but the addition of the Portugal Masters in mid-October pushed the Mallorca Classic forward to that date.

O'Grady said he only learned that the two events were scheduled for the same weekend after a sponsor warned him a day before the Asian Tour's announcement of the Singapore event last May.

Els leads last year's Order of Merit champion Padraig Harrington by $313,892 in the standings, but the South African could be surpassed this weekend because he is playing in Singapore.

O'Grady had no problem with releasing the Europeans to play in Asia despite some negative publicity about the calendar clash.

"All of these players are going to be dealt with and spoken to individually," he said. "But we aren't going to wield a stick. They are all players who have been phenomenally consistent to the Tour."

Only the top-60 European players qualify for Valderrama — Europe's richest tournament at $5.8 million, with a first-place prize of $960,488 — with U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera and Retief Goosen among the 10 qualified players missing.

O'Grady also said a unified doping policy between the U.S. PGA and the European Tour — originally announced in September — would go into effect next June or July.

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