PGA Tour's restrictions on foreign players hurt smaller events

Wednesday December 8th, 2010
Rory McIlroy will forfeit PGA Tour membership in 2011, but can reapply in 2012.
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

No doubt the PGA Tour established its restrictions on foreign players to protect the rank and file. The rule ensures that nonmembers can play a maximum of 12 tournaments, including the majors, the three official money WGC events and the Players. A player who has been a member and resigned the privilege can't even play 12, and that restriction can last five years. A small exception exists for players such as Rory McIlroy (below) and Lee Westwood, who will forfeit membership in 2011 but can reapply in '12 because they won in '10. The rule keeps nonmembers from cherry-picking the top events, but it loses its value when 12 of the world top 20 are foreigners.

Television negotiations are imminent. Tournaments are struggling to find and keep sponsors and get great fields. America's superstars, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, seem unwilling to add events. Why not make it easier to put on the best show possible? McIlroy, Westwood and Martin Kaymer are eligible for the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions but won't play. I have seen e-mails indicating that Westwood planned to play the season opener but changed his mind because he felt he needed to save starts for later in the year. A new sponsor on Maui is trying to revive a key event, but it's handcuffed by an outdated rule. And it's not just the season opener. Other Tour mainstays are in the same spot: Los Angeles, New Orleans, Phoenix, Greensboro and Tampa will also suffer. The Tour should use golf's global success to help itself and its events, not stifle growth.

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