Olazabal calls for European backing for Royal Trophy
Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during a continuation of Round One of the 113th U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club on June 14, 2013 in Ardmore, Pennsylvania
Olazabal is dismayed that Tour chief executive George O’Grady has walked away from talks about sanctioning the event and announced plans for a rival Asia versus Europe competition.
While the inaugural EurAsia Cup – jointly sanctioned by the European Tour and Asian Tour – is due to take place in Malaysia in March, the Royal Trophy is this week being staged for the seventh time since its launch in 2006.
Played along the lines of the Ryder Cup, the Royal Trophy was founded by the late Seve Ballesteros, whose vision was to bring together the continents of Europe and Asia in a team matchplay event.
Currently the tournament -- being held this year at China’s Dragon Lake Golf Club-- is sanctioned by the Japan Golf Tour Organisation, the China Golf Association and the OneAsia Tour.
Olazabal, who is serving as European captain for the third time, said there was a mood of frustration among the players, who feel the European Tour is in need of more full-field events rather than a "copycat" matchplay tournament.
"Here we are at the seventh edition of the Royal Trophy, and since my great friend Seve Ballesteros started this event in 2006 we have seen it grow amazingly," the Spaniard said.
"I know the European Tour sanctioned this event for two years, and then a split occurred for some reason. But I do think they must sit down with the Royal Trophy people and work out their differences, because it is such an important issue.
"The Royal Trophy will continue even if it is not sanctioned by the European Tour, because it has great support from the Japan Golf Tour, the China Golf Association, and other important parties in Asia.
"But I know the organisers are keen to resolve this issue, and I would call on both sides to sit down and sort this thing out.
"We do not need another Asia v Europe match involving a maximum of 20 players when we already have a well-established Royal Trophy. But we do need more full-field events, and I know other players feel the same way."
Former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie also urged support from the European Tour after leading Europe to victory at the 2011 Royal Trophy in Thailand.
Olazabal’s outburst is the latest chapter in an increasingly bitter battle for fairway supremacy in the Asia-Pacific region.
In addition to the long-standing conflicts and distrust between the Asian Tour and OneAsia Tour, there has been growing unease among golf administrators and fans at the inroads that the European Tour has made in the region. The BMW Masters in Shanghai is one of its showcase end-of-season events.
The region’s already confused and crowded late year schedule has been further bloated with the US PGA Tour this year affording full FedEx Cup status to the CIMB Classic in Malaysia for the first time.
Last month, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announced the establishment of the PGA Tour China. To be launched in 2014, the circuit will initially feature a total of 12 tournaments throughout the world’s most populous country.