EUROPEAN Tour chief Keith Pelley has guaranteed no players will lose their playing rights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc with its international schedule in 2020.
So any player who was inside the top 110 on the Order of Merit at the end of the 2019 season, will keep their cards for 2021, regardless of where they finish on the 2020 Race to Dubai.
As a result, the European Tour Qualifying School will not take place in November – along with the stage one and two qualifiers in September, October and November.
There will also be no automatic promotion from the Challenge Tour – the top 15 on the Race to Mallorca Order of Merit would normally earn their European Tour card for the following season.
The Challenge Tour’s schedule has also been dramatically curtrailed with the first six European-based tournaments between May and July either postponed or cancelled.
But the European Tour chief executive has reassured players they will reward any “exceptional” performances on either the European and Challenge Tours in 2020.
The exact details of any such rewards will be announced by the European Tour Tournament Commitee, said Mr Pelley.
Pelley added: “While the intention remains to crown a new Race to Dubai Champion on December 13, as part of the changes to the end of the 2020 season caused by the impact of COVID-19, the European Tour’s Tournament Committee recently agreed that all members’ 2020 categories, and their ranking within that category, will be retained in 2021 – with related playing rights being protected to the absolute maximum possible in the 2021 season.”
There will also be no minimum number of tournaments that need to be played in 2020 to guarantee membership for next year, he added after a unanimous vote by the powerful Tournament Committee, which includes players’ representatives as well as European Tour officials.
Pelley added: “We recognise that when we resume playing golf, each player’s circumstances will be different.
“We therefore do not want to put anyone in a position whereby they feel they have no choice other than to play in certain events in order to protect their livelihood.
“Similarly, the feeling was that it was not fair to disadvantage any member who might want to play in an event but who might not be able to due to ongoing travel restrictions.
“Therefore, in consultation with our Tournament Committee, it was agreed preserving their exempt status for 2021 was the fairest solution in these unprecedented times.”
Pelley thanks sponsors for support
THE European Tour chief went out of his way of praising the hosting venues and sponsors of four of its biggest Rolex Series events in helping to create the new UK Swing announced today.
Keith Pelley said: “Since the suspension of our 2020 season in early March, we have taken a measured approach in reassessing our schedule – informed every step of the way by our medical advisers and government guidance.
“We have consistently said that safety is our absolute priority and that is why we are announcing our resumption in two months’ time – supported by a comprehensive health strategy, which has been led by our medical team.
“Without question we have had to think differently about the remainder of our 2020 season which is reflected in today’s announcement.
“As golf’s global tour, diversity is ordinarily one of our biggest strengths. But in this instance it has become one of our biggest challenges.
“Initially, therefore, based on the expert guidance we received, playing in clusters, in one territory, is the best option in terms of testing, travel and accommodation.
“I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank Betfred, Close House, Marriott, the Forest of Arden, Hanbury Manor, Celtic Manor Resort and The Belfry for sharing our vision for this ‘UK Swing.’
“We look forward to returning to tournament play in July with this innovative stretch of six events.
“As well as getting golf going again for our players, our broadcasters, our stakeholders and our millions of fans around the world, these new events will also enable us to give back during these unprecedented times, building on some of the community support already given by our players over the past few months.
“I also want to pay tribute to Rolex, BMW, Aberdeen Standard Investments, the Scottish Government, Nedbank, Sun International and DP World, for their continued commitment to the European Tour, which allowed us to move four hugely important tournaments into new dates later in the year.
“Not only did they show flexibility, they also showed understanding of the current global situation and we are truly fortunate to have them as partners of the European Tour,” added Keith Pelley.