Golf World (UK) - - PGA TOUR AT 50 -

Un­stop­pable force meets im­mov­able ob­ject, this mid-’80s dis­pute be­tween then-PGA Tour com­mis­sioner Deane Be­man and the world’s best player, Seve Balles­teros, led to the Spaniard play­ing al­most none of his golf in­side the US dur­ing 1986. A year ear­lier, Balles­teros had played only nine events on the PGA Tour, six short of the re­quired min­i­mum in or­der to main­tain mem­ber­ship. Fif­teen, he ar­gued, was im­pos­si­ble given his com­mit­ments to the Eu­ro­pean Tour and other events around the world. Be­man dis­agreed, in­sist­ing that Seve fol­low the rules just like ev­ery­one else. “Seve wanted to suit him­self and play the Eu­ro­pean Tour off against the US,” said Be­man in 2008. “If you al­low a player to be a mem­ber and treat him dif­fer­ently, then there’s no in­cen­tive for any­body to be a mem­ber.”

The re­sult­ing im­passe meant Balles­teros teed up in the 1986 Mas­ters – which he would have won but for a duffed ap­proach into the pond short of the 15th green in the fi­nal round – hav­ing played only one prior PGA Tour event, in New Or­leans as de­fend­ing cham­pion. Other than the three US-based ma­jors, it was Seve’s only of­fi­cial PGA Tour ap­pear­ance that year.

In the short-term then, there was only one win­ner: the PGA Tour. But in the longer term there’s no doubt Seve’s com­plaints were rea­son­able. To­day, Eu­ro­pean play­ers with PGA Tour mem­ber­ship can call the Eu­ro­pean cir­cuit their ‘home’ and play there as of­ten as they like. The min­i­mum re­quire­ment – in­creased from seven to nine in 1985 – is now only four (in reg­u­lar events as long as one is in a ‘home coun­try’ event).

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