Olazabal calls on European Tour to settle differences with Royal Trophy


Jose Maria Olazabal has urged European Tour bosses to sit down with their Royal Trophy counterparts and find a way to make the hugely successful competition a fully–sanctioned event.

Like many other players, Olazabal is dismayed that European Tour chief executive George O’Grady has walked away from talks about sanctioning the Royal Trophy, and announced plans to set up a rival Asia v Europe competition.

The Royal Trophy visionary, five-time Major winner Seve Ballesteros.The Royal Trophy visionary, five-time Major winner Seve Ballesteros.

Double Masters champion Olazabal is not alone in wondering why the European Tour is going for the ‘copycat’ option, rather than looking for a full field tournament involving 120 or more players.  That is especially true at a time when the European Tour has seen the Singapore Open and the Avantha Masters disappear from its schedule, while other events have seen prize money drastically reduced.

Olazabal, who served as European captain at the Royal Trophy for the third time last month, summed up the mood of frustration among the players.

He said: “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.

“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 twenty 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.”

Olazabal is not the first European captain to voice his annoyance at the European Tour’s rigid stance.  Fellow Ryder Cup legend Colin Montgomerie, who captained Europe to Royal Trophy victories in 2010 and 2011, expressed similar views.

After his second stint as Captain, he declared: “I will speak to George O’Grady, the head of the European Tour, about what a great event this is.

“I don’t know what the politics of this situation are, but we will get this tournament sanctioned by the European Tour.  It is only right that it should be.

European Team Captain Jose Maria Olazabal lifts the Royal Trophy at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China, Sunday, Dec. 22.European Team Captain Jose Maria Olazabal lifts the Royal Trophy at the Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, China, Sunday, Dec. 22.

“It is such a dramatic event, and it must have captivated spectators and viewers all over the world.  Even when result goes against the Asian team, the match can only help the growth of golf in this area, just as Seve Ballesteros predicted it would when he came up with the concept for this competition.

“This is a remarkable competition, and all credit to Seve for putting this together. This tournament has fantastic potential to grow, into a really, big event and it deserves to be that way.”

Former Ryder Cup players, England’s Sir Nick Faldo, Welshman Ian Woosnam O.B.E., and Irishman Paul McGinley also issued a joint statement on the impasse.

“The Royal Trophy is an important legacy of the late Seve Ballesteros; a tremendously gifted player, a most loyal team-mate, an unrelenting competitor, an inspirational leader and one of the greatest contributors to the development of European golf.

“We were asked by Seve prior to his passing to be stewards of this magnificent competition and to guide the championship into his vision of establishment as one of the world’s most significant sporting events.

“We take this duty with great commitment and earnestly request the full, complete and sincere support from the entire golf family and community, especially the leadership of the professional game.”

The Royal Trophy organisers maintained a dignified silence about the issue during their seventh hosting of the event in China last month.  They did not want to deflect attention away from the event itself, or risk putting the players in an awkward position.

O’Grady’s attitude towards the Royal Trophy provides a marked contrast to the enthusiasm he expressed during the build–up to the inaugural event.

In a message reproduced in the programme for the 2006 competition he remarked:  “Anyone fortunate enough to experience the unique atmosphere of The Ryder Cup down the years will readily appreciate the competitiveness and passion associated with team golf.

“The Ryder Cup has grown into a highly successful and competitive event over the past 25 years and the Royal Trophy has the capacity to become an equally invigorating contest.

“We would like to thank His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand for His vision in the creation of this outstanding new event and to our co-sanctioning partners in the venture, the Asian Tour and the Japan Tour.”