Kevin Garside: Missing stars reveal Seve Trophy's true status
Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were all qualified but each declined to take part
If the Seve Trophy, which begins in Paris today, is as fruity as the build-up there will be no lack of drama. Paul Lawrie's attack on the absent six who chose not to represent the Great Britain & Ireland team against the Rest of Europe had about it the flavour of an old timer not quite able to accept that the world is turning.
For him, to contest the Seve Trophy is both an obligation to the European Tour and a gesture in honour of the man who did so much to elevate the status of the game on this side of the Atlantic. Without Ballesteros, argues Lawrie, the Tour in Europe might not have developed into the global proposition it is, complete with multimillion prize pots. To stay away is to dishonour the memory of Balles-teros and disrespect the institution through which the great European players have largely developed.
Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood were all qualified but each said no on the grounds that their schedules did not allow their participation. Some, like the Ryder Cup captain, Paul McGinley, are more conciliatory. "I knew three months ago that the players based in America would not be coming over," he said. "It's a difficult one, given that they compete on the PGA Tour as well as the European Tour. The season runs deep into September with the FedEx Cup and continues into November over here. They need time to recover. And I understand that."
Lawrie is steadfastly anchored to the European Tour. He has no interest in upping sticks from his Aberdeen home to be part of a golfing colony in Florida and a member of the PGA Tour. Taking a flight to Paris is 90 minutes out of his day. And he is not coming off a two-month thrash across North America that embraced a WGC event in Akron, the final major of the season plus the four FedEx play-off events at the end of the PGA Tour year.
The uncomfortable truth is that an event that was introduced just 13 years ago, has struggled to find and retain sponsors and has nil gravitas is never going to persuade players to add it to already packed calendars. For Lawrie, as a European Tour member, the Seve Trophy is a welcome diversion from the weekly trawl, but it is neither fair nor helpful to make scheduling an ethical matter.
The players who are not in Paris think no less of Ballesteros and his legacy in their absence and arguably, through their heightened profiles, spread the European golfing message more dutifully by organising their affairs in a way that produces the best results. Does Lawrie believe Rose serves the memory of Seve best by teeing up for Sam Torrance's team today or through winning major championships?
The America-based players would argue you cannot always do both. They will defend the European Tour cause when it matters at an event of significance a year from now. Let the Ryder Cup be enough.
Besides, their absence gives the next generation of tour stars a chance to experience the team environment. That would surely please Seve just as much.
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