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European Tour chief cites Royal Trophy differences

SINGAPORE (AFP) ― European Tour chief executive George O’Grady has rebuffed calls to back the Royal Trophy team event, citing “fundamental differences of policy with the promoters.”

The European Tour has launched a rival match play tournament between the players of Europe and Asia, despite the established “Ryder Cup-style” Royal Trophy having recently concluded its seventh edition.

In the wake of Europe’s dramatic victory over Asia at China’s Dragon Lake Golf Club last weekend, triumphant captain Jose Maria Olazabal called on the European Tour to sanction the annual match play event that was founded by the late Seve Ballesteros.

O’Grady has responded by reiterating his commitment to the EurAsia Cup, which will be co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from March 27-29, 2014.

“Our relations with players from Malaysia, China, India, Thailand, Korea and Japan have been important to us for many years,” O’Grady told AFP in an email interview.

The Royal Trophy is backed by the Japan Golf Tour, the China Golf Association and the OneAsia Tour, who have a bitter rivalry with the Asian Tour.

“We see the development of the EurAsia Cup as a further commitment by us to assist in the development of golf throughout the region and to strengthening one of The European Tour’s most important partnerships,” added O’Grady.

“The EurAsia Cup is officially sanctioned by The European Tour and the Asian Tour, both of whom are full members of the International Federation of PGA Tours.

“While we sanctioned the Royal Trophy for the first two editions, we had fundamental differences of policy with the promoters,” said O’Grady.

“The European Tour is officially involved with the Ryder Cup (Europe vs. U.S.) and Seve Trophy (U.K./Ireland vs. Continental Europe) and the EurAsia Cup will see Europe competing against Asia in an officially sanctioned event.”

In further remarks that could inflame feelings among Royal Trophy promoters Entertainment Group Limited, O’Grady said: “The EurAsia Cup sees these two great continents playing against each other, which Seve would have cherished.

“And we are pleased that the inaugural EurAsia Cup carries with it the support of Seve’s family and The Seve Ballesteros Foundation.”

Entertainment Group Limited’s co-managing directors are Lincoln Venancio and Ivan Ballesteros, nephew of the late Seve Ballesteros.

Olazabal, a close friend of Ballesteros with whom he forged a formidable playing partnership at the Ryder Cup during the 1990s, said: “I would call on both sides to sit down and sort this thing out.

“We do not need another Asia vs. 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.”