Padraig Harrington fears for the future of the DP World Tour as the controversial LIV Golf series continues to send shockwaves through the sport.
A number of the world’s top names have challenged sanctions from the established tours to sign up for the lucrative Saudi-backed circuit, which stages its second tournament in Portland, Oregon this week.
Harrington, the newly-crowned US Senior Open champion, believes the American-based PGA Tour is strong enough to survive the loss of these leading players but is less sure how its European counterpart will fare.
The Irishman said: “I feel for the European Tour because there’s definitely room for two tours, there’s no doubt about it, but is there room for more?
“It looks like the European Tour is the one who could come under pressure and be squeezed.
“LIV looks like it’s going to be here to stay. In three, four, five years’ time, all of this could be very normalized, and there could be the US Tour and the LIV Tour contending for the hearts and minds of the players.
“Let’s hope that the European Tour can keep up. We do need a very strong European Tour.”
One of the strongest draw cards the DP World Tour can offer European players is the opportunity to participate in the Ryder Cup.
Harrington, who captained Europe in last year’s loss to the United States at Whistling Straits, is not yet sure what impact the split in the game could have on the biennial contest.
The 50-year-old said: “If there are two big tours it seems to be good for the majors – the only time the best players would play (each other) is in the majors.
“That served the Ryder Cup really well over the years in the sense of a rivalry between Europe and the US.
“If I go back to when I played in ’99, I didn’t know the US players whereas now we all play the same tournaments, so we’re all quite friendly.
“It could add spice to the Ryder Cup, but I don’t know how that’s going to end up in terms of whether the players can play, or with the captains and vice-captains. It really is hard to know what is going to be the future of it.”
LIV Golf is trying to broaden the appeal of the sport with its streamlined 54-hole tournaments, simultaneous “shotgun” starts and a team element to its competitions. However, it is the extraordinary financial backing behind it that has allowed it to gain a foothold, with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau reportedly offered nine-figure deals to sign up.
Harrington said: “As much as the media talks about the players who have gone, some of the players who haven’t gone don’t get enough credit.
“At the moment it seems like the players who are staying are the ones who are feeling like their careers are going on an upward spiral, they want to win the majors and they think that’s their future.
“I’m certainly impressed with some of the players who have turned down large sums of money. Fair play to them for turning it down and backing their careers.”