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Montgomerie backs tour in dispute with top players

Colin Montgomerie of Scotland looks up while playing on the 10th hole during the second round of the Champions golf tournament in Shanghai N
Colin Montgomerie of Scotland looks up while playing on the 10th hole during the second round of the Champions golf tournament in Shanghai N

By Tony Jimenez

BELEK, Turkey (Reuters) - Former Ryder Cup skipper Colin Montgomerie has come firmly down on the side of the European Tour in its row with leading players over the new FedExCup-style Final Series.

South African pair Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel and Spain's Sergio Garcia have criticized the rules that dictate players must compete in two of the first three Final Series events in order to qualify for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

Last week Els, a member of the European circuit for almost two decades, described the system as "farcical" while Schwartzel said at this week's Turkish Airlines Open he was thinking about his future on the tour.

"I think the tour should hold firm," Montgomerie told British media. "The first thing a sponsor asks when they are putting up $7 million or $8 million is, 'Who's playing?'.

"If you can say to these sponsors the top players are going to play two out of the three, that is why they put the money in.

"The players are saying they are being dictated to and being told where to play but you shouldn't have to be told to play for $7 million, should you?," added Montgomerie who captained Europe to Ryder Cup victory in Wales in 2010.

The four Final Series events - Turkey, Dubai and the two preceding tournaments in Shanghai - all have prize funds of at least $7 million.

The tour has brought in the inaugural series this year in a format similar to the U.S. PGA Tour's end-of-season FedExCup.

"The biggest event when I started was worth 400,000 pounds ($641,800) and that was the Swiss Open," said eight-times order of merit winner Montgomerie.

"Now they're not turning up for $7 million? Hang on a minute they are professional golfers, that's their job.

"People are saying they can't play four events in a row. For goodness sake I played 13 in a row when I was at my peak," said the 50-year-old Scot who is level-par for his two rounds at the Turkish Open.

"Four in a row is not a lot especially the way they are treated nowadays. They are like royalty with their private planes and suites. It's hardly a hassle, is it?"

($1 = 0.6232 British pounds)

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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