Thomas Bjorn has decided he can no longer continue as Chairman of Europe's Tournament Players Committee but insisted it had “absolutely nothing” to do with his recent war of words with Padraig Harrington.
Bjorn and Harrington spoke yesterday for the first time since the Dane fired a fiery broadside at the Dubliner in the media a fortnight ago and both men said their friendship was too firm to be affected by the incident.
When it comes to being Tournament Players chairman, however, Bjorn believes the situation to be irreconcilable. Indeed, he says he will be unable even to remain in membership of the 15-man committee if an active European Tour player replaces him in the chair.
Bjorn's ultimatum is prompted by his belief that the chairmanship is so demanding, it severely undermined his own efforts to remain competitive since his election in October 2007 and also had a detrimental effect on the playing career of his predecessors, Mark James and Jamie Spence.
Harrington and Lee Westwood yesterday both firmly supported Bjorn in this belief, the Irishman saying: “The chairman should not be a playing member of the Tour. I think it's too hard to do. It should be a full-time role for an ex-player.
“I think it's hard enough to be on the committee, let alone be chairman, when you have everyone coming to you with their gripes. It should be someone who has played on Tour and knows what it's about,” added Harrington.
As for Bjorn's decision, Harrington went on: “I think Thomas is stepping down as chairman because of the stress of trying to play golf and be chairman. I think its timing is a bit of a coincidence rather than anything else.
“I didn't see any of his comments because I don't read the press but I saw with him today and I told him he'd been a friend for 14 years and he would continue to be a good friend.
“Obviously I was told there was something said about me in a personal sense but you know Thomas, we all do. He's trying to get another point of view across there and, at the end of the day, he didn't mean it in that sense. At the end of the day, Thomas and I are good. There will be no issue between him and me.”
Harrington has not given up hope of overhauling Rory McIlroy in the Race to Dubai standing. McIlroy leads the standings with four tournaments remaining and Harrington says he will have to win two of them to be in with a chance of winning the Harry Varden Trophy.
The pair are joint favourites for the Portugal Masters title which starts today at Vilamoura's Oceanico Victoria Course.