The eyes of the golfing world will be on the DP World Tour Championship this week.
There should be no doubt that the season-ending tournament has become the flagship event of the European Tour.
Year after year, it has delivered one humdinger performance after another. The Race to Dubai system has also proved to be fair, with the top-ranked European Tour stars prevailing in the end, unlike the fickleness of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup.
And once again, it seems appropriate that the battle for the European No1 honour will be fought between the two major champions who are part of the Tour (Masters winner Danny Willett and Open champion Henrik Stenson), the highest ranked European player in the world (Rory McIlroy) and the hottest European player on the planet (Alex Noren).
Then there is also a small matter of a $1.33 million winner’s cheque that goes to the tournament champion.
The action starts on Thursday on the Earth course, and it will surely be fascinating. But an equally-discussed topic on the golf course is the recent announcement by the European Tour on the Rolex Series – a bouquet of seven premium tournaments that will have a minimum of $7 million prize money this season.
Not only will these events be cash-rich, they will also be heavily marketed and promoted by the European Tour in association with umbrella sponsor Rolex.
The players are obviously ecstatic – who doesn’t like the possibility of a significant pay rise? However, it is going to create a few scheduling issues for the top stars.
The good thing about the events is that they are slotted in two particular time periods – before the Open Championship and after the FedEx Cup. That should help attract more European, as well as American, players playing on the PGA Tour.
It is also sensible on part of the Tour that they haven’t introduced any ‘mandatory’ numbers for the members to participate, which was a big bone of contention when the Final Series was first introduced. They just want to make the product better and expect a buy-in from the players, instead of forcing it on them.
Even more thoughtful was the creation of Access List – a separate money list that would not include earnings from the Rolex Series events, the Masters, the PGA Championship and the World Golf Championship events.
Because these events carry a lot of prize money, most players from the lower qualification categories stand no chance of competing against them on the Race to Dubai. One top-10 finish would earn them a lot more than the several top-five finishes on the smaller events.
The rank and file of the European Tour, which has mostly remained a neglected bunch, will gain a lot from this. The top-10 players from the Access List will secure their playing privileges for the next season.
And unlike some of the comments that I saw saying this new system was becoming too convoluted and complex – it really isn’t. The Rolex Series events are like any other normal event on the Tour, except for the fact that they will benefit from extra promotion through TV and other digital platforms.
You’ve got to hand it to Keith Pelley. The European Tour Chief Executive is fast turning his vision into reality, and there is no mistaking the vitality around the Tour.
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