Dubai doesn’t exactly spring into the mind as a golf mecca, but that soon may change.
First, Tiger Woods chose the emirate as the location of his first signature golf course. (Or rather, the money chose him).
Now, Dubai will host the “world’s richest golf tournament” as part of the 2009 European Tour schedule. The Dubai World Championship will have a prize pool of $10 million—with $1,666,660 going to the winner. That $10 million makes it the single biggest event in golf—topping the Players’ by $1 million.
In addition, the European Tour’s “Order of Merit” (money) list will be renamed the “Race To Dubai”, and the winner of that will $2 million, the runner-up $1.5 million and the third-placed player $1 million, with prizes down to the 15th player, who will earn $250,000.
Euro Tour chief executive George O’Grady no doubt was smirking when he made the announcement. He added: “This is so much more than a tournament sponsorship. It is a long-term partnership which will see the European Tour and Dubai joining together to significantly enhance the game worldwide and take golf to a new level for spectators everywhere.”
Forget the press releases and the spin. This is about one thing, and one thing only: sticking it to the PGA Tour. European Tour officials and supporters have not been happy about the PGA Tour’s efforts to suck in more and more of the world’s golf talent. Now they’ve got their own financial draw.
The only thing that surprises me here is that the first prize for the Race isn’t bigger than that offered by the FedEx Cup. The difference may be that the winner will be able to cash a check immediately, instead of having to wait for an annuity.
The European Press is getting giddy with the idea that the money could attract Tiger and other top PGA Tour players. A columnist in the Scotsman writes:
UNTIL now, winning the Order of Merit on the European Tour could not be described as a pre-occupation for Tiger Woods. A member of the PGA Tour in America, where his appearances are also rationed, Woods has a phenomenal track record in European events.
Nevertheless, Tiger has never previously chosen to compete in the minimum of 11 tournaments on the Tour’s schedule required to become eligible for membership.
Whether the world No1 will change his mind and consider becoming a European Tour member in 2009 so he can qualify to play in the Dubai World Championship, the new season-ending bonanza which carries a prize fund of $10million, as well as the Race To Dubai (formerly the Order of Merit) bonus pool of $10m, was one of the more intriguing questions raised by yesterday’s money-spinning announcement about the world’s richest golf tournament in the Gulf.
After years of watching Europe’s best players jet across the Atlantic in search of gold on the PGA Tour, is it possible the Race to Dubai will reverse that trend? Certainly, bearing in mind that the top four players in the world this week are all Americans (Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker are the others), none of whom currently have membership in Europe, the Dubai World Championship may face a charge of hubris if the field for the tournament doesn’t live up to its name.
I really can’t imagine any of those guys switching from the PGA Tour. There just isn’t enough money in it overall. And I’m sure that the equipment sponsors would not be happy to see their guys out of the States.
But the Euro Tour doesn’t really need the Americans. There are plenty of stars from the International Community: Els, Scott, Harrington, Singh and Choi round out the top 10.
For Tiger to play in the Dubai Championship, he’d have to be in the Top 40 on the Euro Tour. And that would require him to play in 11 official European Tour Tournaments. But it’s probably doable. There currently are eight events on the European Tour Schedule that Tiger has played: The Dubai Desert Classic, the WGC Accenture, WGC CA Championship, WGC Bridgestone, the World Match Play, and the four Majors. I don’t know if simply being on the Euro schedule means it counts toward the eleven, but if it does, Tiger could well pull off a dual Tour membership.