Race To Dubai extended until 2014
As the dust settles on a vintage European Tour season and Luke Donald celebrates his historic money-list double, Tour officials must feel equally satisfied having secured the future of the Race to Dubai.
Donald dominates the headlines with his achievement but my bosses ban me from reflecting on it in too much detail for fear of unduly influencing the voting for Sports Personality of the Year.
But the fact that the world number one knows he has the chance to defend the Race to Dubai title next year is noteworthy enough in the current difficult economic times.
Last Sunday, Tour chief executive, George O’Grady, announced a three-year extension to the deal that has made Dubai the end-of-season destination for the Tour since 2009.
George O'Grady, Chief Executive of The European Tour, presents Luke Donald (right) of England with The Race To Dubai trophy. Photo: Getty
A separate agreement for the bonus pool for the Race is being negotiated.
“Quite frankly I think this is an enormous deal,” O’Grady told BBC Sport. “I’m not talking about the size of the money, I think it shows confidence in our product, which we know is very good, but us knowing it and others knowing it are two different things.”
It is testament to the quality of European golf that the initial deal that transformed the old Order of Merit into the Race to Dubai survived the global economic meltdown that hit the Emirate hard.
The top four players in the world teed it up in Dubai last week and it felt like a fitting end to the global golf season, never mind just the European sector.
O’Grady acknowledges that the golfing riches at his disposal could only help broker the new deal with the Dubai backers. “It certainly didn’t do any harm,” he said.
“I think they saw the final pairing last Thursday with the world number one and two players teeing off together. But our players are in demand wherever they go, obviously it is attractive to join the PGA Tour and play both tours as Luke Donald does. It is easy to do if you are in the world’s top 50.
“We have so many players in the top 50. And why? Because all the standards over here have got better and better.”
This will not have a massive impact on the European Tour, but Westwood and McIlroy will have to shed a couple of events and the tournaments that will suffer are likely to be in Europe.
Although the latest Dubai investment is clearly welcome, the biggest challenge for the Tour is to bolster events in the continent from where it derives its name.
Economic chaos in the Eurozone doesn’t help (the Tour’s currency is the Euro) and the Scottish and Irish Opens have still to announce title sponsors for next year. Furthermore the BMW PGA Championship is the only regular Tour event in England.
McIlroy has already committed to the Irish Open and his entry is key to securing a new backer.
Donald will be defending champion in Scotland and has said he will play essentially the same schedule in 2012 as he did this year so its reasonable to assume he will play at Castle Stuart.
These are the key players going forward and their participation in events strengthen the hands of the dealmakers.
The golfing compass points East at the moment with Asian countries the more likely to stump up worthwhile purses.
The Tour insists that sponsors only shell out on tournaments because they offer value for money. “It’s not patronage,” O’Grady said.
McIlroy and Donald have become highly significant sporting figures who in golf are driving the marketplace. They may appear to earn obscene sums of money - Donald pocketed £4.57m from the European Tour and £4.29m in winning the PGA Tour in 2011 - but the fact is they are worth it.