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Iain Carter's Column

by Iain Carter (U7103772) 19 November 2007
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The Race to Dubai will start in November 2008

Rich golfers getting richer is the sort of story that should generally be avoided.

“What’s new?” is a familiar reaction, but it has to be admitted the European Tour’s announcement of its latest lucrative deal involves staggering sums of money.

Thanks to the seemingly bottomless pits of cash to be found in Dubai, from 2009 the Tour’s leading players will be able to compete in the single richest tournament in the world.

Furthermore a bonus pool that matches the tournament’s $10m prize fund means the top 15 earners in the year will hit a jackpot that, even by golf’s gargantuan standards, is well worth winning.

The Order of Merit will become “The Race to Dubai”. Two million dollars will go to the winner of the Race; $1.5m goes to the player finishing second and $1m to the guy finishing third. The money then staggers down to 15th place which is worth $250,000.

If the winner of the Race also claims the season ending Dubai World Championship in the way that Justin Rose took the 2007 Volvo Masters and Order of Merit, he will walk away with $3.66m.

Tour chief executive George O’Grady admitted: “We’ve had to re-focus the European Tour.” And this is the way he wants to compete with America. The PGA Tour, with its $10m four-tournament season-ending FedEx Cup series, has been proving more and more attractive to Europe’s top players.

But the Dubai funded figures dwarf the FedEx Cup cash, which is also paid as an annuity rather than as a single winner’s cheque.

They also breathe new life into the Order of Merit. No more need to go and “fill the wheelbarrow” with appearance money from places like Singapore as Ernie Els, Lee Westwood, Angel Cabrera and Darren Clarke did in preference to playing the Volvo Masters.

Another welcome development is that from 2010 the European season will run from January to November, with a specific off-season. The current nonsense where the next year’s campaign begins the week after the previous one finishes is ridiculous.

As a result of jumping into bed with Dubai, the Tour will almost certainly be waving farewell to one of its more enduring venues.

Next year's Volvo Masters will be the last time this tournament closes a season and while the Tour is keen to hang on to Volvo as sponsors, there are indicators to suggest Valderrama will not want to stage what will be relegated to a regular tour stop, rather than the season finale.

Tradition tends to bite the dust when wallets are opened as widely as they have been with the Dubai deal.

Does it mean Europe’s biggest stars will be more likely to base themselves on their home tour? To a degree, but not massively, and Rose showed why by winning the Order of Merit competing in just 12 tournaments.

Will it attract more top Americans, like Tiger Woods? No. He has shown no interest in taking up European Tour membership and that would be a pre-requisite to make him eligible to compete for these new prizes.

Other Americans may be tempted, but would have to overcome their phobia to crossing their own borders.

For now the Tour can celebrate bolstering their position significantly. The deal with Dubai stretches far further than just the season-ending tournament and Race.

They will open an International Tour Headquarters – but won’t be moving from current Tour HQ at Wentworth – and several course design projects are on the table.

And for the moment, the Tour can boast that it will have the world’s richest tournament. Though, given the way organisations love to throw money at golfers, you have to wonder whether they’ll be able to say the same by the time it is staged.

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posted Nov 20, 2007

In watching (TV) a golf tournament recently played in Nevada (with Mickleson playing) I was amazed at how few spectators were there. Each hole had about 12 people around the green. I wonder how big the crowds would be in Dubai (hardly a top golfing nation, is it !?). Maybe the players would be happy to play for £1million but with no atmosphere at all. Perhaps they will get their wish out in Dubai.

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posted Nov 20, 2007

"Race To Dubai",...nah, not catchy enough. Call it "Dubai or Burst".

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posted Nov 20, 2007

Just a correction to Limerickjohn's correction, Clarke was eligible for the Volvo Masters as a former champion. Past winners were invited this year to mark the tournament's 20th anniversary. This is why the likes of Ronan Rafferty and Paul McGinley were also entitled to play.

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posted Nov 20, 2007

Carter wrong as usual

They had to invite exwinners as so many of those qualified to play didn't show up !

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posted Nov 20, 2007

Strange that Clarke didn't come in for more criticism; in winning the tournament in 1998, he would have gotten an invite as a past champion yet chose not to play.
It was also my understanding that only the top 60 were invited before this year. If one person didn't play, then 59 players competed and so on.

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posted Nov 21, 2007

you are correct -carter was regurgitating PR spin

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posted Nov 21, 2007

Just to be clear, Clarke chose to play in Singapore when he had the chance to play at Valderrama. It is why he is in the list that also includes Ernie Els and Lee Westwood.

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posted Nov 28, 2007

I have to agree money in sport does seem to have become out of hand.However if golf is to continue to attract young people it must get the media coverage.All sports have lost out to football and I for one am not peased by that.Large amounts of prize money will attract media coverage.

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posted Nov 28, 2007

Money in sport is a reflection of its popularity on dont see table tennis stars playing for a's the law of life.

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posted Nov 29, 2007

Corporations are taking over all sports, ---- WELCOME ROLLERBALL !!!!

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