All roads on both the European and Challenge tours will lead to Dubai this fall, where both circuits will wrap up their seasons. Steve Elling reports.
Dubai doubles pleasure with pair of season-ending golf tournaments
Call it the Dubai Double.
After an agreement was finalised yesterday, all roads on the European and Challenge tours will lead to Dubai this fall, with both circuits wrapping up their seasons with formats featuring elite players and multiple stakes on offer.
Similar to the annual big-money Race to Dubai season finale, the limited-field DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates, the developmental Challenge Tour will end its season at a new event featuring its top 45 players at Al Badia Golf Club, set for October 31 to November 3.
“It’s great to have all these different facets of golf on board and happening in the same place,” said James Shippey, the Al Badia general manager. The tournament, called the Dubai Festival City Challenge Tour Grand Final, will feature 25 per cent more world-ranking points than are typically available at a Challenge event and the top 15 in earnings at the end of the 72-hole affair will be promoted to the European Tour in 2014.
It is more than just another tournament, in other words.
“There can be more stress on the guy in 14th, 15th or 16th place than on the guy who’s leading,” Shippey said.
Similar to the Middle East’s regional Desert Swing on the parent tour, the new Dubai stop immediately follows a Challenge event in Muscat – the National Bank of Oman Golf Classic, another debut event. The season finale was held in Savelletri, Italy, from 2004 to 2012.
The Challenge Tour, which has been seeking a host venue for the finale for several months, signed a three-year deal with Al Badia to host the event, which features a purse of €330,000 (Dh1.6m).
The new Dubai event came together quickly, by modern contractual standards.
Shippey said serious discussions with officials at the European Tour began three months ago. Nobody needs to be reminded that the event will start in a mere eight weeks.
“We’ve worked pretty quickly to get it over the line, to be honest,” Shippey said.
“It’s been hectic.”
The UAE will become the 45th country to host a stop on the feeder Challenge Tour, in the tour’s silver-anniversary season.
“It is a fitting way for us to celebrate the conclusion of the 25th anniversary of the Challenge Tour,” the tour director Alain de Soultrait said.
No admission fee will be charged, and Shippey said organisers believe the tournament will offer global exposure to the Festival City region of Dubai via the European Tour’s television outlets.
Tournament officials are in discussion with UAE broadcasters about the possibility of televising parts of the event live, Shippey said.
Just like its big-brother event at Jumeirah, there is no 36-hole cut, with the field culled from the season money list.
Like with the Web.com Tour, the feeder circuit to the US PGA Tour, the Challenge has sent a steady flow of promising players to the top-tier organization, including 21 Ryder Cup players and major championship winners such as the former world No 1 Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose, Luis Oosthuizen and Trevor Immelman.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who leads the Race to Dubai and US FedEx Cup points races, also played on the Challenge Tour.