Dubai's Jumeirah Golf Estates has been given a commitment through 2017 to be the final stop on the European Tour, but the Race to Dubai format is likely to be reconsidered. “It’s the ideal area to end a demanding season,” tour commissioner George O’Grady said.
European Tour extends season-ending commitment to Dubai through 2017
DUBAI // Cementing the area’s future on the global golf scene, the European Tour has extended by three years its commitment to complete the season points race in Dubai, officials said today.
The year-long competition will end in Dubal through 2017, and at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, the only venue the season-ending DP World Tour Championship has known, but the Race to Dubai format faces an overhaul.
The tour, which this week opened a new instructional facility at Jumeirah and has been establishing increasingly stronger ties to the region, is moving ahead with plans to open a satellite headquarters at Jumeirah.
It is part of what tour commissioner George O’Grady called “a really big footprint in the sand here in Dubai”.
“We have the right partners here in Dubai to really take this forward,” O’Grady said.
Beginning next year, the pool of bonus money available for players competing in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship will be hiked from US$3.75 million (Dh13.8m) to $5m.
DP World is signed as the title sponsor through 2014, but it would be a surprise if the company did not maintain its relationship, based on all the signals.
“This event has world significance,” said Eirik Hooper of DP World’s commercial department. “We’re a global player. It marries together quite nicely.”
O’Grady noted that the Jumeirah community, after several years of fighting through the global real-estate slump, has started to blossom. In fact, at some point by 2015, the development’s second golf layout, the Fire Course, will be used for tournament play.
The future of the Final Series design is far less certain. O’Grady said that he was personally “disappointed”, a term he used several times, that top stars Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel skipped the event this week because of issues over the inaugural Final Series design, which required players to enter two of the preceding three events leading into the DP World finale.
O’Grady said the current design months ago was vetted by players, agents, tournament sponsors and the tour’s player advisory committee, and that all parties signed off on it. But the tour “underestimated the amount of play” for top players at this time of year, O’Grady said.
He said the tour would take the next few weeks to survey players about the design and that there would be no rush to judgement.
“Calmly, we’ll reflect,” he said.
Two other sticking points also will be addressed. O’Grady said he was not pleased when Joost Luiten intentionally hit one shot and then withdrew from the opening event on the four-tournament Finals Series, just to satisfy the requisite number of starts. Luiten was fighting an injury and needed to satisfy the requirement in order to be Dubai-eligible.
“That didn’t sit happily with me,” O’Grady said.
One of the major complaints among players is that one of the three Final Series events was effectively a closed shop. The HSBC Champions event in China features an elite field of 78 players, and 10 of the top 40 in Race to Dubai points could not land a berth in the tournament.
The tour has already begun discussions with HSBC about modifying the entry categories to have fewer tournament champions and more of the top players from the seasonal points list.
“HSBC are very open to a change in their eligibility,” the European Tour official Keith Waters said.
The tour also unveiled its 2013/14 schedule, adding new tournaments in consecutive weeks in Denmark and the Czech Republic. They bring the season total to 48 sanctioned events in 26 countries, including eight in South Africa.
Players will not have much of an off-season, at least technically. The first event, the South African Open, begins Thursday, with Henrik Stenson as defending champion.
The Race to Dubai finale will be staged next season from November 20 to 23. After citing some impressive data about the growing number of tourists visiting the UAE, O’Grady made it clear that the Jumeirah event has become the exclamation point at the end of the tour annual – and that he likes it that way.
“It’s the ideal area to end a demanding season,” O’Grady said.