x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

European Tour ‘reaching middle ground’ with players over Final Series

Now players are not forced to play, although showing up remains advantageous to their odds of winning part of the Dubai bonus money, writes Steve Elling.

Ernie Els stayed home last year rather than submit to a new rule that required participants to play in two of the three final series tournaments to be eligible for the fourth and final Dubai event. Pawan Singh / The National
Ernie Els stayed home last year rather than submit to a new rule that required participants to play in two of the three final series tournaments to be eligible for the fourth and final Dubai event. Pawan Singh / The National

In terms of tweaks and twists, this is akin to a deep-tissue massage.

After the European Tour constructed a four-event programme to be run in similar design to the PGA Tour’s end-of-season stretch, European officials were left embarrassed by scathing criticism and a boycott by three elite players when the final event of the four-event schedule, the DP World Championship, was played at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.

The Race-to-Dubai finale went ahead without Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel, who stayed home rather than submit to a new rule that required participants to play in two of the three final series tournaments to be eligible for the fourth and final Dubai event.

Els called the rule “farcical” and “an absolute joke”.

This week, that stipulation disappeared, one of several tweaks as the series rolls into its second year.

The PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup series has been tweaked so often, nobody can recall the original design.

Now players are not forced to play, although showing up remains advantageous to their odds of winning part of the Dubai bonus money.

“Now it’s a system where it’s more down to the player, how much you want to play,” said defending Race-to-Dubai champion Henrik Stenson. “But it’s still a very good incentive to play a lot, which is perfect, because then you decide yourself that if you skip a few, you’re going to have much less chance of winning the overall.

“If you’re willing to go in and play all of them, you’re going to have a much better chance, but you’re still not cutting anyone out from playing the final, even if you don’t want to play a lot leading up to it. I’m really happy with that.”

The European Tour also announced that the Dubai field will include a list of alternates, meaning a full field of 60 players will compete. At the latest edition 56 played. The bonus pool also has been hiked to US$5 million (Dh18.4m) from $3.75m.

The limited-field HSBC Champions event in China, part of the four-event Final Series, will provide 15 spots for Race-to-Dubai points leaders, up from five.

Last autumn, 10 of the top 40 on the Race-to-Dubai points list were ineligible to play at the Shanghai event, despite strong overall seasons. It was another glaring design flaw.

Sometimes, as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil and, in this case, the final series and its Dubai finale will be the better for it.

“At the end of the day, we are all working together,” Garcia said. “I’m very happy to see that we’ve reached a middle ground, which should make us all happy.”

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