x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Tour seeks transatlantic invasion

The next objective for the Race to Dubai will be to attract more members of the bigger and stronger US Tour.

Players from 18 different countries qualified for this year's concluding leg of the inaugural Race to Dubai - the US$7.5m (Dh27.5m) Dubai World Championship (DWC) on Greg Norman's Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates. Seventeen of those countries were duly represented in the glittering finale to the European Tour season. The notable exception was the United States. Anthony Kim, who finished in 38th place on the European money list, despite playing most of his golf in his homeland, was the only American to make it into the top 60 to earn a starting place on Earth. He failed to keep that appointment, making an announcement to the effect that his parents needed to see a little more of their son.

When the announcement was made in 2007 that Leisurecorp were to sponsor the European Tour to the tune of $100m (that figure has since been trimmed by 25 per cent) it was seen as the signal for a transatlantic invasion of Americans seeking rich pickings on the other side of the pond. Phil Mickelson, the world No2, dropped a tantalising hint that he would be one of them but he, along with two of last year's major champions Lucas Glover and Stewart Cink, failed to show up often enough to satisfy the entry requirements. Argentina's Angel Cabrera, winner of the US Masters, earned enough euros to qualify for the Dubai World Championship but refused to play in the one extra tournament he needed to secure his eligibility.

Similarly YE Yang, the Korean who stunned Tiger Woods to prevail in a head-to-head battle for the fourth major of the season, the PGA Championship, was also in a healthy position to qualify for the Dubai World Championship but decided against playing in the requisite tournaments. The next objective for the Race to Dubai will be to attract more members of the bigger and stronger US Tour. It will be interesting to see over the next 12 months how many of those PGA members play in sufficient European Tour events to earn a ticket to the UAE finale.

It is unlikely that Kim, widely regarded as a future rival to Tiger Woods for world No 1 status, will be one of them after a trophyless year which he put down to excessive travelling. Camilo Villegas and Geoff Ogilvy, two of the big foreign attractions on the PGA Tour seem to view things differently. Both qualified comfortably for the first DWC and are planning to do the same again next year. With South Africa's major champions Ernie Els and Retief Goosen showing a heartening commitment to European affairs, the second Race to Dubai promises to be another cosmopolitan affair - with or without the Star Spangled Banner on the parade ground. wjohnson@thenational.ae