The Race to Dubai is a wonderful thing, make no mistake.
The European Tours’ traditional Order of Merit was renamed in 2009 after huge investment here in the Middle East. At a time of worldwide financial meltdown it was an unexpected but very welcome influx of financial support from perhaps an unlikely source. To keep the European Tour relevant and able to attract a global audience, it quite rightly added events that are far flung and nowhere near the borders of Europe. In fact the name ‘European Tour’ is more about recognition of its history than any geographical accuracy nowadays. But the American PGA Tour has the bigger cheque book and despite Europe’s dominance in recent Ryder Cups, the U.S. star names remain the bigger box office draw stateside.
Putting the names Woods and Mickelson aside, your average Joe may have heard of Rickie, Bubba and Jordan but beyond that you’d have to love the game to be aware of who else can light a fuse when they tee it up.
Now look at Europe. McIlroy, Westwood, Garcia, Rose, Clarke, Harrington, Stenson, Poulter, Jimenez. Anyone of those (and I could list 10 more) have a resonance with the greater public. They have personality. They have a golfing X-factor.
Maybe it’s because they initially grew up outside the U.S. system and learnt their trade in manic winds, unpredictable links greens and snotty men-only clubhouses that made them who they are. Since they hit the big time most have become more americanised and many of their tweets are about ‘soccer’ and not ‘football’ but when they can, they don’t forget their roots. Ireland’s own Rory McIlroy has now put his own name and considerable weight behind his nations Open. His long association with the UAE surely facilitated the fact that Dubai Duty Free is a titular sponsor too. But there is a nagging feeling that non-Major, European Tour events are a sideline to these guys now. Most of the big guns had a torrid time at the 2015 Irish Open when you would think that this type of course and weather was their bread and butter when they were younger.
The lure of same same courses coupled with big big prize funds on the PGA Tour would be tempting to anyone so I suggest that instead of trying to beat them, let’s join them.
With the exception of American venues, the European Tour and Race to Dubai is a global tour anyway. The bosses at ET have done a fabulous job of incorporating other Tours into co-sanctioned events and their fields week to week probably make Benetton blush in under-achievement. Commonly an American player in action on the European Tour would be there due to a financial incentive rather than a desire to give it a go (Rickie Fowler seems a refreshing anomaly to that) so let’s get these guys together every 7 days.
If The European Tour and the PGA Tour pooled their resources we could have mega-events each week, a league table system that includes promotion and relegation worries for players, a standard prize fund week-to-week that was only surpassed for Majors and WCG’s. Every continent would get a chance to see all the big stars in action on their doorstep, in meaningful events. A World Tour would be recognition of a world game.
Now of all the queries about organizing this that you may have in your head right now, let me just sort one out. The end of the season would be the Fed-Ex Race to Dubai Tour Championship. Some traditions I am not prepared to do away with.