Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Euro Tour Money Fight!

The European Tour made official yesterday their partnership with global development company and Emirate-government backed Leisurecorp, as has been speculated for a couple of weeks now.

The resulting partnership sets several things into motion. First, Lesiurecorp will help fund the construction of a Dubai headquarters for the European Tour. In addition to that construction, Leisurecorp will also help fund future European Tour events - and work in conjunction with the Euro Tour in course selection geared to their joint developments.

Among the events funded will be the Dubai World Championship - separate from the Dubai Desert Classic - to be held at the Jumeirah Golf Estates from Nov 19-22, 2009. It is a 60 player field event that will replace the Volvo Masters as the season finale for the Tour. The prize pool for that event will be $10 million, with $1.88 million to the winner.

The Euro Tour Order of Merit will also be renamed after next season to the Race to Dubai. That race will be a season long money race, similar to the FedEx Cup sans points. At the Dubai World Championship, a $10 million bonus pool for the tournament qualifiers will be distributed at the end. All told, the eventual champion of the Dubai World Championship could be playing for a final check of about $3.7 million.

The partnership is currently a five year deal that results in approximately $200 million in funding from Leisurcorp to the European Tour. Basically, the Dubai government wants in on golf and wants to make the chic city of the Middle East the primary destination for golf and luxury. Nevermind a lousy human rights record for the people of Dubai - many of whom are basically indentured servants.

The European Tour could not turn this down, even with the criticism they would receive for knowing that up front. $200 million is a lot of money and instantly gives the Euro Tour a legitimate claim against the PGA Tour. The suggestion was inspired by Ernie Els and other Euro Tour mainstays, so George O'Grady felt he had to respond to the FedEx Cup and his players. He did.

Is it a sellout? You betcha. There's no way around that fact. It is a sellout that O'Grady feels he had to make though.

When you sellout, you always have to give up some things in return. What does the European Tour lose as a result of this? They lose a sense of independence because they are now in bed with Leisurecorp. They may lose some tournament attendance and marketing in Europe proper because the Tour has formalized that it is looking beyond Europe, even though it has for years. They lose being able to play some of their events on courses that are actually good and not attached to housing developments. (The host course for the Dubai World Championship is a Greg Norman design. See my point?)

That does not sound all that great. What does O'Grady get in return? A TON of money to attract European players back to their home tour. Access to 7 star (really?) results in Dubai and the filtered money of some incredibly rich emirates. And, probably most important, an almost certain guarantee that Tiger Woods will seek out his European Tour card. That means O'Grady will also get several more European Tour starts out of Woods and have the world number one all to himself for multiple events - not only in Dubai, but in Asia as well.

It's hard to argue that Woods is not worth that cost, but it will remain to be seen.

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