Monday, June 2, 2008

The Ironies of the Race to Dubai

I have written about the Race to Dubai on my own and linked to stories in this blog. Often, I have talked about and linked to stories concerning the idea of trying to compete with the PGA Tour and bring Euros to the home continent to play golf. Of course, the irony of that is that Arab money is what is at stake to help create that carrot of enticement. Still, this story in the Daily Express in the UK focuses on the new potential that the Race to Dubai may require more participation on the European continent than today's qualifications for the Volvo PGA Championship.

[Justin] Rose’s notable achievement in winning the Order of Merit in 2007 was tinged with embarrassment because he played just 12 European Tour events, only one more than the minimum needed to qualify for Valderrama. As that included four Majors and the three World Golf Championship events, sightings of him in Europe were a rarity.

The European No1 played just six events on the Continent last year and this year he has cut back even further. His present schedule for 2008 includes only four. Tournament committee member Colin Montgomerie said: “It was great for Justin to win the Order of Merit but we have to encourage our top players to play more in Europe. You can win the Order of Merit without hardly playing in Europe, which doesn’t seem quite right.”

The committee’s latest suggestion is to keep the minimum to qualify for the Dubai spectacular at 11 events next year but make certain European-based tournaments mandatory within that figure. Co-sanctioned events in Asia would no longer count towards it.
There has been a trend among European players to head home to play more often in Europe in recent years. Even some non-native Euros, like Ernie Els (home in London), have tried to get in Euro Tour sanctioned and co-sanctioned events more often outside of the majors and the WGCs. This has been happening for about three or four years even without the bribe of the Race to Dubai - and that's what it is, a bribe, just like the FedEx Cup.

Still, making participation a requirement in certain events played in Europe to get to Dubai seems to run counter-intuitively to the point of the whole concept. The Euro Tour wants to be, in effect, a global tour. But, it may not want to count co-sanctioned events in Asia toward that tally. It would be an approach to promoting professional golf in a Euro-centric fashion that harnesses upon money from Asia and the Arab nations, and a golf schedule whose majority of marquee events are not even played in Europe.

I still think the concept is a great idea - it's going to be huge. It is hard to deny, though, that the approach is just a little ironic.

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