European Tour Hits the Jackpot with Rolex Series

By: Golfshake Editor | Thu 17 Nov 2016 | Comments


Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements


WHEN Keith Pelley was appointed chief executive of the European Tour last year he said that we should not start to make judgments on his tenure until the 2017 schedule was announced.

The Final Series, which concludes with the Dubai World Championship, has essentially been a straight rip-off of the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup playoffs, but without the huge financial rewards on offer in the United States. That is not to say that our best European golfers are underpaid because they certainly aren't. But when compared with their counterparts in the USA they have always been the poor relations, which explains why so many top Europeans play so much of their golf on the other side of the Atlantic.

There has always been a belief that if the European Tour could find a way to increase its prize funds then the likes of Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox, Martin Laird, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia et al would spend less time on the other side of the Atlantic. Thanks to Pelley, we may be about to find out whether that is true.

For 2017, the Final Series is to be scrapped and replaced with something called the Rolex Series - and Pelley describes it as a game changer. The Rolex Series will comprise eight tournaments offering more than £50m in prize money - the Turkish Airlines Open, NedBank Challenge and Dubai World Championship remain and will be joined by the French Open, BMW PGA Championship, the Irish Open, the Scottish Open and the Italian Open in a revamped schedule.

“There are a number of reasons why we brought it in but one is the fact we wanted something from the financial perspective that would allow the young players to have an opportunity to choose where they wanted to play and they didn’t have to go to the US,” he said. “We are very optimistic this is a critical game-changer for the European Tour.” 

McIlroy has already welcomed the announcement. As host and winner of the Irish Open it should come as no surprise to anybody that he is thrilled the tournament will now boast a £5.6m prize fund when it is staged at Portstewart in Co Londonderry and marks the start of a three-week run of links golf, moving on to the Scottish Open at Dundonald and The Open at Birkdale.

"This gives guys an incentive to maybe play a little bit more on this side of the pond leading up to the Open Championship and hopefully get some great fields,” he said. “It’s getting more and more difficult to play two tours. With the regulations that the PGA Tour are putting upon us and with how great the events are becoming over here, it’s hard to jump back and forth and play tournaments

“So I think you might see more guys spending prolonged periods in either/or, because jumping back and forth, you can do it for so long, but in the long run, it just doesn’t work too well. I’m very grateful for the Irish Open being in this Rolex Series. We’ve been given a great date.”

The Tour and Rolex will make up the £10 million shortfall in funding for the BMW PGA Championship, Irish Open and Scottish Open to bring each of these events up to the £5.6m mark.

Pelley has previous form. A Canadian, he was the man responsible for introducing a £3.5bn TV deal for the National Hockey League in his homeland. He has also announced plans for  a new six-hole event incorporating a shot clock, music, different clothes and fewer clubs.

“There are a number of reasons why we brought it in but one is the fact we wanted something from the financial perspective that would allow the young players to have an opportunity to choose where they wanted to play and they didn’t have to go to the US,” he said. “We are very optimistic this is a critical game-changer for the European Tour.” 

Of course, time will tell if Pelley is on the right track, but this has to be hailed as a positive move for the European Tour.

 


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