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STEVE SCOTT: Rescue package from Covid, or a gamechanger? The DPWorld Tour is both, and can be much more

European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley.

The European Tour has become the DP World Tour to not just survive, but actually to get back to pre-pandemic levels of prizemoney.

The deal sees the long-time sponsor of the season-ending beanfeast in Dubai – this year’s version is next week – have moved up to be the overall sponsor of the tour. The un-revealed total investment must be considerable.

Prizemoney will hit record levels of $200m (£150m-odd) and beyond in 2022. Even the most modest of current tour events – the reduced Covid-era versions – will double in worth overnight.

A leap away from pandemic rations

While those involved would no doubt blanche at the suggestion this was a rescue package, it’s effectively what it is.

And although those announcing it declined to refer to the African Bush Bull-sized Elephant in the Room yesterday, it’s also clearly in response to the Saudi-financed LIV group led by Greg Norman.

The European Tour’s rank and file players had to be a target of the still-somewhat vague takeover of the Asian Tour by the group fronted by the former major champion.

That proposed tour needs players, and the ripest for the early picking are not the PGA Tour regulars but the under-earning Euro Tour players currently subsisting on pandemic rations.

Now, with money coming in from Dubai, these players don’t have to take the Saudi coin. And in one leap, the Euros seem to be free of the crippling damage done to the tour by Covid.

And all they really had to give up was the name.

‘European’ Tour was now a misnomer anyway

The European Tour has been titled sponsored before – it was the Volvo Tour in the 1980s. That was a huge sea-change.

Money levels rose. The PGA Championship moved to Wentworth and became the flagship event. Player lounges and physio trucks appeared. The Tour became a properly serious entity. It’s not hard to imagine this could be as big a gamechanger.

Behind the scenes, in the corporate world according to chief executive Keith Pelley, it’s still the European Tour. The Ryder Cup is unaffected.

But as Pelley also pointed out, it ceased to be a “European Tour” years ago. He’s been gunning for a change reflecting that for some time.

Less than half the 47 events in 2022 will be based on this continent. There’s one in Japan and another Asian location, as yet un-identified.

Big names line up in support

It was interesting to see who the Tour were able to pull out in enthusiastic support of their change. World No 1 Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Collin Morikawa, the Open champion and perhaps the most appealing of the young Americans.

Patrick Reed, Shane Lowry, Lee Westwood and others appeared on the presentation video.

PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan appeared from Houston lending his vocal support. Pelley also casually dropped the names of Martin Slumbers of the R&A and Will Jones of Augusta National into one of his answers, at least hinting they were along for the ride.

The image created was establishment golf united to form a phalanx against an assault from the outsiders.

The wider geopolitical element

There’s a geopolitical element in all of this that is curious. Dubai and the other Emirates are clearly miles ahead of the Saudis in golf development, and they seem to want to hold on to that, in defiance of the main power in the region.

Qatar, at least for a while, found being too ambitious on their own behalf (hosting the soccer World Cup and having their own media strands) annoyed their hugely rich neighbour. It’ll be interesting to see if that scenario develops.

But for Pelley and his financial lieutenant Guy Kinnings, this seems like a triumph. And also a message to Greg Norman and the Saudis: Your move.