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TEE TO GREEN, STEVE SCOTT: DP World Tour begins 2023 in more optimistic position than anticipated

The Continent of Europe's win in the Hero Cup started the 2023 DP World Tour, but it's the serious business of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week.
The Continent of Europe's win in the Hero Cup started the 2023 DP World Tour, but it's the serious business of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week.

They’re not out of the storm yet – by a long chalk – but the DP World Tour is in steadier waters than they might have anticipated as the 2023 schedule begins proper in Abu Dhabi this week.

After last week’s entertaining knockabout at the Hero Cup, a decently full field gets down to business proper at Yas Links.

There’s even a welcome for LIVers Lee Westwood, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed, refreshed no doubt from spending all that extra time with their families.

PGA Tour’s restructure is clear

The effects of the PGA Tour’s restructuring are clear, however. Reed is the only big American name here and in Dubai next week. Of course he’s no longer a PGA Tour member.

The Gulf Swing used to get quite a few US-based players of decent calibre. Rory McIlroy launches his year in Dubai next week, but there’s no sign of the Spieths, Morikawas and others who would fleetingly frequent the Middle East this time of year.

The prospect of more ‘co-sanctioned’ events under the strategic alliance continues to be discussed, and one or more of the Gulf events is always quoted as a candidate.

If Abu Dhabi or Dubai is to again get the sort of field it’s often been accustomed to, this will probably have to happen.

But in the meantime the Tour looks reasonably solid, despite the threat from LIV.

It’s started, inevitably, to pivot towards a schedule that next year will have more quality than the present quantity. That means more breaks for players, which they seem to back. No longer is it an absolute necessity to have an event every week.

This is, of course, partly driven by expediency. Top players are gravitating to the PGA Tour more than ever, especially from February through to June. And it just makes financial sense to focus on a core of stronger events.

Sponsors sticking with the tour

But the tour is not yet losing key sponsors – on the contrary, BMW and the Hero Corporation have re-signed long-term.

Omega, Betfred and Porsche are still on board, and Volvo – a blast from the past – have rejoined. Genesis and Horizon have signed on as part of the strategic alliance.

Maybe there’s a few gaps and maybe it’s not as all-singing and dancing as the PGA Tour’s sponsorship roster. But it’s still better than any other tour in the game.

The other impending issue is next month’s full arbitration hearing to determine whether the injunction granted before last July’s Scottish Open stands up and LIV players can continue to play on the DP World Tour. Tour sources continue to say they will rigorously contest this case.

The injunction was granted in the main because the tour took much too long to decide on a sanction for LIV defectors. Then they sprung it on them a couple of weeks before it was to be enacted. It was, unquestionably, unfair.

But that was then, and this is now. LIV players can’t argue they don’t know exactly what the sanctions are.

The LIV players also need to be a bit smarter than their American brethren were in their failed case with the PGA Tour.

The main assertion then that players were being economically disadvantaged by a PGA Tour ban was laughed out of court. The judge pointedly noted the millions paid upfront by the Saudis.

Plenty positive pointers for Luke Donald

Last week’s Hero Cup might not have had the thrills of even a Presidents Cup, but it was good fun. And there was lots of decent stuff for Luke Donald to chew over.

The Continent of Europe won – for what it is worth. They had four players who played all four session unbeaten. They were captain Francesco Molinari, late call-up Nicolai Hojgaard, Italy’s Guido Migliozzi and our favourite Frenchman, Victor Perez.

Even if Molinari doesn’t have a stellar 2023, I’m for using a wildcard on him. He has the right mix of experience and fight that could be missing from Europe due to the ‘retirements’.

Best scoring on the GB&I team were skipper Tommy Fleetwood and to no-one’s surprise, Robert MacIntyre. I now think just a merely solid season from Bob is going to get him in.

Donald probably knows he’s going to have to use one, maybe two of his picks on rookies.

But the skipper last week saw an impressive batch of players. If several are playing strongly in the high season of July and August, he need have few fears about using a wildcard on them.

Poulter’s pathetic pique

The other Ryder Cup drama of the week was Ian Poulter’s hilarious pique at he and Sergio Garcia being snubbed birthday greetings by the official Ryder Cup Europe Twitter account.

The catalyst wasn’t even the account celebrating someone else’s birthday. It was a harmless video recalling Francesco Molinari’s short game excellence in Paris four years ago. But that was enough to rattle Poulter’s chain.

Predictably, golf twitter’s response to this was predictably savage. The best that can be said is maybe Poults is starved for attention with LIV so mysteriously silent.

Although, as Sky’s Jamie Weir pointed out, the LIV twitter feed roused themselves to wish him a Happy Birthday. Only that was several minutes AFTER his complaint about being snubbed by Ryder Cup Europe.

Scottish PGA comes to Scotscraig

Great new that the Scottish PGA Championship – the oldest solely professional event in the game – is coming to Scotscraig GC in Tayport in August.

It’s the cornerstone of the Arnold Clark Tartan Tour schedule for 2023, which runs from April until October.

Scotscraig, the 13th oldest golf club in the world, has hosted Open qualifying in the past as well as several big amateur events.

It’s also a personal favourite where my late father was captain, but don’t let my bias distract you. It’s a proper gem, a hybrid links/heathland layout not always noticed lying equidistant between St Andrews and Carnoustie.