Can it be that it was all so simple then? Sorry to go all Babs Streisand on you, but the start of the DP World Tour in Abu Dhabi this week has me thinking about the way we were.
In October 2008, the European golfing press finished off the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews. They were then transported en masse down to the (pre-Trump) Turnberry to be, basically, unacceptably lavished for two nights.
On arrival in our rooms at the Ayrshire palace, we found the bed heaving with stuff. Shirts, a rain suit, new golf shoes, golf balls and various accessories. There followed dinner and a whisky tasting that night.
The next day it was golf on the Ailsa, obviously. But not before we were custom-fitted with a brand new Taylor Made driver (I never hit a ball straight that day or thereafter with mine). The second night there was a sumptuous grand dinner at Culzean Castle.
This “bung” to us undeserving journalists still ranks as the greatest in modern times, and is still spoken of in hushed tones. Who was responsible for this incredible largesse? It was the original launch of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai.
DP World saved the tour a second time
Next stop, @ADGolfChamps ✈️
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 16, 2022
The R2D was supposed to secure the long-term future of the European Tour. But we were in the middle of a three-year economic crash at the time and despite their assurances, Dubai was not immune.
The tour did not become a real rival to the PGA Tour, as we were told was the ultimate aim. It didn’t exactly flounder, but Rolex‘s presence to bolster the whole concept for a while was necessary and the pandemic really represented an existential threat.
The new deal to create the DP World Tour, doubling most prizefunds and embracing the Emirati connection even more enthusiastically, has saved the tour again.
It’s immensely to the credit of chief executive Keith Pelley and his chief lieutenant Guy Kinnings that this has happened. Their work in cobbling together a workable schedule during Covid times was outstanding in itself, and now they’ve effectively righted the ship back to pre-pandemic levels. Better, in many cases.
I think they’re going to shrug off any assault from the Saudi-funded rebel tour concept. Primarily, the players have clearly decided that they’re happy with what they’ve always done, and that works both ways.
They forced a compromise to allow them to play the Saudi International and some limited releases to Asian Tour events. But there’s still no sign of any player willing to give up his scheduling rights to commit to any SGL or PGL concept. Or any mass defection to Greg Norman’s LIV Developments group.
Also, the recent deal to bring the Australian PGA into the DP World Tour fold was significant. The solid arrangement with South Africa’s Sunshine Tour and the R&A’s decision to remove an Open exemption from Asian Tour events shows which way the ball is rolling.
A decent place to make a living
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 17, 2022
So here we are in Abu Dhabi and the tour can be fairly content with where it is. The idea that it can truly compete with the PGA Tour is clearly dead, after the ‘strategic partnership’ between the tours.
But the DP World Tour will have a few times – Desert Swing in January, high season in July, September and October – when many of the top world players will play in their events. More events will follow the Genesis Scottish Open and become co-sanctioned, counting for both FedEx Cup and R2D.
The rest of the time, the DP World cash input makes the European Tour a more than decent place to make a living.
It’ll be more than a development circuit for the PGA Tour – PGA Europe as some feared – but the ultimate aim of most will be America. Or at least what Robert MacIntyre and his team call the “Tommy Schedule” – Fleetwood’s transatlantic diary. That, along with a PGA Tour card, is certainly Bob’s primary aim this season.
I know this is nowhere near what we were promised at Turnberry 14 years ago. But that whole two days now seems slightly unbelievable from a distance. If you’re still holding on for that kind of opulence, then you’ve not been paying attention these last few years.
We’ll never have anything like that again. But where the tour is now is the best place it can be.
Fresh blood needed…but it’s there
— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 17, 2022
So who do we expect a big season from this year? Whistling Straits showed an influx of young Europeans for the team captained by (fill this space) in Rome next year are needed.
Happily, there’s a number ready to take the step up to Viktor Hovland levels. The Hojgaard twins and Joachim B Hansen from Denmark (and Thorbjorn Olesen is back). Tom Detry of Belgium. Guido Mignozzi of Italy. Laurie Canter of England, and I expect a big bounceback season from the fiery Matt Wallace.
The wave of South African talent should continue as well. The country is an absolute paragon of development, thanks to great weather, great courses, fabulous support and basic talent. Some more diversity, as now illustrated in their world champion rugby team, would be welcome too.
Scotland? We’d love to see MacIntyre kick on again, Calum Hill graduate to contending the top events, Grant Forrest building. Connor Syme, Ewen Ferguson and Craig Howie (okay, one would be good) following their mates into the winners’ circle.
All of our tour players retained their rights in 2021, first time that had happened in a while. Same again – there’s 10 with cards this year – would be a solid bottom line.