Player power wins out for Final Series of events in Race to Dubai
Criteria altered for closing tournaments ending with DP world championship
Sergio Garcia: “I’m very happy to see that we’ve reached a middle ground which should help make us all happy.” Photograph: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
It would seem that player power has had its say, with the PGA European Tour
– bowing to the inevitable in many respects – changing the criteria for the season-ending Final Series of tournaments in the Race to Dubai which culminates in the DP World championship in the emirate.
Following the decisions of Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel to stay away from last season’s finale rather than meet a condition that forced them to play in two of the three preceding tournaments (two in China and one in Turkey), tour officials have backed down. Not only has the requirement to play two of the three events prior to Dubai been removed, the tour has also ensured there will be a 60-man field by expanding the qualifying criteria to include the “leading 60 available players”.
In ripping up the controversial entry requirements after just one year, the tour has seen sense. Els, Garcia and Schwartzel were all in the world’s top
25 at the time of last year’s tournament but, rather than be forced to cram their schedules, opted to stay away from the desert. The new criteria mean that such actions are unlikely to be repeated.
“The new regulations and the new points system are a good move,” said Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the players’ committee. “It means if you miss some of those events it will be difficult to win the Race to Dubai, so there is an incentive to play in as many Final Series events as possible. The goal for us was to get the top players to play in the Final Series and this will hopefully help do that.”
A number of changes have been introduced, both in qualifying criteria and the bonus pool available: this year, the leading 15 players on the order of merit competing at the DP World championship will share a bonus pool of $5m (up from $3.75m last year). Only the top 10 players were eligible previously.
Enhanced points system
More significantly, though, is the removal of the requirement for players to play a minimum number of tournaments in the Final Series which takes in the BMW Masters, the WGC-HSBC Champions, the Turkish Airlines Open and the season-ending DP World.
The European Tour has also introduced an enhanced points system for 2014. At the conclusion of the Perth International, prize money on the Race to Dubai will be converted into points (one Euro equalling one point). Each Final Series event will then carry a total points breakdown of 10,000,000, with the winner receiving 1,666,600 points. This new scheme is aimed at emphasising the importance of the Final Series tournaments by rewarding players for their performances in them.
Henrik Stenson, who claimed the Race to Dubai honours and topped the bonus pool last year, reacted to the restructuring: “These changes are for the better and won’t cut anyone out if they don’t want to play all of the Final Series events. It’s down to yourself, but if you do play in all of them you are giving yourself an even better chance of winning the Race to Dubai. It’s always nice to see an increase in the bonus pool as well, so I think the announcement is a good move all round.”
Garcia, one of the biggest critics of the short-lived original format, said: “At the end of the day, we are all working together. I’m very happy to see that we’ve reached a middle ground which should help make us all happy.”
This is an idle week on the European Tour but, with their eyes focused on the build-up to next month’s US Masters, there are three Irish players in the field for the Bay Hill Invitational. Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke, both Augusta-bound, are joined by Pádraig Harrington who must win over the coming three weeks if he is to secure an invite.