Dubai shakes world order with 'richest event'

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The Independent Online

From next season the European Tour will climax with what is claimed will be the "world's richest and most exciting tournament" in a radical shake-up of the calendar that is causing reverberations across the golfing landscape.

With an overall prize pot of almost £10m, the Dubai World Championship will replace the Volvo Masters as the grand finale to the campaign – which will now run, blessedly, from January to November instead of October to October – with the Order of Merit giving way to the "Race To Dubai".

The top 60 performers on the money list will qualify for the event, due to make its debut in November 2009, with the first prize worth more than £800,000 and the "Race To Dubai" bonus, almost £1m. It means that one putt at the end of the week could be worth £1.8m.

Intriguingly, however, the "world's richest and most exciting golfer" may not be there. Tiger Woods is not a member of the European Tour and would be ineligible. To join the Tour, the world No 1 would have to fill in a form, pay a £250 fee and play in 11 tournaments on the schedule.

He plays in around nine and is not believed to be willing to increase his travels, despite having links with Dubai, where he competes in the Desert Classic and is designing his first course.

George O'Grady, the Tour's chief executive said that he doubted whether any provision would be made to make it easier for Woods. Indeed, he expects a meeting of the players' committee at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January to raise the minimum requirement to 12 or 13.

O'Grady and the tournament's backers Leisurecorp – the Dubai government-linked company developing the residential golf community – would wish to see Woods and Phil Mickelson in the field. But they maintain that what they term a "long-term" partnership is about more than one golfer.

They will also fund the construction of an international HQ for the tour and help to fund other tournaments. The HQ proper will stay at Wentworth. A crucial factor in this alliance is the creation of a property company to develop new tournament venues around the world. And therein lies the real story and profits.

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