It seems the European Tour has succumbed to pressure from players after announcing several changes to this year’s season-ending Final Series.
Several players were critical of the criteria for the Race To Dubai, which forced them to play in two of the three Final Series events in order to be eligible for the bonus pool and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The likes of Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel – all ranked in the world’s top 25 at the time of last year’s tournament – opted to pass on a trip to the desert rather than be forced to cram their schedules.
Els last year described the stipulation as “farcical”, saying, “In my view it’s an absolute joke. Why would they make a decision like that and expect guys to play?”
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.
Futhermore, the bonus pool has been increased from $3.75 million to $5m and will be shared among the top 15 players after the DP World Tour Championship, rather than the top 10.
The Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates … home to the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Whether asking players to show up for three of four consecutive weeks when playing for the $30 million on offer during the Final Series “is an absolute joke” as Els puts it remains a point of contention. However, what remains undeniable is the need for the best players to be competing at this showpiece event – for the good of the sponsors, the fans, the Tour and for the game.
According to Tournament Committee chairman Thomas Bjorn, the new regulations are “a good move” for exactly that reason.
“The goal for us was to get the top players to play in the Final Series and this will hopefully help do that,” the 15-time winner said.
“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.”
Schwartzel admitted he was considering his future as a European Tour member following the row last year, but said: “I will always try to support the European Tour when I can and it’s great to see that they are also trying to look after us with these new rules.
“It looks like the Final Series is moving in the right direction, to help the guys come and play in as many of the four events as possible. If you play more, you have a better chance of winning the Race to Dubai. And also by increasing the bonus pool and making it the top 15, they are all great incentives for us to play.”
Last year’s Race To Dubai winner, Henrik Stenson, backed the changes.
“It’s good to evaluate and make tweaks to any system,” the Swede said. “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.”
What do you think of the changes to the Race to Dubai?