Wayne Ri­ley

With the prizes avail­able across the pond set to get even more as­tro­nom­i­cal this year, the Euro­pean Tour is strug­gling to com­pete. How­ever, I might just have the answer...

Golf Monthly - - Contents -

Re­veals his idea to boost the Rolex Se­ries

Well, the first thing to say is a very warm happy new year to all you folks! I hope you en­joyed your fes­tive pe­riod as much as I en­joyed mine and you feel re­laxed and re­freshed. It prom­ises to be a great year on the golf course and I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to see­ing how things play out. There are more world-class play­ers than ever be­fore and the year’s Ma­jor venues are as good as it gets.

One thing that left me slightly dis­ap­pointed about the end of last year, though, was the lim­ited num­ber of world-class play­ers com­pet­ing in the fi­nal events of the Euro­pean Tour sea­son. I don’t want to sug­gest that the fields were poor, as they ab­so­lutely weren’t, but I couldn’t help look at the en­try lists in Turkey, South Africa and Dubai and won­der where some of the big names were.

Now, I know last year was a Ry­der Cup year, and, as such, play­ers would have been ex­hausted by Oc­to­ber. But the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is that even Rolex Se­ries prize pools don’t get the big play­ers overly ex­cited be­cause the best play for such vast sums ev­ery week in Amer­ica.

Let’s take the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship – the event with the big­gest purse out­side the WGCS and Ma­jors – as an ex­am­ple. Danny Wil­lett won just over $1.3m for his vic­tory – a mind­blow­ing amount of money. Just a week be­fore, Matt Kuchar earned al­most as much for win­ning the Mayakoba Classic – an event at the start of the PGA Tour sea­son that used to form part of the Fall Se­ries.

The win­ners of the three Fedex­cup play-off events get over $1.6m, as do those who tri­umph at some reg­u­lar-sea­son tour­na­ments like the Arnold Palmer In­vi­ta­tional and the Me­mo­rial. The ma­jor­ity of reg­u­lar-sea­son PGA Tour events have purses over the $7m mark and a de­cent num­ber are over the $7,500,000 mark, some sig­nif­i­cantly. On the Euro­pean Tour, only the DP World Tour Cham­pi­onship has a purse over $7,500,000.

As you can see, the Euro­pean Tour can’t com­pete with the PGA Tour in terms of fi­nan­cial clout. And fi­nan­cial clout is what at­tracts the best play­ers, which in turn brings more world rank­ing points. I know it’s not ideal that so much re­volves around money, but that’s the re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion in top-tier pro­fes­sional sport.

I have some ideas to try and en­sure the best in the world come and play on the Euro­pean Tour and in the Rolex Se­ries events. First off, I think all the top Euro­peans should play and re­tain mem­ber­ship of the Euro­pean Tour. Most of these guys owe so much to their home cir­cuit – they prob­a­bly re­ceived a num­ber of ex­emp­tions when they were start­ing out and the tour has helped make them what they are to­day: very suc­cess­ful and well off.

Do I un­der­stand why many don’t play in the big Euro­pean Tour events, though? Yes, I do. There are so many places to ply your trade these days and you sim­ply can’t com­pete in ev­ery event. Would you play in an event with a $1m first prize when some­one in the back of beyond is giv­ing you that just to show up?

So how do we get the best play­ers to ap­pear in Euro­pean Tour and Rolex Se­ries events? In my mind, there are a lot of or­di­nary play­ers get­ting rich off the back of the world’s best these days. I know we need golf­ing jour­ney­men to make the glad­i­a­tors of our game look good, but big prize pools and spon­sor­ship only ex­ist be­cause of the box of­fice play­ers. I think the Euro­pean Tour should pi­o­neer a new top-heavy prize-fund sys­tem in the Rolex Se­ries events. In­stead of $1.2m for the winner, make it $2.2m and so on down the leader­board, so the player in last place gets, for ex­am­ple, $5,000 in­stead of $15,000. You’ve played badly and you should be paid as such. I know, badly is a rel­a­tive term! If you give the top five re­ally big bucks, that will get the at­ten­tion of the very best play­ers – they go into ev­ery event aim­ing to win.

Some jour­ney­men read­ing this will say it’s not fair. Well, they only play for the big coin be­cause of their more tal­ented con­tem­po­raries at­tract­ing spon­sors and putting bums on seats. In my day I drove around in a Lada, but now even those who don’t crack the top 80 on the Race to Dubai cruise around in Porsches.

I know some will dis­agree with what I’m say­ing, as they are per­fectly en­ti­tled to, and I do un­der­stand the rich-get­tin­gricher ar­gu­ment. But I think top-stack­ing prize pools would have an im­pact, grab the at­ten­tion of the world’s best play­ers and ultimately boost ex­cite­ment on the Euro­pean Tour.

■ Wayne Ri­ley is a for­mer mem­ber of the Euro­pean Tour and two-time winner who is part of the Sky Sports Golf Team. He writes ex­clu­sively for Golf Monthly

“In my day I drove around in a Lada, but now even those who don’t crack the top 80 on the Race to Dubai cruise around in Porsches”

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