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On the DP World Tour Championship, There’s Also a Battle Off the Course

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The lead-up to the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, last 12 months couldn’t have been more different than what it is that this week. And one indication is what the tour itself is saying — and never saying — in regards to the upstart but well-financed LIV Golf league.

The interest last 12 months in one in every of the signature events on the DP World Tour, then still often known as the European Tour, was high for all the appropriate reasons: the battle for the season-long Race to Dubai competition, an honor formerly often known as the Order of Merit, was set to be won by an American for the primary time.

Billy Horschel, who had won the W.G.C.-Dell Technologies Matchplay championship and the BMW PGA Championship, and Collin Morikawa, the reigning British Open champion, got here in at the highest of the standings, while the third-place golfer, Jon Rahm, was not playing within the tournament. Either way, an American seemed set to win the tour’s top honor.

“Collin Morikawa and Billy Horschel are great players and great ambassadors of the sport, and we’re grateful for them,” Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said in an interview on the time.

But his comments were tempered. The European Tour had recently entered right into a partnership with the PGA Tour to create a pathway for European players trying to compete on the PGA Tour; it also benefited European players by elevating a few of their events.

“Before the PGA Tour became our partner, versus a competitor, it could have meant loads more for an American to be in contention within the Race to Dubai,” he said. “The importance of an American winning would have been much greater up to now.”

Morikawa won the tournament and the Race to Dubai last 12 months. It was a whole lot of hardware for one player to take home.

A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf Series

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A recent series. The debut of the brand new Saudi-financed LIV Golf series has resurfaced longstanding questions on athletes’ moral obligations and their desire to compete and earn money. Here’s what to know:

What’s LIV Golf? The series is an upstart skilled golf circuit bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Its organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the best level of professional golf for nearly a century.

Why is the brand new series controversial? The event has created sparks inside golf for upending the traditions and strictures of how the sport is played. It has also turn into a lightning rod for human rights campaigners who accuse Saudi Arabia of using sports to launder its fame.

What’s attracting the players? The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history. The primary tournament’s total purse was $25 million, and the winner’s share was $4 million. The last-place finisher at each event was guaranteed $120,000. That’s on top of the looks fees and nine-figure signing-on payouts some players have accepted.

Only one 12 months later that looks like ancient history. The explanation, like many things in the game, is LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed league that lured skilled golfers with guaranteed multimillion-dollar pay days. It has modified the golfing landscape and created conflict between players who were formerly friendly competitors.

On the DP World Tour, it’s added one other wrinkle, because under certain rules members who’ve played LIV events may also qualify for DP World Tour events based on their world rankings, something akin to double-dipping within the minds of top players like Horschel.

This conflict got here into stark relief on the BMW PGA Championship, one other premier event on the DP World Tour. This 12 months, players who remained loyal to the tour spoke out against former competitors who had gone to LIV.

“They decided to go play on that tour, and so they should go play there,” Horschel said before the BMW championship.

The actual rancor was reserved for players who had previously not played on the DP World Tour, but were using their eligibility to play the BMW to earn world rating points to stay eligible for major championships. LIV events don’t receive world rating points.

So what does this 12 months hold?

Pelley and his counterpart, Jay Monahan, PGA Tour commissioner, have had a tricky 12 months. But Pelley, in an interview, gave a rosy review and outlook for the DP World Tour. He pointed to an attendance increase of 32 percent across 4 of the tour’s more significant tournaments, including the Scottish Open and the BMW PGA. (That increase was coming off a depressed base when Covid-19 restrictions were in force.)

“It looks like Dubai goes to proceed that trend, and the fans are going to have one other terrific finale to enjoy,” he said.

Neither Morikawa nor Horschel are playing in Dubai. Morikawa is getting married. Horschel is solely not playing this 12 months. Nor are Lee Westwood, a former champion, and Ian Poulter, a fan favorite, who’ve gone to LIV.

The highest players leading within the season-long event are strong. Rory McIlroy, the No. 1-ranked player on this planet, is well in front. Ryan Fox, who has played his way into the highest 25, is in second, and the USA Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick is in third.

McIlroy could add the DP World Tour’s season-long title to this 12 months’s FedEx Cup Championship, its equivalent on the PGA Tour.

Given McIlroy’s taunting of Greg Norman, one other former world No. 1 golfer and the chief executive of LIV Golf, winning the season-long title could be particularly sweet. Henrik Stenson is the one other player to win each the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai, but he won the titles in two different years. Stenson now plays on LIV, a call that resulted in him being stripped of his captaincy of the Ryder Cup’s European squad for next 12 months.

Relating to the broader 12 months ahead, though, Pelley has made announcements on tournaments and prize money sooner than up to now.

“We’ve traditionally used the DP World Tour Championship to announce our full schedule for the next season, but we brought that forward this 12 months because there have been various really positive enhancements we desired to tell the players about,” he said.

The main target this 12 months has been on raising prize money that mirrors what the PGA Tour has done for its members to maintain them from jumping to LIV. The DP World Tour’s overall prize fund is $144.2 million — a $50 million increase from 2021.

There’s a bonus pool for the highest eight players and the primary 4 Rolex Series events have $9 million prize funds. There is also guaranteed money for younger or struggling players. The so-called Earnings Assurance program sets a base of $150,000 for golfers who play 15 events on the tour.

Pelley looked as if it would put a dig in at LIV when he said those minimum payments “also recognize and reward the achievement of simply making it on to the DP World Tour whilst maintaining the meritocracy and purity of a performance-based structure on our tour.”

The knock against LIV, after all, is that the league out-and-out bought players. That could be true, but the large, guaranteed money LIV has offered in making a 48-player league has pushed the DP World Tour to make changes. And people are going to profit players beyond who wins this week.

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