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  • Alistair Tait

Second Thoughts For DP World?

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

How do you say, can we have our money back in Arabic?

You have to wonder if DP World executives are having doubts about the significant investment they’ve made to become title sponsors of the European Tour.

The DP World Tour, formerly the European Tour, doesn’t exactly live up to its billing when the world’s number one player can’t be bothered to turn up to play in its premier tournament. Not just the current number one, but a former and potential future world number one too.

Jon Rahm’s decision to take a pass on this week’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not even a week had passed since the ink had dried on the lucrative contract the UAE logistics company signed with the European Tour when Rahm opted out of the season finale on what is supposedly his home tour. Not just Rahm. Justin Rose is playing in this week’s RLM Classic on the PGA Tour. Rising star Viktor Hovland is having a week off.

Surely some DP World execs can’t be happy? They must be wondering why they’re spending $9 million to sponsor this week’s tournament, and many more millions to become title sponsor, when three of the world’s top players are skipping the season-ending finale?

As independent contractors, nothing compels Rahm and company to travel to Dubai. The Spaniard has made close to $12 million this year in prize money alone. Goodness knows what he‘s made in off-course earnings. He’s played 21 tournaments, with victory in the U.S. Open the highlight of his season; caught Covid; and he and wife Kelley welcomed the birth of their first child, Kepa, in April.

Rahm was clearly shattered after missing the cut in the Estrella Damn N.A. Masters at Valderrama last month. No surprise he wants to kick back with his family and take in a few Arizona State football games.

Pretty sure if we’d made enough money to last a lifetime by the middle of October we’d be thinking of shutting down for the rest of the year too. However, Rahm had a chance to win the Race to Dubai for the second time in three years with a good showing in the Middle East this week. He trails Collin Morikawa and Billy Horschel in the race to become number one.

It’s a now basically a two-horse race with the prospect of an American winning the Harry Vardon trophy for the first time.

Hovland is 12th on the R2D and Rose 22nd. Neither had a chance of becoming European number one.

As friend and fellow golf writer John Huggan intimated recently, becoming European Tour number one just doesn’t have the same allure as it once did. And that’s to be lamented.

No surprise European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley has said publicly he understands Rahm’s position. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? The Canadian isn’t going to do anything to upset one of his star players.

Privately Pelley must be extremely disappointed. So must other European Tour officials who have worked so hard to put the DP World deal together. The absence of Rahm, Hovland and Rose is a bit of slap in the face to those hard-working European Tour employees who’ve bust their you know whats all year to keep the show on the road during the difficult conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. And they’re not on eight figure salaries, or seven or six figure paycheques.

The absence of the star trio doesn’t bode well for next year either. Pelley recently made a big song and dance about the 2022 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai becoming the first eight-figure purse among regular tournaments in European Tour history. But if $9 million can’t lure some of the top players then will another million? Sadly, the answer is probably no. The stars have so much money they can afford to play wherever and whenever they want.

However, we’re talking the European Tour’s season finale. Would any of them ever have dreamed of turning down a $9 million purse when they were playing amateur golf? Would they take a pass on the FedEx Cup? I think not.

Myself and a couple of other journalists had lunch with a high-ranking European Tour official during the 2017 DP World Tour Championship, Dubai who privately lamented Rory McIlroy’s absence that year. Said official basically asked what the tour had to do to get star players to play when they were so rich they could turn down possible seven-figure cheques?

That question is as pertinent now as it was then.

Wonder if DP World insisted on a break clause in the contract it signed with the Tour?

How do you say, we’re having second thoughts in Arabic?

#JustSaying: “The entire ecosystem of our Tour will be strengthened because of this hugely significant deal,” Keith Pelley on DP World become title sponsor of the European Tour

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