• Alistair Tait

Where is golf headed when $10.5 million can't buy a top-class field?

Updated: Feb 23


Promoters of this week’s WGC – Mexico Championship probably feel like a long serving European Tour official felt during last year’s $8 million DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.


Depressed.


Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson are not playing in Mexico this week even though the tournament carries a $10.5 million purse, has no cut and offers certain points for the Official World Golf Ranking, Ryder Cup, FedEx Cup, Race to Dubai and Olympic Games.


This was not supposed to happen.


The World Golf Championships were put together 21 years ago to head off Greg Norman’s world golf tour idea. The thinking was that if there were occasional tournaments that got the world’s best together on a regular basis then there would be no need for a world tour.


Great idea in theory, but not in practice. As we’re seeing this week, and we’ve seen on occasions when WGC tournaments were held outside the USA, these guys have so much money that $10.5 million can’t guarantee a top-class field


The Rolex Series was created for much the same reason the WGCs were invented. European Tour CEO Keith Pelley pushed the idea four years ago as a means of getting PGA Tour based Europeans to play more in Europe. It hasn’t quite panned out that way, which is why the European Tour official was downbeat in Dubai last year.


He was bemoaning the fact that the previous two Rolex Series tournaments – the Turkish Airlines Open and Nedbank Golf Challenge – had struggled to get the sort of fields befitting tournaments worth $7 million and $7.5 million respectively. The Nedbank was the weakest of the eight 2019 Rolex Series events despite being the second richest.


Rory McIlroy turned up in Dubai last year with no chance of winning the Race to Dubai despite having an outstanding season.


No wonder the European Tour official was depressed. He was downbeat because these guys make so much money that purses in excess $7 million just don’t cut it any more for the top players.


Money certainly isn’t motivating the top guys to travel to Mexico. They don’t need to when their bank balances are stuffed to overflowing.


The top players don’t need to chase the dollar. It chases them.


Rose and Stenson played in this year’s SMBC Singapore Open, a co-sanctioned event between the Asian and Japan Golf Tour worth a measly $1 million. Rose finished second to Matt Kuchar and won $100,000 to add to his probable seven-figure appearance fee. Kuchar would also have picked up appearance fee to go with his $180,000 winner’s check, albeit maybe not as much as the wad needed to lure the Olympic gold medal winner. Silver medallist Stenson would also have been paid to turn up.


Obviously there was a time when a $10.5 million purse would have had Rose and co queuing up to play. No more. And why should they when they have more money than they’ll ever be able to spend? They can play wherever they like.


All of the above begs the question: where is golf headed when players won’t board their private jets to play for $10.5 million?

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