In the wake of a generally lukewarm response from the leading players to the climax of the 2017-’18 season, European Tour officials announced on Wednesday a large boost to the prize money offered at this year’s final three Rolex Series events. Most strikingly, the winner of the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai will pocket a check for $3 million, larger than the winner’s share in any major championship or PGA Tour event, and $1.67 million more than Danny Willett was paid for his victory last year.
The two preceding “playoff” events that help conclude the season—the Turkish Airlines Open and the Nedbank Challenge—will also see large increases to the winner’s bank accounts. In the first, the champion will earn $2 million, up from $1.16 million, and in the latter the winner will be paid $2.5 million, double what Lee Westwood picked up in 2018. In turn, the equivalent points in the season-long Race to Dubai competition will rise. The 9,000 points the winner in Turkey will earn is 2,000 up on last year. Nedbank goes up from 7,500 to 10,000, and Dubai to 12,000 from 8,000.
What will not change, however, are the total prize funds. Turkey will still offer $7 million, Nedbank $7.5 million and the DP World $8 million.
Also seeing change is the bonus money paid out to those at the top of the season-long Race to Dubai standings. From this year, the funds will be distributed amongst the leading five players, rather than 10 as before. First-place will pay $2 million, second $1.2 million, third $700,000, fourth $600,000 and fifth $500,000.
Amidst that plethora of increases, some decreases are also in the pipeline. The field in Turkey will be reduced from 78 to 70; Nedbank will do down from 72 to 60; and the DP World will see only the top 50 golfers taking part, down from 60.
“The changes we have announced today in terms of enhanced winner’s checks, Race to Dubai points and Bonus Pool dividend are designed to increase the excitement around the end of the season for our fans, as well as encourage greater top player participation in our final three events,” said European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley in a press release. “We have undertaken significant analysis recently and have found that had these additional Race to Dubai points been available over the past five years, on average between five and 16 players would have come to our final event with a chance of winning the Race to Dubai, in addition to an average of 43 players having the chance to earn Bonus Pool money at the end of the season.” Pelley noted that both numbers are “considerably higher than was actually the case in those years.”
Still, whatever the arithmetic, this massive injection of cash is also a clear reaction to the absence of so many marquee names from some of the European Tour’s highest-profile showcase events. For example, only three members of last year’s winning European Ryder Cup side—Justin Rose, Timmy Fleetwood and Thorbjorn Olesen—played a little more than a month later in Turkey last November. Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy were the only two competing at the Nedbank. And two—Rose and Paul Casey—did not bother to make the trip to Dubai for the season finale.
Such an overt display of indifference was surely a huge public relations blow to both the tour and the sponsors. Whether more money makes any difference on that front—or leads to a bigger American presence on the European Tour following the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup playoffs—remains to be seen.