The European Tour will be known as the DP World Tour from the start of the 2022 season
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The European Tour is no more. From next season, golf’s second biggest circuit will be called the DP World Tour, in a deal with the Dubai company which could prove to be worth up to $1bn.
The bonanza will be triggered almost immediately with the 2022 campaign starting in two weeks time and boasting total prize money of more than $200 million for the first time.
The name-change and startling investment has caused ripples throughout a professional game still reeling from the recent and ongoing attempts by Saudi Arabia to challenge the status quo at the elite level. While this will be seen as a response to the threat of losing big names, this is a partnership with the logistics firm owned by the Dubai government, that has been more than two years in the pipeline.
Telegraph Sport has since learned that in the summer the deal was feared to be under jeopardy because of Saudi links with DP World – the port operator whose first contract was in Jeddah – but Keith Pelley, the Tour’s chief executive, and right-hand man Guy Kinnings managed to get it over the line.
At Tuesday’s glitzy announcement at the Dubai Expo, Pelley was unrepentant in bringing to an end an era of almost 50 years.
“When I joined [in 2015] I told the board, I felt the name of the Tour was a misnomer and did not reflect our brand. Next year, we will have 47 events, 23 of which will be in Europe and 24 in other countries around the globe,” Pelley said, before a cheeky reference to Saudi plans to create a global circuit. “We are definitely a World Tour.”
For the Tour to trade its naming rights and embark on a radical rebranding is a huge undertaking at Wentworth HQ and underlines how much the Emirati is putting up in what is quite easily the Tour’s biggest-ever commercial deal. DP World’s association with the Tour spans more than a decade, but this economic input will be on a different level.
Pelley declined to reveal the exact scale of the finance – with the naming rights wrapped up within the Dubai Ports contract which also backs events and the year-long Race To Dubai – but it is understood to be set over 10 years with initial guarantees of $70 million-plus per annum. Pelly and his board may come under pressure for essentially selling up to a country accused of systemic human rights abuses, but they will contend their duties are towards their player members.
Yes, rich golfers will be getting even richer. As a gauge, last year’s combined Tour prize funds (excluding majors) was $70m – next year it will be $140m. “Including the majors it will be north of $200m,” Pelley said.
There will be a minimum purse of $2m at each event, with at least 13 tournaments above that and the five in the Rolex Series offering at least $8 million. The 2022 DP World Tour Championship – the season-ending finale which stages its 13th edition next week – will have a purse of $10m, which as Pelley said, “will be our first regular event to have an eight-figure prize fund”. More stops will be added, while the Challenge Tour, the main Tour’s feeder league, will also benefit significantly.
Tommy Fleetwood was one of the Ryder Cup players in attendance in the grand DP World Pavillion at the world expo, with world No 1 Jon Rahm, Ian Poulter and American Collin Morikawa, the Open champion, appearing via video to celebrate the news. As well as they might. It has been a staggering turnaround by a Tour which in the midst of the pandemic was afraid for its future.
A vital upturn came in last November’s “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour, which included a cash injection. The US circuit is on board with this revamp, with Jay Monahan, the PGA Tour’s commissioner, also on videolink to express his congratulations. “This is a landmark deal on a landmark day,” Monahan said.