The top 60 on the European Money list will qualify for the season finale, the Dubai World Championship (No, Dubai has not become a member of the European community, the European Tour is a globe-trotting thing these days, with quite a few Asian tournaments). The winner of this final tournament will pick up £813,800 ($1,666,660).
There will be a further $10m to be divvied up among the top 15. The winner of the race, to include the new event, will take $2m of that cashpot. It will be the end of the Order of Merit,which I had always thought was a great name for the money list, as it takes on the new moniker The Race to Dubai.
The beefy prize fund, though not on the scale of The Fedex Cup, has been enough to pique the interest of some big PGA Tour names. The biggest name to be rumoured is good ol' Big Phil. Vijay Singh, who made his name on the European tour, has also expressed interest. But the stumbling block in the path of their involvement has been the number of events required to be played to qualify for Tour Membership.
Today the requirements have been set - 12 tournaments must be played in order to qualify for membership, it had been rumoured it may be 13 so it's that little bit more manageable.
Thomas Bjorn, was the chairman of the committee setting the membership requirements and gave his take on it.
"With a 13-month season coming up it is reasonable to put the number up by one. It is not a big ask to play 12 events, especially when a lot of those guys [who may want to join the Tour] play four majors and three world golf championship events anyway. It was just time to change."
Questioned if a bigger minimum number to qualify was considered, he stated: "No, 12 was always the preferred number. "
An unexpected little caveat has been tacked on however, at least two of those tournaments must be played in continental Europe. The fields in recent tournaments on mainland Europe have been particularly weak, struggling to attract the bigger European stars, some clashing with big events in the US, others skipped as they chose to take a rest between Majors and the Ryder Cup. The only real interest they could generate was the Ryder Cup race, but that was just a few guys fighting it out and it was two guys who stayed in America who got picked anyhow. Without the Ryder Cup qualifying to at least draw a few names they would have had very sparse fields next year. This little innovation will ensure that some big players, perhaps VERY big if Phil and Vijay do come over, will play at least a few of them, which in turn should boost their chances of drawing big sponsors which in turn should draw stronger fields. Good thinking from Bjorn and co.
I think Phil should definitely go for it, there's plenty of examples of players who have had success playing both Tours, Els and Goosen are both multiple Order of Merit winners who won it while playing half the year in America. And with seven of his regular tournaments contributing to qualification anyhow, as well as the Scottish Open which he plays every year, he just needs to play four more on the European schedule to be in the Race for Dubai. This is true of many American players so it will be interesting to see who picks up the challenge.
Big Phil also has recently bought himself a plane, what better way to get use of it than by popping across the pond to play a spot of Golf. Plus, maybe he will finally include a bit of Links Golf in his schedule and work out how to hit a bump and run and that the flop shot in high winds on hard coastal greens is not a great idea. Then he might just able to challenge at The Open.