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DP World Tour

The DP World Tour keeps trying to find its way in the messy world of men’s pro golf

January 20, 2023
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Shane Lowry plays his second shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

David Cannon

ADU DHABI — “Shane Lowry” is the answer to the question many people are asking at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week. Although 19 golfers in the world are currently considered, statistically at least, to be better than the Irishman, Lowry is the highest-ranked player in the field this week, four places ahead of runner-up Tommy Fleetwood.

That stark fact begs another question: Why has one of the biggest tournaments on the DP World Tour, a Rolex Series event boasting a $9 million purse, been ignored by 19 of the top-20 players on the planet?

And another:

Given the DP World circuit’s “strategic alliance” with the PGA Tour, why does the 17-strong list of its “designated” eventsb oast only one—the Open Championship—outside the United States?

And one more:

Given all of the above, should the DP World Tour be worried about the commitment of the PGA Tour to an alliance that exists only to combat the rise of the LIV Golf League?

Those questions—and the answers—are of course interconnected. But the end result is hardly positive for European golf. Take next week at the Dubai Desert Classic, where defending champion Viktor Hovland is a notable absentee.

“I know there are guys who are in the U.S. this week and next because they want to get off to good starts over there,” says Nicolas Colsaerts, a former European Ryder Cup player. “Which is a shame. It would have been nice to see a couple more Europeans coming over to play here. Just because of how big these events are on our calendar. But how often guys have to play in the U.S. is an issue. These events are victims of that.

Of course, the defection of many other longtime European Tour standouts to the LIV Golf League contributes as well. “Those are the two main reasons we’re not seeing better fields here and at the Dubai Desert Classic next week,” Colsaerts said. “My feeling is that the tour is actually in really good shape. Look at the standard of golf we saw at the Hero Cup last week. And there are plenty of other players we are going to be proud of in the future. We play for more money than we ever have before. So we need to take a step back, look at where we were five or 10 years ago and compare that with where we are now. We’re doing pretty good.”

Francesco Molinari, the 2018 Open champion who is well in contention at Yas Links at 10 under par through 36 holes after a second-successive 67, also takes a positive view of developments, at least in the mid-to-long term.

“I think the European side of golf is in very safe hands,” said the Italian. “There's loads of young talent coming through. Yeah, some weeks you're going to get better fields than others, but it’s hard right now obviously with the whole situation. It’s nice to see Rory [McIlroy] playing next week in Dubai.

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Francesco Molinari believes the trends in field strength for DP World Tour events aren't all that different than the recent past, and that the tour is still producing good young talent.

Orlando Ramirez

Molinari sees the current trend of DP World Tour players splitting time between their home circuit and the PGA Tour continuing. “Obviously it's not really anything different from the last few years,” he said. “When you get to the top of the game, you play a little bit more in America. But we have got young European talent coming through. I think we are going to be all right.”

Still, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger, a Ryder Cup player two years ago at Whistling Straits but now a LIV member, offered a more even-handed view.

“With what happened last year [with the emergence of LIV] and the way the prize funds have progressed, even though this is a great event on our tour, it offers half the purse of about 25-30 events around the world,” he said. “Players are making decisions. None of the top guys play more than 18-20 events, and you have to pick and choose. Even though the Rolex Series is really important to our membership, and there are a lot of great players here, you would still want to see a stronger field world ranking-wise.”

Speaking of the rankings, Wiesberger did a good job articulating the prevailing mood on the DP World Tour when it comes to that increasingly controversial subject. The vast majority of players clearly feel the recent re-adjustment of the points allocated to events around the world has done the Old World circuit no favors.

“I am playing here to collect World Ranking points,” admitted Wiesberger, who earns none from his LIV Golf starts. “But I don’t think the Rolex Series should offer half the points they are playing for in the States. That is troubling. I don’t think the guys out here are in a great place [in ranking terms]. They would have to have an outstanding season to make the top 100 and be able to play in the PGA Championship. The guys got devalued a lot to a point where I don’t think the balance is right, unfortunately.”