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"Race To Dubai" Purse Takes Hit

AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- Lee Westwood says prize money from the lucrative "Race to Dubai" on the European Tour has been reduced by 25 percent because of the economy.

"Not disappointed, not surprised," Westwood said Wednesday from the Bridgestone Invitational. "I think it's a reality check for everybody that in times like this - when there's a credit crunch, people are struggling financially - that nobody is immune. I heard before it all came out in the press that it was going from $10 million down to $7½ million. That's still a massive prize when you think about it.

"I think we're lucky to be playing for that kind of money."

The Guardian reported this week that prize funds would be cut from $10 million to $7.5 million, both in the season-ending Dubai World Championship and the bonus pool from the accumulative points in the Race to Dubai.

This is the first year of the points race, sponsored by Dubai-based developer Leisurecorp. The Dubai World Championship was billed as the richest tournament in golf, topping The Players Championship at $9.5 million.

The Guardian said European Tour chief executive George O'Grady would be traveling to Dubai this week to make an announcement.

The European Tour declined comment except for a statement that said, "The agreement is proceeding as planned, but George O'Grady will be making a visit to the region in the very near future."

Henrik Stenson said he had only heard rumors of a prize reduction and did not want to assess anything until it was confirmed by the European Tour.

"The world economic situation affects everyone in one way or another," Stenson said. "All the tours are struggling to keep sponsors. I think we're lucky in golf because we have a strong product to offer."

Stenson said the SAS Masters in Sweden, held a week after the British Open, cut its prize money by 40 percent. On the PGA Tour, the St. Jude Championship in Memphis, Tenn., dropped its purse by $500,000.

"If the option is to cut down prize money or have no tournament at all, we'd take the tournament," he said. "Only a small portion of the players would look at the money."

The Race to Dubai had hopes of attracting U.S.-based players, and among those who joined the European Tour this year were Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas, Geoff Ogilvy and Ben Curtis, a former British Open champion who previously took up full membership in Europe.

Curtis said any prize reduction would not change his plans.

"It's still a lot of money," Curtis said. "And if you play well, you get rewarded, like it should be."

Westwood, runner-up at the Bridgestone event last year to Vijay Singh, did not believe support for the Race to Dubai would change.

"I can fully understand, and I'm pretty supportive, in a way, that they're still hanging in there because you look at a lot of sponsors, you look at how unfortunate Buick has been over here and people like that," he said. "We're just lucky to be playing in big tournaments for that kind of money, never mind whether it's $10 million or $7½ (million)."

Buick announced Tuesday that it was ending its sponsorship of two PGA Tour events.