It’s no secret the PGA Tour outranks the European Tour in terms of bigger prize funds and more world ranking points. As a consequence many European players now prefer to play on the other side of the Atlantic, including Rory McIlroy who gave up his European Tour card this season.
To stay competitive and keep its big names, the European Tour introduced the Rolex Series in 2017. The series is made up of eight tournaments. Each has at least $7million in prize money – two to three times the usual purse on the tour – and each offers extra Race to Dubai points.
The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship made its debut as a Rolex Series event in January this season. It’s one of three events that form so called “Desert Swing”. The winner Shane Lowry took home $1 million and 1,165 Race to Dubai points – good enough to keep him at the top of the rankings ever since. More than 15 golfers from the world’s top 50 took part, including Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson.
The next Rolex Series event will be the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open (Jul 4). Victorious 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley will host, while major winners Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen, 2020 Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington and former world number one Lee Westwood are scheduled to play. Scotsman Russell Knox won the title in 2018.
The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open (Jul 8) will also attract some of golf’s biggest names, in its handy role as a dress rehearsal for The Open a week later. Henrik Stenson, who lifted the Claret Jug in 2016, will play this year’s event at The Renaissance Club in East Lothian. During last year’s edition, Brandon Stone had an 8-foot putt for the European Tour’s first 59 (Oliver Fisher would accomplish this feat at the Portugal Masters later that year). Stone would go on to win by 4 shots for his first Rolex Series Title.
The series then moves on to the European Tour’s flagship event: the BMW PGA Championship (Sept 19). First played in 1955, some of golf’s greats have claimed the title including Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Rory McIlroy. Defending champion and 2018 Open winner Francesco Molinari will defend his title at Wentworth Club in England.
Then comes the Open d’Italia (Oct 11), which joins the series this year, from Olgiata Golf Club near Rome. Last year Thorbjørn Olesen won by one shot ahead of home favourite Francesco Molinari. Then we have the Turkish Airlines Open (Nov 10). The tournament will have a reduced field this year where only the top 70 players from the Race to Dubai will participate. Justin Rose took home the trophy last season.
Next to South Africa for the Nedbank Golf Challenge (Nov 17). The event, played at Gary Player Country Club, will see the top 60 players from the Race to Dubai battle it out. In 2018 Lee Westwood turned back the clock to claim his first title in four years.
The DP World Tour Championship (Nov 21) in Dubai will then mark the end of the European Tour season. The top 50 players from the Race to Dubai will tee off at Jumeirah Golf Estates to determine the European number one player of the year. The winner will receive $3 million – the biggest first prize in the world of golf. A sign that the European Tour is a serious rival to its PGA counterpart.
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