ANTALYA, Turkey — In a year when events have been dropping off the European Tour schedule like leaves on a tree, Turkey has stepped up and committed to a tournament that ultimately will be the penultimate event to the Race to Dubai, that concludes the European Tour season.
The three-year deal will bring the $7 million Turkish Open to a tour that has lost much more than that in prize money and prestige over the last three years, but now gain one in a place that is at least close enough to call it Europe with the Antalya region, in the Asian part of Turkey.
The announcement was made fittingly during the second day of the Turkish Airlines World Golf Final by Keith Waters, CEO of the European Tour, Ahmet Ali Ağaoğlu (President of the Turkish Golf Federation) and Andrew Chandler (Managing Director of International Sports Management).
“Turkey is one of the fastest developing golf nations in the world,” Ağaoğlu said. “I am very honored to make this announcement and to be able to bring a top-class European Tour event to Turkey. We believe that Turkey, and in particular Belek and Antalya, is the best golfing destination in Europe and one that deserves such a world class event.”
The announcement of the Turkish Open is just one part of a grander plan for the European Tour in 2013. Golfweek reported last week that a four-event, playoff-style system like the FedEx Cup will be part of the schedule and will include the BMW in Shanghai, the HSBC Champions, the Turkish Open and the finale in Dubai.
The format, eligibility and additional prize money has not been worked out as of yet, but this announcement in Turkey only pushes that plan further along.
“We haven’t finalized everything yet,” Waters of the European Tour said. “Unfortunately this announcement is kind of slightly premature and we haven’t got everything exactly in place for the last four weeks of the season. We wouldn’t really call it a playoff. We’re trying to develop eligibility criteria that will encourage the players to play in the lead up to Dubai. We’re talking about all very large events.”
The eligibility in Turkey has been basically agreed to with a majority of the slots going to European Tour members trying to get points for the Race to Dubai. But as part of the arrangement, two Turkish golfers will receive exemptions into the event as well as higher profile players, like those in this weeks Turkish Airlines field and are not currently European Tour members (i.e. Tiger Woods, Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar).
Another twist is the bonus pool.
“It’s a very sobering thought to me that someone can walk away last Sunday with $11.5 million,” George O’Grady, Chief Executive Officier of the European Tour on the Sunday of the Ryder Cup. “These figures are ‑‑ well, I said before in the FedExCup, I’ve got great admiration for anybody who can conceive it. It’s this very American concept and hits the psyche, and then finds someone to pay for it.”
According to Waters, the European Tour is also looking at increasing its Race to Dubai bonus pool, likely not to the amounts of the PGA Tour, but its all part of the larger discussion.
“There are several pieces of the jigsaw we haven’t quite got in place,” Waters said. “It may even be after the end of the year that we announce an increase in bonus pool. These things don’t happen quickly.”