Colin Montgomerie believes the new Race to Dubai has already succeeded in creating “global feel” in golf and raising both the standard and status of the game this side of the Atlantic.
The Scot, winner of a record eight European Tour Order of Merit crowns and 31 Tour titles, is confident that the world’s leading players will all want to experience what promises to be the most momentous season to date for The European Tour.
Montgomerie made a solid start to the inaugural Race to Dubai, which has replaced the Order of Merit for 2009, finishing tied 15th at the UBS Hong Kong Open, but he expects the fireworks to arrive at the money-spinning season finale, the Dubai World Championship, which will be played at the Jumeirah Golf Estates, in the United Arab Emirates, from November 19-22, 2009.
With a US $10 million prize fund on offer, in addition to the US $10 million bonus pool for The Race to Dubai, Montgomerie believes the cream of world golf will be clamouring to be part of the richest tournament in the game’s history – a move he feels will benefit both the game and The European Tour.
“I think it’s a super thing and what you’ll find is that with the tournament being as big as it is and the largest purse of any tournament worldwide, there will be a lot of non-Europeans playing,” said Montgomerie. “They’ll play their 12 events in Europe and they’ll get up there. Seven of which are Majors and world events so they only need to play five. The standard of everything has increased and improved dramatically over the last five years on our Tour, the conditioning, the way the tournaments are run and the whole infrastructure around it.
“You’ll find players like Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh coming over more. You’ll get more of a world field in Dubai and I think that’s good. What The European Tour wants to achieve is a more global feel and I think it’s working already.
“I think when they find out that the standard and the prize money is as good, if not better, than the States, and see the world as a fantastic education, I think that more and more will want to play.
“I think we are shifting the balance of power away from the PGA Tour. That was the idea of Leisurecorp - to make Europe bigger, and as good as the PGA Tour, and they’ve achieved that and if the top Americans are coming over to play, it’s worked.
“Mickelson has previously got within one tournament of qualifying for our Tour and so has Tiger Woods, so it just takes one more and why not. Tiger now has a course out in Dubai, he’s played and won out there, so it is a fantastic asset to our Tour.
“We’ve played in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India to name just a few, so there are now very few places we haven’t been to other than mainland America,” he added.
“Our Tour has certainly benefited from that as Europe wasn’t big enough in a golf market to sustain 38-40 tournaments within the European community and we had to branch out. It was a very good move by (former Tour Chief Executive) Ken Schofield and taken on by (current Chief Executive) George O’Grady.
“George and Ken have worked so hard to get us these tournaments. I think we have to say thank you for giving us so many opportunities so that we can pick and choose what we want to do.”
The 45 year old has been a stalwart of The European Tour throughout his distinguished 23 year career and is the only player to tee up in all 21 Volvo Masters, which has previously brought the curtain down on The European Tour season before being replaced by the inaugural Dubai World Championship.
As The European Tour moves into an exciting new era with the advent of The Race to Dubai, Montgomerie is keen to be as much a part of the Tour’s future as he was its past.
“I’ve been a staunch supporter of The European Tour and could very easily have gone to America, but my family, their schooling and The European Tour have kept me in Europe,” he said. “I’ve always been very happy and very comfortable in Europe. I was doing well in Europe and the need for me to go to America became less and less.”
Interview courtesy of National Club Golfer