Luke Donald becomes the first golfer to win US PGA & the European PGA Tour Money List

Yesterday Luke Donald became the first golfer to officially win the US PGA & the European PGA Tour Money List in the same season.

Donald added the European Order Of Merit, or Race to Dubai as it has become known, by finishing third in the Dubai World Championship yesterday.  The only player that was able to stop him was Rory McIlroy.  But he failed to win the event and finished 10 strokes off the lead following a poor final round. The event was won by Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, by two shots with an excellent 19 under.

The US PGA & the European PGA Tour Money List awards are given to the player who wins the most prize money over the course of a season. At his peak, Tiger Woods managed this feat in unofficially by winning European tour titles on an invitational capacity.

But for Luke Donald to achieve this twin award officially means he had to agree to play a minimum of 13 tournaments on the European tour and no less than 15 tournaments on the US PGA.

This massive achievement comes at the end of a great year for Luke Donald who, for the first time in his career was ranked world number 1. But without wishing to take the shine off what is truly a great achievement, I find it a little bit at odds that the number 1 ranked golf player and the winner of both the US PGA Money List & European Order Of Merit goes to someone who didn’t win a single Major in 2011.

There’s no doubting Luke Donald is one of the best golfers in the world right now.  But I want a number 1 ranked player to be the best in the world, someone who wins, a true champion, like Tiger Woods was in his prime.  Not a ‘steady Eddie’ who hardly ever three-putts.

While many pundits are still suggesting Rory McIlroy is the next Tiger Woods, It is Luke Donald that will celebrate Christmas after winning £4.19m in the US and £3,632,685 on the European Tour this year.

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Lee Westwood, Europes number one golfer

lee westwood top european player
lee westwood top european player

Lee Westwood claimed victory in the Dubai World Championship on Sunday, hitting a stunning course record 64, to finish 23 under par and win the tournament by six shots from Ross McGowan.

The prize money for winning the Championship, around £740,000, means that Westwood clinches the Race to Dubai Order of Merit title ahead of Rory McIlroy.

The twenty year old Irishman McIlroy will be disapointed having led the Race to Dubai ahead of the tournament by £114,000 from Westwood, but concedes that Westwood’s form in Dubai deserved the win, he said;

“Leading coming in to this week and then finishing third, most times that would have been enough, but Lee was different class and he deserves it,” said McIlroy. He’s been through the highs and the lows. He’s number five in the world and he will climb higher after this. He’s got his reward for the golf he’s played over the last two years.

I knew there was no chance. I was just trying to play for second place. I gave it my best shot. It’s been a great season and I have no complaints. I could have been happier with how it ended, but it’s been a great stepping stone and I’m looking forward to next year (on the US tour).”

Westwood had indeed played some of the finest golf of his career in Dubai, something that he himself acknowledged when he said after claiming the title;

“I’m a bit speechless. I played fantastic at the weekend. I played well at the start of the week, but 66 and 64 will take some catching,” said Westwood. It’s as good as I’ve ever played, especially under this pressure. It gives me so much confidence and it’s definitely the biggest moment of my career.

Every credit to Rory, to be leading the Order of Merit and then finish third you would expect to win, so commiserations to him.”

Westwood added that ending the season as Europe’s number one was more satisfying second time around, claiming that in 2000 when he reached the same position he was too young to appreciate it as his career up until then had only known highs.

When he adds, “Then I went through a low that was well documented and it has been a long way back. This is the best day of my career,”, you know he really does mean it.

A great time to start thinking about a winter ski holiday, a great way to part with some of those winnings!

Dubai World Championship cuts prize money

The prize money on offer for the Dubai World Championship has been cut by a quarter because of the world financial crisis, there is a similar cut in the Race to Dubai bonus pool prize money.

The Race to Dubai bonus pool on offer to the season’s top fifteen money winners will be cut from £6.1million to £4.6million, meaning the bonus pool winner will receive £928,000 but the tournament winner will get only £773,000.

If a player manges to win the tournament and top the Race to Dubai money list they will walk away with a measly £1.7million compared to £2.2million before the 25% cut.

The reduction has been made following talks between Tour chief executive George O’Grady and the Dubai World Championship  sponsors Nakheel. O’Grady made the following statement:

“The European Tour has offered to reduce the prize money to reflect the current worldwide economic position and we will jointly examine prize money levels in future years in the light of this developing global situation. We have been assured that our agreement is proceeding substantially as planned. The Earth course at Jumeirah Golf Estates looks superb and work is being completed on the public areas, car parks and access roads.”

The Race to Dubai – European Tour 2009

This year’s European Tour will end in November with the much talked about Race to Dubai.  The Eurpoean Tour have been promoting the Race To Dubai as a new prestigious event with $20 million prize money.

That sounds a lot of money for one single event, but not when you consider the most anyone player will receive is $3.6 million, $6 million  less than the winner of the FedEx Cup.  Furthermore, there will only actually be $10 million prize money for the event.

Yes its more prize money than any other European Tour event but it hasn’t managed to convince too many top PGA Tour players to sign up for the European Tour.

The Race To Dubai, or to use its official title, the Dubai World Championship will be contested by 60 golfers. They will play for a total of $10 million while a further $10 million will be shared between the top 15 European Tour players.  This will replace the Order of Merit prize money.

The Race to Dubai was promoted in such a way to attract more top PGA golfers.  But Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, among other top American golfers, have declined to take full European Tour membership (a Race To Dubai requirement).

Other PGA Tour players like Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas have taken up “Affiliated Membership” of the European Tour which means, for a minimal fee, they are eligible to obtain seven invitations to European Tour sanctioned events and, more importantly, they are not subject to the 12-event minimum required by full members.

The European Tour believes the Race to Dubai will grow in popularity and will eventually lead to more Americans joining the European Tour.

That said, Dubai certainly has the potential and money to attract the world’s best golfers.  Tiger Woods has designed his first golf course there; and there’s already talk of Dubai hosting the Ryder Cup as early as 2018.

Personally, I think the 2009 Race to Dubai will be used as a platform for bigger and better things to come.  But if The European Tour wants to include the very best players on the PGA Tour, they will simply have to make it easier to enter or raise the stakes.

European Tour to stage the richest golf tournament

A new end of season European Tour spectacular will become the richest european golf tournament in the world when Dubai hosts a £4.88m ($10m) season-ending event in 2009.The top 60 players on the money list will play in the Dubai World Championship. The winning purse will be a staggering $1,666,660 (£813,800).

The European Tour will also divide a further $10m among its top 15 monet listed golf players and rename the Order of Merit, The Race to Dubai.

The European Tour chief executive George O’Grady says the new season-ending Dubai World Championship represents a milestone for European golf. The addition of the Dubai World Championship – Race to Dubai comes at a time when an increasing number of European players are opting to take part in the PGA Tour in America over the European Tour.