Monday 18 December 2017

New era for Tour gets McGinley seal of approval

Padraig Harrington plays his second shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah. Photo: Getty Images
Padraig Harrington plays his second shot on the fifth hole during the first round of the DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah. Photo: Getty Images
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

Paul McGinley has hailed the new Rolex Series featuring a minimum of seven tournaments with $7 million (€6.53 million) prize funds as the start of an exciting new era for the European Tour in 2017.

McGinley is particularly pleased that the Irish Open, presented by Dubai Duty Free and the Rory Foundation, has been elevated to the new premier group of tournaments.

The 2014 Ryder Cup-winning captain was speaking from Orlando, Florida, where he is playing Stage 2 of Champions Tour qualifying. He wears two hats - primarily as a player, and also as a member of board of directors of the Tour.

"These are big new horizons for the European Tour. There's a lot of energy being brought, led by Keith Pelley.

"The Rolex Series is a case in point. It's not just about increased prize funds. There's going to be increased TV production, there's going to be increased social media.

"There's going to be a whole new energy and a whole new vibrancy around each of these tournaments which will make them distinct from other European Tour events," said McGinley.

The seven events on the Series are the BMW PGA Championship, the Irish Open (July 6-9 at Portstewart), Scottish Open, Italian Open, Turkish Airlines Open, Nedbank Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship.

McGinley's first Irish Open was in 1989 as an amateur and he is delighted the tournament will regain top-level status on the Tour calendar.

"There's a couple of things with the Irish Open. First of all, we're going to get a better date. I'm delighted that we've moved out of May. Now we're moving into July, which is going to be a lot more favourable.


"Hopefully we get some good warm weather and sunshine and big crowds.

"We're going up to the North this year in Portstewart, and with the date that we have now which is leading into the British Open, and on a links golf course, there's a potential there for a really strong field," he said.

McGinley turns 50 on December 16, but will still have a status on the main European Tour. He intends to play around 13 events next year between European Tour, Euro Seniors, and Champions Tour. Yesterday he competed in round three of the four-round second stage qualifying which finishes today. The top 20 from Florida go forward to final qualifying (Nov 29-Dec 2).

"I'll get some invites next year, but if I get my card, that will give me more options," said McGinley.

Meanwhile, Henrik Stenson, Danny Willett, Alex Noren and Rory McIlroy, the top four contenders for the Race to Dubai title, played a version of a slow bicycle race in round one of the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.

They all wanted a fast start, but instead played as if somebody had let the air out of their tyres. McIlroy shot 76 (four over par), Stenson was on level-par, while Willett and Noren were on one-under at the end of the first day.

Lee Westwood led on 66, six under par, with Nicolas Colsaerts and Julian Quesne a shot behind the Englishman.

Shane Lowry carded a solid 70 for two-under, and Pádraig Harrington was one of 16 players on level par.

On the PGA Tour, Waterford's Seamus Power filed an opening 67 (three-under) in the RSM Classic at Sea Island, Georgia. Mackenzie Hughes set the early pace with a nine-under-par 61.

DP World Tour Championship

Live, Sky Sports 4, 8.0am

RSM Classic

Live, Sky Sports 4, 6.30pm

Irish Independent

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