European Tour to stage world's richest event

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DUBAI, Nov 19 (Reuters) The European Tour is to host the world's richest event after announcing plans today for a 10 million dollars season-ending tournament in Dubai from 2009.

Offering 1.66 million dollars for the winner, the first Dubai World Championship will take place from November 19-22 as a climax to the season.

Another million will be handed out in bonuses to the top 15 players in 'The Race to Dubai', which will start in November 2008, acting as the tour's order of merit with the number one player receiving two million dollars bonus to add to his year's prize-winnings.

''This is so much more than a tournament sponsorship. It is a long term partnership which will see The European Tour and Dubai joining together to significantly enhance the game world-wide and take golf to a new level for spectators everywhere,'' said European Tour chief executive George O'Grady after announcing a five-year deal with Leisurecorp, owned by the Dubai Royal Family.

''The Race to Dubai will bring a new dimension to the European Tour, creating great drama and theatre throughout the year as all the best players in the world are given the opportunity to compete in the world's richest tournament - the Dubai World Championship.

''With the combined prize funds of the Dubai World Championship and The Race to Dubai we have the prospect of a player standing over a putt for 3,666,660 dollars.

INTERNATIONAL BASE The European Tour said there was an option to extend the agreement by a further five years and while the tour will keep its main headquarters at Wentworth, England, it plans to establish an international HQ at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where the Dubai World Championship will take place.

''As the European Tour has become ever-more global in its outlook, it has become increasingly important to us to have an international base in a strategically placed location,'' added O'Grady.

The Volvo Masters has been the traditional end to the tour's year, with the top 60 players rounding off the season and will continue to be a similar elite tournament next year.

However, the tournament that revolutionised the European Tour when it began its partnership with Volvo, will then lose its status.

O'Grady insisted the tournament, held at Valderrama and Montecastillo in Spain since 1988, would not disappear from the schedule but might move from its current November date.

''Volvo have been very aware that for the last five years we wish to source an additional bonus pool,'' said O'Grady.

''They are making their mind up about whether they prefer their (late season) position or choose a completely different date.'' The tour's chief admitted that the multi-million dollar deal had been inspired by the US Tour's Fedex Cup playoffs, which have encouraged a burgeoning list of European Tour players to try their luck in America.

''The Fedex Cup made us want to raise the bar as well,'' O'Grady said.

''We had to look where the European Tour was strong and weak and it is very strong at the beginning and the end of the season, although there are not many tournaments in our mid-season we have to apologise for.'' Reuters AB RS2033

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