Cash still king as world’s best battle for huge haul in Turkey

Europe’s sensational victory in the Ryder Cup was seen as a massive boost for the under pressure European Tour.

But that view has hardly been substantiated since then given that just three of the Medinah heroes, Martin Kaymer, Franceso Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts, competed in the Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews over the weekend and only Molinari and Kaymer contest this week’s Portugal Masters at Vilamoura.

Contrary to a commonly held belief, money still counts for multi-millionaire golfers. There can be no other reason for Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood, Hunter Mahan, Matt Kuchar, Justin Rose and Webb Simpson to take part in this week’s grandiosely named Turkish Airlines World Golf final in Antalya than the prize fund of $5.2m (€4m) spread between eight players, coupled with huge appearance fees. The inaugural matchplay event beginning today doesn’t count for points on any of the tours or on the world rankings. The riches at stake ($1.5m (€1.1m) for the winner, $1m (€772,000) for the runner-up down to $300,000 (€231,000) for 7th and 8th) proves cash is king for the sport’s richest sportsmen. Furthermore, next year, the intention is to hike the first prize to $2.5m (€1.9m) — the richest in golf.

Turkey is making a strong bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games and this tournament is one of many sporting occasions they hope will convince the International Olympic Committee that they are up to the task.

It is understood Woods will receive an extra fee in a tie-up for the next three years with Turkish Airlines, with the American regarded as a key component of the country’s Olympic bid.

All of this, of course, has gone down like a lead balloon with the US and European Tours, who are not involved. Few are likely to be interested in the conflicting Portuguese Masters and the Frys.com Open in California when Sky Sports could be showing a final between Woods and McIlroy. As a sop to both tours, the event will finish on Friday so as not to impact weekend coverage.

As another spin-off, the first Turkish Open will arrive on the European Tour schedule in April, but that will do little to ease the disquiet felt by European chief executive George O’Grady and his many less well-off members who have seen the number of tournaments on the schedule diminish to an alarming extent.

The sponsors who remain loyal — like this week’s Portuguese Tourist Board — may become further disillusioned at the absence of the Tour’s many big name players, more and more of whom are either living in the United States (Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia) or planning to do so (Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood) and openly seeking to reduce the number of 13 tournaments they must play to retain membership of their home tour.

The lay-out at Vilamoura is one of the finest and most attractive on the European circuit. Pádraig Harrington likes the course and says: “Having shot under par in each of my eight competitive rounds at Oceânico Victoria, I am relishing this latest chance. You can shoot a low score and with the winning total tending to be around 20 under, it puts you under pressure to make birdies.”

The other Irish in the field are Darren Clarke, Michael Hoey, Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Paul McGinley.

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