O’Grady upbeat on future of European Tour

European Tour Chief George O’Grady is bullish about the future of the European Tour after “a period of transition” over the past year.

O’Grady, in his review of the 2013 campaign, accepted the Tour went through a period of transition but believes it ended on a very positive note by the extension of the Race to Dubai to 2017 and the 10-year sponsorship agreement with Rolex.

“That (Rolex sponsorship) is much bigger than before and will enable us to develop the game the way we want to do throughout the world,” said O’Grady.

That comment will irk some people given so many of the Tour’s events take place thousands of miles from Europe, in South Africa during the winter months, the Middle East through the early spring and Asia for the end of the season, with all too few tournaments on home soil.

At least in this country we still have the Irish Open, likely to take place at Fota Island in June on the week after the US Open with Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke along with all of our other touring players committed to taking part, and hopefully with a new sponsor acquired through the endeavours of Harrington.

In contrast, the only Tour event in England is the BMW PGA Champions at Wentworth in May while the Spanish Open at a venue yet to be confirmed is the sole tournament scheduled for a country that in the recent past used to host seven or eight.

O’Grady, however, glossed over such salient facts as he avidly looked forward to the cash cow that is next September’s Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.

He outlined his view that “Dubai and the Middle East are the places to develop golf in the future”.

China is also clearly in his sights and while accepting the Eurozone crisis is proving a major handicap to progress, he declared: “Golf will return to Spain, we have new tournaments in the Czech Republic and Denmark, we will tap into Eastern Europe and bring tournaments back to the UK.”

O’Grady spoke of “so many highlights in 2013; Justin Rose winning the US Open and Henrik Stenson winning the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai on either side of the Atlantic”.

However he did not refer to the fact that so many of the European Tour’s biggest names now live and play mostly in the US and are stretched to take in the 13 tournaments required to retain their European Tour membership.

As it is, at least six of those events take place in the United States.

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