By Tony Jimenez
LONDON (Reuters) – The European Tour has ramped up efforts to persuade Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and its other elite golfers to turn their backs on the U.S. circuit by launching the money-spinning Rolex Series.
Chief executive Keith Pelley described it as “a critical game-changer” after announcing that seven tournaments offering minimum purses of $7 million would feature in the new series next year.
It will begin with the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May and continue in July with the Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation and the Scottish Open.
The fourth event is the Italian Open in Rome in October before the series, and the season, ends in November with the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
“The thing about it is all our resources are magnified and as a result we believe it will be our best fields, our best tournaments and it will lead to a significantly enhanced European Tour brand,” Pelley told Sky Sports on Tuesday.
“There are a number of reasons why we brought it in but one is the fact we wanted something from the financial perspective that would allow the young players to have an opportunity to choose where they wanted to play and they didn’t have to go to the United States.
“We are very optimistic this is a critical point for us and a critical game-changer for the European Tour,” the Canadian added.
World number two McIlroy, fourth-ranked Stenson, number 14 Justin Rose and 15th-ranked Sergio Garcia are among the European elite who currently elect to play most of their golf on the more lucrative U.S. PGA Tour.
Pelley, who took over from George O’Grady just over a year ago, wants the tour to be more innovative with its ideas and announced plans this year for a new six-hole event incorporating a shot clock, music, different clothes and fewer clubs.
Last month’s British Masters on the outskirts of London also featured the floodlit Hero Challenge one-hole knockout event where the players arrived on the tee to a noisy welcome from the fans with dazzling pyrotechnics up ahead on the green.
(Editing by John O’Brien)