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UAE & Saudi Arabia Battle for Pro Golf

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In 2021, the PGA switched up one of its longest-running branches. The PGA, which oversees the most popular and expansive professional golf leagues in the world for men and women, announced an update to its European Tour.

After years of running a separate European Tour and Asian Tour, which saw multiple events held in the UAE, the PGA decided to establish a new branch of the European Tour. The DP World Tour is an expanded version, which now includes events in areas around the world, including the US, South Africa, Kenya, China, and Japan.

The updates include more events (and in new locales), along with huge boosts in prize money. So far, golf betting odds that cover the events have introduced fans to new pros and new courses. Viktor Hovland, who recently nabbed the Slync.io Dubai Desert Classic, is likely to be a topic of discussion for years to come as the young pro establishes himself in the circuit.

For fans of professional golf, the new DP World Tour is bringing expanded opportunities to areas like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For pros, it’s bringing on new challenges, as well as new chances at huge prize purses.

But for executives in the PGA, the move to expand the DP World Tour (European Tour) was largely a reaction to one of professional golf’s most eager new participants: Saudi Arabia.

Building on Success of European & Asian Tour

The new DP World Tour includes a total of 27 different countries, which will host a total of 47 tournaments in 2022. The idea behind the updated schedule is clear: push a more unified and global professional golf league. More specifically, promote the PGA’s league.

Expansions to the Rolex Series and similar events, such as the Race to Dubai, are partly designed to topple competing leagues. Since its establishment in 1929, the PGA has been the world’s premier golf association across the globe—and a highly lucrative one.

According to Sports Illustrated, the PGA Tour will be looking to pay out around $838 million this year from expected revenues of around $1.5 billion. Golf is big business—and the Saudi Golf League wants in.

Saudi Arabia Golf League Dreams

For years, the Saudi Golf League (also known as the Golf Super League) has attempted to build enough guaranteed winnings to lure over top names in golf. They managed to nab names like Greg Norman, hinting that if enough money could be pooled, other big names would leave the PGA for the Super League.

As the DP World Tour rolled out its updates, many pros still remained tight-lipped about their long-term plans to join the divergent league. This ended recently at the Genesis Invitational, when influential pros, including Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Bryson DeChambeau, and Dustin Johnson, all proclaimed their loyalty to the PGA.

But this hasn’t been the first setback for the Super League in Saudi Arabia. While some pros, like Rory McIlroy, have been quick to say the league is dead in the water, the project has seen huge investments—up to $300 million just the week before the Genesis Invitational, which builds on the some $400 billion already boasted by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

With so much money invested, it’s unlikely the push for a Saudi Golf League will disappear. And especially not when rumors that names like Ian Poulter and Adam Scott might still be onboard.


Weighing Earnings

Given both the PGA and Saudi Golf League have ample purses to offer top players, many pros are wondering about the future of golf should another circuit compete with the PGA. In other words, would a huge rift compromise the quality of professional golf worldwide?

And what would be the real impetus for a new league? Would it be to improve the competitive pool of golfers, help funnel new resources to training amateurs, and foster more interest in the sport worldwide—or would pros like Greg Norman back the Saudi League solely for a shot at bigger prize purses?

Last week, Phil Mickelson was railroaded for his comments about the league, which he described as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to triple his winnings from the PGA. He’s since issued a public apology.


Also published on Medium.

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