Shanghai Masters to kick-start European Tour revival, says Olazabal
Opening leg of FedExCup-style “Final Series” a huge shot in the arm as European Tour tries to attract top players and deep-pocketed sponsors
The inaugural FedExCup-style “Final Series” that tees off in Shanghai on Thursday will give the European Tour a much-needed shot in the arm after a difficult year, said twice major winner Jose Maria Olazabal.
While the rival US PGA Tour goes from strength to strength, the European circuit has struggled for sponsors and been badly hampered by the absence of headline attractions like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.
With the majority of the triumphant 2012 Ryder Cup team basing themselves on the other side of the Atlantic this season, chief executive George O’Grady has had an awkward task in selling the European Tour brand.
The “Final Series”, similar to the US circuit’s end-of-season FedExCup extravaganza, is a sequence of four events worth more than US$30 million in total and starts on Thursday with the BMW Masters in Shanghai.
“I think we are going to see four great tournaments,” 2012 Ryder Cup captain Olazabal said. “It’s very important for the European Tour. We are going to see the top players coming back to play in these events and it’s a good attraction for the tour, for the fans, the players and for media attention.”
Shanghai also stages the WGC-Champions Tournament next week before the Final Series builds to a crescendo with the Turkish Open featuring world number one Tiger Woods and finally the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in the middle of November.
“This is another idea to keep the players on their toes,” said 1994 and 1999 US Masters champion Olazabal. “It’s important for 2014 too, especially as that is a Ryder Cup year. “If the players do well in this lucrative stretch of tournaments they will have done most of the job in terms of qualifying for the team. The players are conscious of that and you’re going to see them trying very hard.”
Olazabal believes the tour is experiencing a financial trough mainly due to the economic downturn in Europe. “The whole of Europe is going through a tough time and I’m pretty sure when we see signs of economic recovery the tour will go back to its origins and will get stronger again,” said the 47-year-old Spaniard. “That’s the reason the tour is having a tough time getting sponsors.”