Honma Hong Kong Open

Ian Poulter backs new European Tour Rolex Series, but says will ‘never’ compete with US PGA Tour

Seven tournaments in 2017 each offering minimum prize funds of US$7 million attempt to counter strength of season-ending FedEx Cup

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 6:57pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 10:42pm

Ian Poulter has conceded the European Tour might be fighting a losing battle in their bid to compete with the PGA Tour following the recent announcement of the multi-millon dollar Rolex Series.

The new series, which was announced last month, will feature a minimum of seven tournaments in 2017 each offering minimum prize funds of US$7 million with the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai featuring a prize fund of US$8m.

Running from the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, the series will also features stops in Northern Ireland and Scotland in July, Italy in October before culminating with events in Turkey and South Africa before Dubai all in November.

The move by innovative and forward thinking chief executive Keith Pelley is seen as a counter to the growing strength of the US PGA Tour and the drain of players from Europe to America, where the season-ending FedEx Cup alone offers four events each with a prize fund of US$8.75m plus a US$10m bonus.

“I don’t think the initial concept from the European Tour is to stop European players going to play on the PGA Tour, I don’t think that is why it was set up, the vision behind the idea is to have a set of events which are US$7m purses to try and strengthen what the European Tour have,” said Florida-based Poulter.

“Through an entire season it is very difficult to compete with the PGA Tour, it is never going to happen, we know that when you look at each event comparing to each other.

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“It is great to have the vision to try and raise some of the prize funds and they then strengthen some of the fields, so it gives opportunities to players and European sponsors to strengthen fields as much as they can.”

Poulter is currently playing at the Australian PGA Championship as the 12-time European Tour winner continues to work his way back from a foot injury which scuppered the majority of his 2016 schedule.

The 40-year-old also played in Macau and Malaysia in October and will next week return to the UBS Hong Kong Open having won the title at Fanling in 2010.

“I feel like my game having five months off is in shape, the frustrating thing is not converting the birdie opportunities that I feel like I have had in the first five events since coming back,” added Poulter.

“I love coming to Hong Kong having some success on Fanling golf course and winning in 2010 gives me great memories and ones that I am very proud of.

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“I like the course I have shot many rounds in the 60s and it is very special to come back and play again and hopefully hold that trophy that I held six years ago.

“It is a good golf course for me from a set up standpoint with small greens, tight fairway, you have to drive it in position, I think the course just sets up very well and I like it visually.”

Poulter lasted tasted victory at the 2012 WGC-HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, although he was able to post a tied for 17th place in the limited-field CIMB Classic in Malaysia having claimed a tie for 28th at the Venetian Macao Open after being unable to build on an encouraging first round of seven-under-par 64.

“One of the targets is to maintain my fitness and be injury free and have one full season where I am injury free and don’t pick up any niggling injuries,” added Poulter.

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“As for goals, I am looking to get myself back in contention to be in the winners’ circle, I haven’t won for a few years and I want to rectify that.

“I have some big challenges, but I feel very confident with my game and I feel like I am making a lot of progress, and I hope to put my hands on a trophy real soon.”