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Padraig Harrington sees “rough seas ahead” for the DP World Tour as the big money on offer to play in the LIV Golf Series attracts more players to jump ship. Harrington predicts that the DP World Tour - formally the European Tour - will be the “one going to get squeezed the most” as the disparity in prize money compared to the Saudi-backed series turns heads.
In an interview with RTE.ie, the three-time Major champion asked: “What is going to happen? Where is world golf going to be? I can understand the European Tour when they turned down the PGL (Premier Golf League) offer originally. They didn't want to rock the boat but that boat is being rocked with pretty rough seas ahead.
“I think there will be at least 30 European players who've gone to look for releases and they're going to be playing for 12-and-a-half-times what they're playing for every week. When you start seeing people turn up who you're better than and they're winning $4million, that will be hard on other players. I can understand why those 30 individuals in Europe, middle of the road players, have gone, ‘this is a life-changing opportunity’.”
The first event of the LIV Golf Series starts on June 9th at the Centurion Club in Hertfordshire. While the field hasn’t been made public, it was revealed last month that 15 of the world’s top 100 players have signed up. The 48-man field will play 54-holes without a cut, with a huge $25m purse. This is the first of an eight-event season worth a total of $255m.
Harrington believes the moral pressure of signing up to the Saudi-backed breakaway will lessen in time to the point that once it becomes established, young players will go straight to the new events having never played anywhere else.
"The players who will go I'm sure after a couple of years will move on,” he continued on RTE.ie. “It's not like my own country doesn't do a lot of business in Saudi Arabia. It's not like all the major sponsors don't do business in Saudi Arabia.
“As much as it's been used as a stick to beat those guys and it is a big issue for anybody who is going, clearly time will pass and if they build it and players go, then younger players who have no allegiance to (any tour) - and you've got to think that plenty of Asian players, that's where the growth (of the sport) is at - but young players will go there and know no difference.
“It's not like they've played the European Tour for 20 years and feel like they need to give back. They're starting off. It's a big deal. If they survive the 2-3 years then it becomes normality. At the end of the day, the only issue at the table here for the players who are going - because the moral questions, they'll have got over that if they're going - will be, do they get world ranking points and will they still be eligible to play the Majors?
“There's no doubt that the moral side of it has been the low hanging fruit that's been used to beat them back which has come back to bite them because if they go ahead they get over that sort of thing.”
As things stand, the 50-year-old Dubliner hasn’t been invited to play, something he’s pleased about. “I haven't been offered anything so I don't need to make any decision,” he continued. “I'm delighted I don't have to make a decision. Put it like this, it would be tough in five or six years’ time if I'm sitting there feeling like I've left 50 million on the table.”
Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!
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