Harrington eyes Dubai World Championship

By Brian Keogh

Padraig Harrington can't wait to fill his boots when the European Tour stages the golf's richest event in Dubai in 2009.

The $10 million (€6.8 million) Dubai World Championship will take place from 19-22 November 2009 as a climax to the season, replacing the current Order of Merit with 'The Race to Dubai'.

And with $1.66 million (€1 million) for the winner and the 2009 European No 1 getting a $2 million bonus (€1.3 million), Harrington is already licking his lips at the prospect of a juicy end of season bonanza.

Relishing the chance to win $3.6 million (€2.3 million) with a single putt in two years time, Harrington said: "I think it is a great idea on two fronts. It is a time of the year when the European Tour is looking to strengthen its schedule and it can claim the lion's share of publicity on the world golfing stage.

"It is going to be one of the best events in the world which is great for the other events in Europe, because they have this event to live up to. So it will bring up the standard of all events.

"I also think that the bonus pool is a good idea because it will catch players attention and they will want to go out there and win it."

Tiger Woods grabbed the inaugural FedEx Cup and its $10 million retirement bonus this year.

But while the World No1 has major ties with Dubai, where he is designing a golf course, he cannot compete in the European Tour's answer to the FedEx unless he becomes a member of the European Tour.

That means playing a minimum of 11 counting events and while Woods played just nine in the season just ended - four majors, three World Championships, Dubai and the HSBC Champions in Shanghai - he would need only one more to qualify.

European Tour boss George O'Grady insisted that the event, which is part of a $200 million deal with Dubai-based Leisurecorp, is not about attracting Tiger Woods.

O'Grady said: "This isn't to get the best players in the world, it's for players who make commitments to the European Tour.

"If Tiger Woods says he wants to join (the European Tour) and promises to play a minimum of 11 events and pay his $500 joining fee, then he would qualify.

"But he has his schedule mapped out well in advance. Anyway, it's a bit big-headed for the European Tour to start talking about what to do with Tiger Woods."

Harrington knows that the world's top players will want to play in the megabucks event in November, when the majors, the FedEx Cup and World Golf Championship events are over.

Speaking from Heathrow, where he had just arrived after a two week trip to China and Japan, Harrington added: "The top players are playing for the Majors during the season. But just look where guys are playing at the end of the year.

"A prize fund of that size will have an effect. But you have to remember that a prize fund of that size will bring stature to an event.

"It's not that late in the year either, which means it will compete with the HSBC Champions and events like that that we have just been out to.

"I am still going to play over 30 events this year and as much as I'd like to reduce that schedule it looks like I am going to do that again next year.

"It is one of those tough things but the Dubai World Championship is another good event that is going to attract my attention.

"It is a good time of the year to be in Dubai and I am certainly looking forward to it."

The European Tour has signed a five-year deal with Leisurecorp, owned by the Dubai Royal Family which will see them establish an international HQ at Jumeirah Golf Estates, where the Dubai World Championship will take place.

The 2008 season will conclude with the Volvo Masters at Valderrama as the new tournament venue in Dubai will not be fully ready in time.

O'Grady said: "They might be ready. But we are going for seven-star facilities. Good enough is not good enough in this agreement."