Tour chiefs back World Tour idea

By Brian Keogh

European Tour chiefs have backed Padraig Harrington's call for a World Tour.

Harrington wants the European Tour to work more with other tours around the world to compete with the PGA Tour.

Harrington said: "Europe is the number two tour. The only way it's going to compete with the US is to evolve with the South African, Australian, Asian and the Japanese tours."

And Keith Waters, the European Tour’s Director of International Policy, agrees with the Dubliner.

Waters said: “Padraig is defeinitely right we have got to combine all our opportunities outside of the States. And so far I think we have done it for the mutual benefit of ourselves and the other tours in various regions.

"We have given more value to their biggest events, wider TV coverage, better players and sometimes even taken our own existing sponsors with us.

"Take the South African Open as an example which is the biggest Open tournament in Africa. It now gets world wide TV coverage and has a world sponsor in South African Airways who would not have got the benefit from the tournament had it just been an African event.

"But that is a good measure of the extra value we create for tournaments and it's got players like Ernie Els and Retief Goosen taking part and I gather later this year Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood will be playing in it as well.

"And some of the best examples of how we are moving forward are events like the HSBC Champions tournament in China and the Hong Kong Open which now has the support of UBS - these events have grown significantly over the last couple of years.

"The problem we have though is that US Tour keeps progressing as well at the same time but we have growth areas as well and I think the big one if going to be the Middle East."

The European Tour already has events in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Dubai and is very close to adding Bahrain and India to the schedule.

Waters added: "Bahrain perhaps might not come until 2009 because the course is being revamped. But we are hopefully just sorting out the final details for an event in India next year."

In 2006 the European Tour held 47 events in 27 countries and will have nearly 50 events this season.