Harrington and McGinley welcome Boo Weekley

Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley have hailed the arrival of new member Boo Weekley as a major coup for the European Tour.

Hunting fan Weekley, 35, is the latest PGA Tour star to pay €2,200 to join the Race to Dubai and will make his debut in this week’s star-studded Qatar Masters.

Harrington said: “For us to attract a US player is a tremendous statement to say how strong the European Tour is.

"I don't think it has ever happened before by choice that a player of his stature has joined the European Tour.

"Boo will be a great boost for the Tour. He's a great character and he's a very good golfer."

Like Anthony Kim, Camilo Villegas and Scott Verplank, world No 45 Weekley has been attracted by the Race to Dubai where the top 60 money winners on the European Tour will battle for a $10m prize fund in November’s Dubai World Championship.

With the PGA Tour hit by the economic crisis, Weekley said recently: "Anything I make, I want to be spending it here in America."

McGinley also welcomed the arrival of the American Ryder Cup star, explaining: "It’s great. The more players we get like him the merrier. It has to be good for the tour and the spectators because Boo is so colourful. He's a great character.”

Weekley claims he has wrestled alligators on the porch of his Florida home and was knocked unconscious boxing an orangutan at a county fair when he was 16.

He said: “I woke up bleeding in the back of a friend's pickup. The orangutan had knocked me cold with one punch, which I didn't even see coming.”

Former Open champion Paul Lawrie played with Weekley in the Scottish Open in 2007 and was amazed when the American asked him if he had qualified following week's Open Championship at Carnoustie, where the Scot won in 1999.

Exempt for the Open until he’s 65, Lawrie told him, "Yeah! I think I've managed to squeak in."

This week’s Qatar Masters features a star-packed field with Padraig Harrington one of the big absentees as he takes two weeks off to prepare for a six tournament run in the US.

Four of the world’s top 10 and 18 of the top 50 are in action with Weekley joining Sergio Garcia, Robert Karlsson, Henrik Stenson, Ernie Els, Justin Rose and defending champion Adam Scott.

New world 35 Rory McIlroy heads a six-strong Irish challenge with Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Gary Murphy.