DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Rory McIlroy killed some of the drama that is usually attached to a season-ending event by winning the Race to Dubai even before the first shot was hit here last week at the DP World Tour Championship.
However, there was another intriguing race taking place at Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course: for the 10 PGA Tour cards on offer for the top-10 non-exempt players on the DP World Tour.
It’s a huge bonus for the players after a long season on the DP World Tour, and with McIlroy walking away with the $2 million top prize from the bonus pool, the spots had become almost as significant as the money on offer.
In the end, Adrian Meronk, Ryan Fox, Victor Perez, Thorbjørn Olesen, Alexander Björk, Sami Välimäki, Robert MacIntyre, Jorge Campillo, Matthieu Pavon and Ryo Hisatsune secured PGA Tour cards.
Meronk, who tied for 32nd in the 50-man, no-cut championship and slipped one place, to fourth, in the Race to Dubai, said: “It’s been the goal of mine since we found out we were playing for PGA Tour cards. So, I’m very glad that I’m going to be playing there. I played some tournaments this year and got some experience, so I’m looking forward to it.”
The 10 players earn dual-membership status as part of the “strategic alliance” between the DP World and PGA tours. Meronk, as the leading player, will be exempt into the Players Championship and the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2024. He also gets into two PGA Tour $20 million signature events: the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Genesis Invitational.
Meronk also will not be subject to the reshuffle on the PGA Tour’s priority ranking (after the Masters), unlike the other nine. He will become part of a special category alongside Ben Kohles, the winner of the Korn Ferry Tour, which will be just after the top-125 finishers on the FedEx Cup rankings, thus guaranteeing Meronk a place in almost all full-field events. The others will be positioned directly above KFT graduates and should get into most full-field tournaments with more than 132 players before the first re-ranking.
“I just want to play against the best of them. I’ve got goals – actually, not even goals but dreams – that I want to achieve in my life. Getting to the PGA Tour is going to help achieve those dreams.”
There has been some criticism of the DP World Tour giving away 10 of its best players to the PGA Tour, and getting five who have lost their cards in return.
However, McIlroy, who played a significant role during the discussions on the PGA Tour Policy Board, was quick to point out that the 10 cards were a huge benefit for the DP World Tour members.
“Well, I think that, and the fact that the PGA Tour is underpinning all the prize funds for the DP World Tour,” said McIlroy, the world No. 2-ranked player. “To me, the argument of giving your best 10 players away every year, I think it’s pretty stupid. If you look at the mission statement of the European Tour, it’s to try to provide playing opportunities and prize-money opportunities for its members. So, they’ve sort of done both of that with the alliance.
“The top-10 on the DP World Tour, for the most part, they were going to go over and play in the States anyway. So, it’s not as if they’re not going to come back and play the Scottish Open and then September, October, November.”
McIlroy reminisced about the time when he needed to get a top-five finish in the 2008 South African Open – the last tournament of the year – to crack the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking and secure his place in the majors. He did that by tying for third.
“It used to be the top 50 from the OWGR, and obviously, it still is. But this is the top 10 on the Race to Dubai,” said the four-time major champion from Northern Ireland. “We’ve all had to do it in one way or another, but this is through a formalized pathway through this tour. This is a nice way to incentivize the guys to play a lot on this tour, knowing that there’s that carrot at the end of the year if you do play well here.”
Throughout the week, the PGA Tour cards were the talking point.
“It was impossible not to think about it, but at the same time, you were trying hard not to,” said South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence, who missed a card by two spots.
Scotland’s MacIntyre said this was a much better way to get to the PGA Tour than by playing the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
“It’s great for young players, because it is hard to get a PGA Tour card through the Korn Ferry Tour. It gives you a way in rather than going and playing a few weeks in the States and sacrificing the DP World Tour season,” said the 27-year-old who played on Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team this year.
“And it gives you a way to the PGA Tour by performing over a season-long run rather than the yay or nay of a short period. I tried to do that in 2021 and it didn’t work. After a long stretch, I seem to lose a bit of play.
One of the heartbreaks of the week was for Rasmus Højgaard, whose twin brother Nicolai won the DP World Tour Championship title. He was 10th coming into the week, but was pushed down to 11th place by Matthieu Pavon of France, who tied for fifth in Dubai and climbed five places, to No. 15 in the Race to Dubai.
Frenchman Julien Guerrier, who shared the first-round lead here before an eventual T22 and a No. 39 ranking in the Race to Dubai, did not want to look at a gift horse in its mouth, but had his reservations.
“Of course, you think about it. It’s a great opportunity, but I don’t know how exciting it is for me,” said Guerrier, who has his own business of manufacturing electric golf trolleys.
“My biggest motivation is to do my job as best as I can and see what happens after that. I have a young family; I have two kids. It’s like working for a different organization. I will have to move to the U.S. I would be happy, but it is not exactly the dream of my life.”
Should any of the top 10 players in their first season of PGA Tour membership not retain DP World Tour membership in categories 1-9 for the following season, they would be given membership at the top of Category 10 (top 110 from the Race to Dubai Rankings) upon a return to Europe based on the exemption list. They will need to meet their minimum tournament obligations on the DP World Tour, though.
Top: Adrian Meronk tops the roster of 10 DP World Tour players who earned access to the PGA Tour.
ROSS KINNAIRD, GETTY IMAGES