The top 50 golfers of this year's European Tour will fight this week to claim the last event of the season at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, that is worth $ 2 million for the winner.
For some players, the even bigger prize is winning the 2019 Race to Dubai, the European Tour & # 39; s championship, which often determines this tournament.
Traditionally, the European Tour played a secondary role in the PGA Tour in the United States, where the prize money was higher. Although the money on the European Tour has increased, tradition and prestige remain important for many players.
Francesco Molinari from Italy, who won the race to Dubai for the first time last year, said the history of the European Tour means that it is number 1 for more than just money.
"It's an amazing list of champions from the past, and sometimes I can't quite believe that my name is now next to them," he said. "I feel proud to think about it."
Originally known as the European Tour Order of Merit, it listed players according to earned prize money, with the winner receiving the Harry Vardon Trophy, named after the man who opened the United States Open and six British Opens in the late 19th and early 20th century.
In 2009 it became the race to Dubai. The prize money earned in each of the 47 tournaments is converted to points and weighted based on the status of the event. Winning the race also entails prize money, and it has greatly increased over the years.
When Peter Oosterhuis of England won his fourth consecutive Order of Merit crown in 1974, he won $ 49,500 for the entire season, without bonus for winning the race. Last year, Molinari earned $ 5.73 million for the season, including a race bonus of $ 1.25 million.
The top five players in this year's Race to Dubai share $ 5 million in bonus money, of which $ 2 million goes to the winner.
Molinari & # 39; s win at the British Open in 2018 determined him to win the Race to Dubai and become a member of golfers such as Severiano Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Colin Montgomerie, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy as previous winners who became number 1 of the European Tour. Montgomerie has the record with eight wins.
"It was a very special prize to end the best year of my career so far," Molinari said. “I was very proud to win the Race to Dubai, and it ended a wonderful year of achievements. I think Europe & # 39; s number 1 was a recognition of the whole year – nothing will be the specific feelings of winning the Open and the Ryder Cup, but it is definitely a very proud achievement. "
The status of the European Tour was stimulated by a strong generation of players in the late 1970s. Ballesteros, Langer, Lyle, Faldo and Ian Woosnam have won 16 majors from 1979 to 1996.
Expanding the Ryder Cup team in Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 1979 with players from continental Europe was also crucial in improving the status of the European Tour. Six years later, Europe defeated the United States – the first time America had lost since 1957 – and Europe has since won 11 of the 16 meetings.
The tour has long been extended outside of Europe. The Tunisian Open was the first event to be added in 1982 and from the tournaments in the Race to Dubai 2019, which includes the four majors and the four golf championship world championships, more tournaments are being played outside of Europe than in it.
As a result, number 1 of the European Tour is not an exclusive European battle. Just like the PGA Tour, it is open to all nationalities and has always been a breeding ground for players from all parts of the world.
Greg Norman, the former Australian world number 1 and twice the British Open champion, won the Order of Merit in 1982, and the South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen won them twice in a row 2000s.
The $ 15 million record that went to this year's FedEx Cup series winner dominated the headlines at the end of the season in the United States, but in some respects the European Tour and the race to become European No. 1, took place more relevance because of the calendar.
The FedEx series ends in August and benefits from the European Tour by showing its finals without competing for broadcasting time with PGA Tour events.
Bernd Wiesberger from Austria leads the race to Dubai, with Tommy Fleetwood from England, Jon Rahm from Spain, Shane Lowry from Ireland and Matthew Fitzpatrick from England still in conflict.
Wiesberger, who won three tournaments this year and said that winning the race to Dubai would be "a great achievement for me and my team."
"Most of the great champions in Europe have won this title, so it would be a huge privilege and honor to add my name to this list," he said.
"I missed most of the 2018 season due to injuries, so my main goal at the start of the season was to try to get back to where I had stopped early 2018.
"I started the season badly from a performance perspective, but in the late spring I managed to reverse this. I then achieved great results and made playing for the title a realistic goal."
Rahm is in third place despite taking six weeks off to Dubai The break reduced his chances of winning points, but Rahm knew he would be fresh for the big one at the end and if he wins, he will be the first Spanish player who has won the race since 1991.
"It would be a little more special in Europe, just because the last Spaniard who won the Race to Dubai was Seve Ballesteros," he said in 2017 when he competed to win the race win. “Neither Sergio [Garcia] nor [Jose Maria] Olazabal were able to do it. & # 39; & # 39;
Lowry won his first major this summer with a win at the British Open and recently said he would like the year to be No. 1.
"It is my main goal in the coming weeks to perform as well as possible, "he said. "It would be nice if I reached the last 18 holes in Dubai with a chance to win the Race to Dubai.
" European No. 1 would be very special and would add to the year that I & # 39; I had, & he said. "I think it would be the icing on the cake."