Golf’s European Tour has teamed up with Swiss watchmaker Rolex to form a lucrative new alliance of its leading tournaments.
The Rolex Series has been formed in an attempt to enhance the competitive and entertainment experience for players and fans around the world, as well as encouraging leading stars to commit to the Tour. Rolex, a long-term partner of the Tour, has agreed to sponsor the series as part of a multi-year commitment that will begin in 2017.
Replacing the existing Final Series, next year's Rolex Series will comprise a minimum of seven tournaments, each with a prize fund of at least $7m (€6.5m), with the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai featuring a prize fund of $8m.
Next year’s series will begin in May with the PGA Championship at Wentworth Club in England and continues with the Irish Open and Scottish Open in July.
The fourth tournament will be the Italian Open in October. November tournaments to be included in the alliance will be the Turkish Airlines Open in Turkey, the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
The European Tour said that plans are in place to increase the number of Rolex Series events in future seasons. The formation of the new alliance represents the European Tour’s latest move to try and compete with the more lucrative US PGA Tour.
It is hoped the incentive of bigger prize funds will help persuade high-profile names such as Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson to continue to compete on the European Tour and not play exclusively on the PGA Tour.
The Rolex Series will also benefit from significantly enhanced television and digital production, as well as increased hours of coverage distributed worldwide.
European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said at a press conference: “There are three reasons we are doing this. The first reason, we believe that the success and the growth of a high-profile series like the Rolex Series will elevate our tour, its brand, and all other events. So that's No. 1.
“Two, and we really strongly believe this, that we need a stronger content offering to enable us to reach larger audiences across multiple platforms, and that's what the Rolex Series is about. And the third, we need a product that can grow and grow over time, that provides a strong financial offering for our young players so they don't have to go to the United States.”
Regarding expansion, Pelley (right of picture) added: “It's starting right now in 2017 with seven tournaments, but I'm going to caveat that by saying a minimum of seven tournaments. We expect to have eight or nine in 2017. We're currently under discussions with some other partners as we speak. So our goal is, eight or nine in 2017 with a goal of 10 by 2018.
“We will have significantly enhanced content and a commitment to high-end content, more television production resources. We're going to invest millions of dollars into our production. More live television produced. Our digital team… will be working 24/7 around the clock to produce creative content. Each Rolex tournament will have a robust marketing and promotional plan.”