David Howell: Leaving behind the Tour history for shiny Premier League world will not be easy

Lucas Herbert won this year’s Omega Dubai Desert Classic on the Majlis Course at Emirates Golf Club, which played as tough as any year I can remember.

As I tapped in for an 80 on Day One my mind went straight to the Committee Meeting last year when we instructed the European Tour staff to strengthen the challenge of all three courses for the Desert Swing. It’s safe to say that they listened to us: Narrow fairways, brutal rough and greens as firm and fast as any we will face all year, provided a Major-like test, especially with the strongest winds we have encountered for many years at the Classic.

Play-off drama is always a bonus for any event and Lucas fulfilled all the potential we have seen from him over the last couple of seasons, with his first European Tour victory. I’m fortunate enough to be able to say that winning the Classic, as your maiden victory, is a pinch-yourself moment. At least it was for me, so I’m sure Lucas is still basking in the glow of victory – and deservedly so.

Saudi International was a huge success

The Saudi International made great strides during its second showing with course refinements that made for a brilliant challenge. Greens running a couple of feet quicker added to some well- designed run-off areas and transformed what seemed to be like an average test last year into one of the most interesting and testing courses we have played in the Middle East over the years.

A stellar field was assembled once again, with some fresh star faces on show. Phil Mickelson is always a draw card and whilst its true to say that in Saudi there is not a yet a crowd to be drawn by even the biggest of stars, it is always great to have one of the icons of the modern age grace our European Tour. Phil is always great value. He plays golf how many of us would love to if they had a choice. Wild shots interspersed with brilliance and his new slimline figure helped him produce his best showing for many months.

Not good enough, however, to beat the man from Portrush, Graeme McDowell, who put together the kind of finish that reminded us of just how he was able to withstand the pressure of that climatic final singles game, which won Europe the 2010 Ryder Cup. Birdies on the fourteenth and fifteenth holes, two of the toughest on the course playing into the teeth of the wind, was as good an example of how to grab hold of a championship as you may see all year long. Graeme has always had that ability, and a decade after his US Open win clearly demonstrates that he hasn’t lost that winning mentality.

Premier Golf League – it’s got the world of golf talking

One of the talking points of that week, however, was an off-the-course story, the breaking cover of the Premier Golf League and its suggested plans to transform the golfing landscape with a new offering, which, they hope, will entice the world’s top players into a breakaway tour for 48 players.

With more than four  years of planning having gone into the business plan, it would be disingenuous  of me to give too much of an opinion on their plans in these pages, but it is safe to say their vision of how top professional golf could look is very different to what I grew up watching and falling in love with.

When you are deeply involved with something it is hard to see things in a different light, from a new angle. Hence, the ability of being able to sit down with a blank piece of paper and sketch out something completely new is a strategy only available to challenging business brains, but their ideas are clearly stirring some interest to parties with a vested interest in the golfing world.

What a position to be in, then, if you are one of those handful of stars in the game, who the Premier Golf League need to launch their vision upon. Whilst their plans are said to include just 48 players. Let’s face facts, the plan lives and dies on the choices made by those very few right at the top of the tree.

It sounds like an enviable position to be in at first glance. Having been brilliant enough to have risen to the top of the game during the era of Tiger Woods and all that has come with that, now a new offering with more riches is on offer. However, that opportunity comes with many caveats, of course. Firstly, leaving behind the established Tours that have provided the platform and hence the riches that have transformed their lives financially.

Also, leaving behind is the history that has been laid down over many years that makes some of our more historic tournaments such great sporting occasions. The record books are filled with great names. The Palmer, Player, Nicklaus trilogy are literally etched in to many of the trophies that grace the mantlepieces of today’s stars. Then there is the knowledge that whilst taking the risk to potentially better their own worlds it could, and most probably will, leave those who they leave behind in a much worse place. Waving goodbye to old friends and colleagues for a brave new shiny world may not prove to be so easy for some to do.

All sorts of new ideas have been raised by the new offering, but I would say many more questions are, at this point, left unanswered. A couple of things are for sure, though. Premier League Golf has got the world of golf talking, and it may be that the status quo is no longer an option.

Some change in the world of golf is now inevitable one would think. It is clear that the existing Tours need to be quick-thinking, dynamic and cooperative with one another, rather than working against each other’s interests to be able to keep the top players on board.

Let’s hope no matter how things pan out that golf is the better for it. The players, as ever, have the power at the end of the day, and with it perhaps more responsibility than they ever envisaged.

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