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Olazabal sees Final Series as major boost

Updated: 2013-10-24 07:36
By Agencies in Shanghai ( China Daily)

The inaugural FedExCup-style Final Series that tees off in Shanghai this week will give the European Tour a much-needed shot in the arm after a difficult year, said two-time major winner Jose Maria Olazabal.

While the rival US PGA Tour goes from strength to strength, the European circuit has struggled for sponsors and been badly hampered by the absence of headline attractions like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

With the majority of the triumphant 2012 Ryder Cup team basing themselves on the other side of the Atlantic this season, chief executive George O'Grady has had an awkward task in selling the European Tour brand.

The Final Series, similar to the US circuit's end-of-season FedExCup extravaganza, is a sequence of four events worth more than $30 million in total and starts on Thursday with the BMW Masters in China.

 Olazabal sees Final Series as major boost

Rory Mcilroy of Northern Ireland (center) and China's Wu Ashun join a Beijing Opera performer on the drums at a media event for the BMW Masters golf tournament, which opens on Thursday at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai. BMW Golf Masters 2013 / Agence France-Presse

"I think we are going to see four great tournaments," 2012 Ryder Cup captain Olazabal said.

"It's very important for the European Tour. We are going to see the top players coming back to play in these events and it's a good attraction for the tour, for the fans, the players and for media attention."

Shanghai also stages the WGC-Champions Tournament next week before the Final Series builds to a crescendo with the Turkish Open, featuring world No 1 Tiger Woods, and finally the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai in the mid-November.

"This is another idea to keep the players on their toes," said 1994 and 1999 US Masters champion Olazabal. "It's important for 2014 too, especially as that is a Ryder Cup year.

"If the players do well in this lucrative stretch of tournaments they will have done most of the job in terms of qualifying for the team."

This week in Shanghai, having gone head to head on the final day in a titanic tussle 12 months ago, Peter Hanson and McIlroy are hoping to renew their rivalry in the second edition of the BMW Masters.

McIlroy, ranked No 1 in the world at the time, pushed Hanson all the way in the inaugural $7 million tournament but ultimately came up one shot shy of the Swede's 21- under winning score.

Fast forward 12 months and McIlroy has slipped to sixth in the world rankings and is still searching for his first victory of the 2013 campaign. But buoyed by his morale-boosting joint runner-up finish in last week's Korean Open, the Northern Irishman is confident of going one better this year.

"We had a great battle last year. Peter pulled a few shots clear of me early on, then I played some good golf on the back nine and managed to claw it back. But he played some great golf under pressure over the last few holes, and in the end he was a deserving winner.

"It'll be good if I can put myself in a similar position again this year, and I feel like I'm playing well enough to do that, he said.

"I was happy with how I hit the ball in Korea last week, especially the last day. From tee to green, it's as good as it's been for a while. It was important to get some competitive action under my belt, and hopefully I can kick on this week.

"It's a hugely important week for me, not just to try to get my first win but also to make sure I climb into the top 60 of The Race to Dubai, so I get the chance to defend my title there."

Like McIlroy, Hanson currently finds himself outside the all-important top 60 players who qualify for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, the fourth stop in the Final Series.

(China Daily 10/24/2013 page23)