Dubai: Tom Phillips, the European Tour’s Head of Middle East, has vowed that the international body has its plans and focus in place for yet another successful culmination of golf in the Middle East region.
At the end of May, the European Tour announced plans for the resumption of the 2020 season with the launch of a new six-week ‘UK Swing’ along with the confirmation of new dates for four Rolex Series events.
Following the suspension of the season on March 8 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the European Tour announced that its return to action will be initially behind closed doors in July. The schedule will run through to the season-ending DP World Tour Championships on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai from December 10-13, where the 2020 Race to Dubai Champion will be crowned.
The season-ending tournament, featuring the top 50 players in the Race to Dubai Rankings, was originally scheduled to be held from November 19-22.
“The new dates are really because our season had a delay. And now to make up for lost time in our season, we obviously need this time to end the season in Dubai with the DP World Tour Championship,” Phillips told Gulf News on the sidelines of the special Dubai Sports Council (DSC) Forum held at Al Nasr Club, on Wednesday.
“Though the new dates have been announced, we will now start planning and start looking at different scenarios, while working with the authorities and making sure we do everything sensibly and carefully. We are looking forward to the start of our season.”
Having joined the European Tour in July last year, Phillips is responsible for the development of the European Tour’s tournament programme throughout the Middle East region, including the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
The 45-year-old Englishman, who was formerly based in Hong Kong since 2005 as Director of Faldo Design, succeeded long-serving Nick Tarratt at the European Tour’s office at Jumeirah Golf Estates. In 2013, Phillips joined the Hong Kong Golf Association as CEO, working closely with the European Tour and Asian Tour on the prestigious Hong Kong Open, as well as overseeing a new commercial direction for Hong Kong golf’s governing body.
The Middle East region is a strong partner of the European Tour with six top-level golf tournaments being held here starting off with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship followed by stops in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar, after which the tour was postponed due to the pandemic.
American Patrick Reed tops the European Tour standings followed by Englishman Lee Westwood, Lucas Herbert of Australia, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and another Englishman Tommy Fleetwood. The winner of the year-ending tournament will walk away with a bumper top prize of $3 million, making it the richest first prize in world tournament golf.
“There are no major changes this year as we stick to the six events we have in the region. We’ve already finished five of these so far and we are hoping for all the excitement we normally have for a full house at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in the first half of December,” Phillips said.
“We have been working continuously with health authorities and governing bodies from more than 30 countries around the world. And while our international reach is our strength, it is also our challenge. But that said, our focus is always on working closely with the authorities and following health guidelines so that we do the right thing and return when it’s safe and healthy to do so.”
The first tournament in the ‘UK Swing’ will be the British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood, played at Close House, near Newcastle from July 22-25. It will be followed by the English Open at the Marriott Forest of Arden and the English Championship at Marriott Hanbury Manor, before The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport hosts back-to-back European Tour tournaments — the Celtic Classic and the Wales Open.
The UK Swing will then conclude with the UK Championship at The Belfry. Details of subsequent tournaments on the European Tour from September to November will be announced in due course, with a variety of scheduling options currently under consideration as the global situation continues to evolve.