European Tour prize funds soar with Rolex deal

    Rory McIlroy has an outside chance of a third straight Race to Dubai title this week.

    Story highlights

    • European Tour announces Rolex Series
    • Seven events will offer minimum of $7M
    • More money and tournaments to be added

    (CNN)Professional golf can offer untold riches for those at the top, but prize money is set to soar even higher with a new series of events on the European Tour.

    The inaugural Rolex Series in 2017 will feature an alliance of seven tournaments throughout the season, each carrying a prize fund of more than $7 million.
      The deal has been described by the Tour as "one of its most significant advancements in 44 years" and is designed to elevate the status of certain events and make it a more lucrative proposition to the rival US PGA Tour.
      The series will begin with the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth before taking in the Irish Open at Portstewart, the Scottish Open at Dundonald and the Italian Open at near Rome in October.
      The final three Rolex Series events, replacing the current Final Series format, will take place in November and comprise the Turkish Airlines Open, the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City in South Africa and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai.
      The BMW PGA Championship had a purse of $5.6 million in 2016, while the Irish Open was worth $4.3 million, the Scottish Open had a fund of $4 million and the Italian Open was worth $3.2 million.
      There will be no change to the prize fund available for the final three tournaments, with the season-ending DP World Championship still offering $8 million.

      'Excited'

      "We are delighted to unveil the Rolex Series and we are committed to developing and building on it over the coming years," European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley said.
      "I'm going to caveat that by saying a minimum of seven tournaments, as we expect to have eight or nine in 2017. We're currently under discussions with some other partners as we speak."
      World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, who hosts the Irish Open, added: "I'm very grateful for the European Tour and Rolex including the Irish Open in this Rolex Series. The Irish Open's been given a great date, as well. It's two weeks before The Open on a links golf course. We're really excited about it."
      McIlroy has a chance of capturing a third consecutive Race to Dubai title, the European Tour's order of merit, in Dubai this week, but is ranked fourth and would need the three players ahead of him to falter.
      British Open champion Henrik Stenson leads the standings from Masters winner Danny Willett, with Sweden's in-form Alex Noren in third after winning last weekend's Nedbank Golf Challenge and October's British Masters.