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Americans want piece of the pie

Kim's appearance at the Malaysian Open signals a change in attitude for US golfers. (GETTY IMAGES)

By John McAuley

The sight of Anthony Kim swinging his club at the Malaysian Open last week gives another indication of the strength of the European Tour's new Race to Dubai.

Kim, the world No11 and one of the most exciting golfers on the PGA Tour, travelled to Kuala Lumpur to participate in his first event on the rebranded Order of Merit, knowing he needs to cross over to the European Tour if he wants to qualify for the Dubai World Championship in November.

The requirements are somewhat easier to master than the 23-year-old found the fairways and greens of the Saujana Golf and Country Club. To qualify for the lucrative competition at the end of the year, Kim needs to compete in at least 12 tournaments on the Race To Dubai calendar.

Take the four Majors out of the equation, and the three World Golf Championships – considered one rung below the Majors in terms of prestige – and US golfers will only have to participate in another four tournaments on the European Tour to gain eligibility for the DWC.

Traditionally, though, it is Europe's top golfers that choose to trade Pearl Valley for Pebble Beach, or Malmo for Maryland, but the new year-long tournament has caught the imagination of the golfers in the States.

And George O'Grady, the Chief Executive of the European Tour who oversaw the revamp, is understandably delighted.

"I haven't had one negative comment about the Race to Dubai, not one. Tiger Woods himself has spoken about it and Phil Mickelson's now looking at his schedule.

"That's not necessarily saying they are going to join the Tour, because it's a big thing to get an American golfer. South Africans, Asians and Europeans are used to time change and travel. If you're an American golfer playing in America you've had it all your own way for a long time.

"But I'm not actually wasting my time chasing American golfers," he adds. "They can see it; they can read it for themselves in America. I talk to them, but I'm not actively recruiting. I'm not persuading anybody, it's there in the market. I'm not begging anybody to come and play in conditions this good for this level of money."

Those who have already crossed the Atlantic this term include Mickelson and Camilo Villegas, the world No4 and No9 respectively, with O'Grady attributing their participation to the persuasive powers of golf's top-ranked Spaniard.

"Sergio Garcia's advertising The Race to Dubai for me," imparts O'Grady. "He thinks it's terrific and he's telling his pals like Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas to come and play our tournaments. And they are.

"But this isn't us attacking the PGA Tour – I admire a lot of the things the Americans do – but this is us making sure the European Tour, and our partners, are as good as we possibly can be."