2022 Ryder Cup: Money talks as Italy wins right to host event
The decisive factor in Italy's successful fight to stage the 2022 Ryder Cup was the usual one in these circumstances - money.
This may seem a cynical assessment, especially when bid documents are laced with words like "legacy", "integration" and "participation". But the European Tour came clean when it acknowledged that Italian golf's financial pledge was "hugely significant".
While Spain and Germany were considered front runners to become hosts for the third Ryder Cup to be staged in continental Europe, the successful bid team ruthlessly capitalised on the ambitions of Keith Pelley, the Tour's chief executive.
It wasn't just about how well they could stage the biennial match between Europe and United States. It was more to do with the overall power struggle between these two golfing territories.
Golf's calendar is bossed by the more lucrative American setup and for decades the European Tour has provided a conveyor belt of talented players who have gone on to base themselves Stateside.
Now, though, Pelley wants to stem the flow. He wants to create a schedule for Europe's leading golfers that is a viable alternative to the PGA Tour.
For that to happen, the Wentworth-based circuit needs more big money tournaments. Italy's bid team seized on this as they sought to bring the Ryder Cup to the Marco Simone Golf and Country Club in Rome.
The Italian Open currently provides a modest 1.5m euro prize fund. That pot is set to double and from 2017 the tournament will be worth 7m euros for the next 11 years.
Where the money is coming from remains to be seen. It is a mammoth commitment that will propel an event that has been in existence since 1925 to a new level.
"We have exciting plans for the development of the European Tour," Pelley stated. "Italy shares this ambition.
"Their commitment to the Italian Open will provide an inspiring benchmark."
These are the sort of prize purses that Pelley wants to have on offer week in, week out. He clearly hopes a more lucrative Italian Open will provide an example for other national championships to follow.
|Next Ryder Cup venues|
|2016 - Hazeltine, Minnesota, United States|
|2018 - Le National, Versailles, France|
|2020 - Whistling Straits, Wisconsin, United States|
|2022 - Marco Simone, Rome, Italy|
Of course, they won't have the Ryder Cup carrot but this still represents the first tangible evidence of the newly appointed Pelley's vision coming to fruition.
With the 2018 match to be staged in Paris, it also means the next two home Ryder Cups will be played close to great European cities. The Italian venue sits just 17km from the centre of Rome.
"There is no question that the Eternal City of Rome will provide a wonderful backdrop for one of the great occasions in world golf," Pelley said.
The Tour wants to stage big events close to major centres of population. Next year's British Masters will provide such an example when it is held at The Grove which is on the northern edge of London.
From a domestic standpoint it is vital for the UK to mount a strong attempt to bring back the Ryder Cup to these shores. The country didn't try for the 2022 match and Austria were the other beaten country among the final four bidders.
The next opportunity will not be until 2026, 12 years on from Europe's successful defence at Gleneagles last year. You have to go back to 2002 and the Belfry for the last time the contest was held in England.
Equally, there are big benefits in taking it to new countries. Italy will seek to capitalise on the careers of Francesco and Edoardo Molinari when their turn comes seven years hence.
The successful French bid to stage the 2018 match was another that came with strong financial backing. It also boasted significant legacy aspects that should yield 100 small and accessible urban courses being developed in the country.
Scotland's ClubGolf scheme to promote the junior game benefited hugely from the staging of the 2014 match at Gleneagles.
These are the spin-offs that come from holding the game's most exciting event, but as Italy have proved to reach that stage there remains a significant need to break open a sizable wallet.