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Finchem: McIlroy can be new cash cow for PGA Tour

Rory McIlroy has taken to the practice range in Dubai ahead of his European Tour opener next week in nearby Abu Dhabi but it is the rival PGA Tour which is set to reap the rewards of McIlroy's financial magnetism.

McIlroy travelled direct from Sydney to join his long-time coach, Michael Bannon, for a week working alongside fellow Northern Irish pro, Justin Parsons at the Els Club in Dubai.

However, the "Battle of the Giants", as McIlroy's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship showdown with the 14-time major winner Tiger Woods is being promoted, will be his only regular European Tour event in five months.

Indeed, European fans will witness McIlroy and Woods lock horns in perhaps no more than four events throughout 2013, whereas those in the US are looking at 12 to 15 tournaments which will feature the pair.

Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour commissioner, is the man holding all the aces when he sits down with US television chiefs and the chief executives of sponsors.

"Last year, the PGA Tour had an incredibly strong year," said Finchem. "It was as if everything just came together and the fact that Rory advanced a couple of levels in his career and continued demonstrating he's got the capability to this juxtaposition that he can mix it with the better players like Tiger was the key factor in helping the PGA Tour have the great season we had. When a guy takes on the mantle, or identity level, Rory's taken on, it has a ripple effect heading into the future."

For 16 years, Woods has been the PGA Tour's cash cow but it is McIlroy's magnetism to which Finchem now looks as he seeks to attract the USA's corporate dollars.

"Rory conjures up in the minds of the people making the decisions about what is going to happen next year, five years from now, as they make arrangements with sponsors, tournament officials and so on. It gives us more strength in our conversations with those people [which are bound] to strengthen our Tour," added Finchem.

"I always said of Tiger, when he first came on to the Tour in late 1996, that his biggest contribution was going to be stuff to see 10, 15 and 20 years in the future.

"With regard to Rory, it might be a little early to say [that the same might apply] but he has potential, if he can be consistent enough and win enough. That's the next question: how far can he go?

"As an individual, Rory stirs the imagination of people and the amazing thing is that he's like Tiger in a sense in that we saw in the [FedEx Cup] Play-offs, he clearly did not play well as he had on the Saturday, but he can absorb a bad round and bounce back and win. Not many players can do that.

"I certainly think Rory has the potential, given his personality and how well grounded he is, and how good he is, that he can have a profound long-term effect on the game because he has the potential to be around a long time."

Finchem indicated, too, though, that it's not just the increases in prize money that McIlroy can bring to the PGA Tour, as he admitted that he admires the 23-year- old as an individual.

"From an image standpoint, I like the way Rory handles himself off the golf course," said Finchem. "I notice also when he is asked questions by the media that he is clearly focused on who's listening.

"He's complimentary; he's polite and when he speaks there is always a message in there that has real impact. He's smart. Very smart.

"If he stopped [playing] right now, he would have been a tremendous story in the history of golf but he's got all those years [ahead of him] out there and, if he continues to handle himself the way he does now that will [prove to be the case]. Aside from the excitement, interest and competition he brings to golf, he is a significant asset to the image of the game."

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