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O'Grady welcomes extension of airline's investment

AT this time of the year, the money disappears out of the wallet quicker than you can groan "20 quid for some feminine musk?"

AT this time of the year, the money disappears out of the wallet quicker than you can groan "20 quid for some feminine musk?"

Last-minute Christmas shopping aside, the European Tour officials seem to have everything they desire on Santa's wish list so far. Given that they had to feed and water various members of the golfing press in London's Lancaster Hotel yesterday, there needed to be some change left in the pot, mind you.

It's been a turbulent season for George O'Grady, the chief executive of the Wentworth-based body. There was Sergio Garcia's well-publicised racist controversy during the BMW PGA Championship - a media storm O'Grady himself was engulfed in - and the criticism of the circuit's multi-million dollar Final Series last month. Despite all this fire-fighting, O'Grady was more bullish than sheepish last night as he hailed another significant financial injection for the tour.

Emirates, the airline company that has extended its wings into a whole host of sports, bolstered its investment into European Tour golf with support of 10 more events. In total, Emirates now has significant input into 19 tour events and 24 worldwide. Having secured a new deal with Jumeirah Estates for the money-drenched Race to Dubai finale until the end of 2017 as well as a "ground-breaking" 10-year deal with US television, which resulted in the Scottish Open becoming the first European Tour event to be broadcast live to a vast American audience, there are plenty of reasons for O'Grady to be upbeat.

The Eurozone crisis hit the tour hard in its heartland - Spain, one of its traditional hosts, has lost six events on the schedule in recent years - but O'Grady remains convinced that there is plenty of light at the end of the tunnel.

"We are in a financially strong position, so much stronger than we were a few years ago," said the Irishman. "We have been well aware of the less than positive publicity, especially around the Final Series, and we accept that. But we face the future with an enormous amount of confidence."

As ever with these sorts of announcements, you've got more chance of wringing pints of blood out of various stones than you have of getting an answer to the actual financial numbers involved, but O'Grady's short, smiling response to the question of just how much the Emirates deal is worth spoke volumes. "It's worth the world," he added. "It's the strength of the confidence in the relationship with Emirates even more so than the money. This is hugely significant for the European Tour."

Amid the clinking of glasses, a toast was raised to the resurgent Swede, Henrik Stenson, who was named the European Tour's golfer of the year. The 37-year-old, who won both the Race to Dubai and the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup, set the seal on a stellar season by winning the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and becoming the first Swedish player to earn the coveted golfer of the year award.

"You can call it a dream season, year of my life, whatever you want," he said. "It has been an unbelievable year. You look at the past winners of this award and most of the greats of European golf are on there, which just adds to the prestige of winning it."

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