European Tour announces ambitious schedule

By Associated PressOctober 7, 2008, 4:00 pm
European TourThe European Tour announced an ambitious schedule this week that stretches across more than two dozen countries on five continents, has more tournaments than there are weeks in the year, and culminates with a $20 million destination in Dubai.
 
Phil Mickelson is among those who might take up membership.
 
Vijay Singh already has said he wants to rake in the cash at Dubai, just as he did this year at East Lake, and it would not be surprising if he saw familiar faces such as Camilo Villegas and Anthony Kim trying to stop him.
 
None of this seemed plausible when George OGrady assembled his players at La Costa two years ago in what might have been the most important meeting during his four-year tenure as chief executive of the European Tour.
 
The tour wasnt in turmoil, but it was losing relevance.
 
The World Golf Championships were about to embark on a six-year plan to be played only in the United States, which already was home to three of the four majors. The Players Championship was a year away from moving to May, forcing some Europeans to choose between the richest purse in golf or key tournaments on their home circuit.
 
If that wasnt enough, PGA Tour officials were polishing off plans for the FedEx Cup, which offered $35 million in bonus money and was sure to entice more Europeans to play more in America, and stay there during playoff events in August and September.
 
Two dozen European Tour members met with OGrady on the eve of the 2006 Accenture Match Play Championship, a session in which players shared ideas instead of complaints.
 
Asked for a central theme to the meeting, OGrady replied, That the European Tour is worth fighting for.
 
Everybody can do a whisper more, he said that day. I got ideas from them, instead of them lecturing me. I wont stand here and say its all rosy. We do have challenges. But they are challenges that can be met.
 
The fight produced Europes strongest schedule ever.
 
The most compelling component is renaming the Order of Merit to The Race to Dubai, which has a similar concept to the FedEx Cup without having to calculate points or calling it something that its not ' playoffs.
 
The top 60 on the money list qualify for the season-ending Dubai World Championship, which offers a $10 million purse for the tournament, along with a $10 million bonus for the top 15 on the money list.
 
To protect the rank-and-file, but still make European Tour membership appealing to American-based players, tour officials increased the minimum requirement from 11 to 12 tournaments, with two of those events on European soil. For top players who are eligible for the four majors and three WGCs, that means they will have to play only four European Tour events before the Dubai World Championship.
 
The tour has clearly moved up a gear in its ability to attract the worlds best players, said Sergio Garcia, who flew to Turnberry on Monday to help promote the launch of the new season. It will certainly help focus the interest of the players, and I for one will be seeking to get to Dubai and make a great finish to the season.
 
Along with Mickelson and Singh, others who are contemplating European Tour membership include former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Allenby and Adam Scott. Kim and Villegas are sure to be tempted.
 
Does the PGA Tour suffer? Not necessarily.
 
Tiger Woods does not plan to join. What the last four months have shown is that if Woods doesnt play, does anyone care?
 
And while $20 million sounds like a lot in Europe, the FedEx Cup pays $35 million in bonus money, with four $7 million tournaments leading up to that. It still pays to play on the PGA Tour, which is why so many Europeans do.
 
If Mickelson were to join, he likely would play two events in Asia (after the PGA Tour season ends), along with the French Open and Scottish Open in July. He has played at Loch Lomond the last three years, and to play the French Open would mean missing the AT&T National at Congressional, which Lefty didnt play last year, anyway.
 
Singh played 23 times on the PGA Tour this year, and to miss a couple of events would not do any harm.
 
The players that move the needle significantly ' whatever list you go by ' most of them are players that are playing a couple of times overseas now, anyway, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. It wouldnt take players a lot to play the requisite number, and they can get there without changing their PGA Tour schedule.
 
Were keeping an eye on it, Finchem said. What currently is on the table wouldnt appear to have a dramatic effect.
 
Of the 12 players on the PGA Tour and European Tour money lists this year, only three of them have played at least 25 times on both tours so far this year ' Daniel Chopra (29), Retief Goosen (26) and Trevor Immelman (25).
 
Its not asking much to play both tours, and more players should consider it.
 
Having two strong tours is good for golf.
 
If there is cause for concern about Europes new world ' beyond the 11 TBAs on the schedule, including the Irish Open and European Open ' it is the dependence on one group for so much money. The tour now is in a partnership with Dubai-based Leisurecorp, and one can only hope the important golf decisions are left to people who know golf.
 

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    Rahm (62) fires career low round

    By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

    The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

    Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

    What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

    Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

    Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

    Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

    Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

    Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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    Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

    Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

    "Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

    Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

    "That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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    Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

    By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

    There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

    Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

    Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

    Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

    @tommyfleetwood_1

    A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

    The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

    It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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    Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

    By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

    Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

    The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

    It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

    "It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

    Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

    "This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."