US and Europe in Compelling Competition

By Associated PressMay 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
DUBLIN, Ohio -- The Memorial has come a long way since its inception three decades ago, mostly because the players have traveled a long way to get here. They come from every continent where golf is played, representing 15 countries.
 
Then again, it's like that just about every week on the PGA TOUR.
 
That's good news for Tim Finchem, commissioner of the richest and most powerful golf tour in the world.
 
It is becoming a problem for George O'Grady, commissioner of a European Tour that is losing its players, if not its identity.
 
The Wales Open this week has but one of the top 10 players in the world -- Retief Goosen -- and four of the top 50. Most of the European-born stars are at Muirfield Village, from Luke Donald to Paul Casey, from Sergio Garcia to Jose Maria Olazabal. The Irish Open wasn't much better, coming one week after THE PLAYERS Championship.
 
'We're not in conflict with the PGA TOUR,' O'Grady said last week at the BMW Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour. 'The PGA TOUR opened their doors to the best golfers in the world, made them welcome.'
 
And those players gladly walked through the door.
 
That's worth keeping in mind during a U.S.-Europe competition that is becoming far more compelling than the Ryder Cup.
 
Golf has never been more global, but that takes on different meaning depending on the tour. The European Tour is global because of where it goes, a schedule that touches five continents. The PGA TOUR is global because of the players it gets.
 
The PGA TOUR, clearly, is the rising tide in golf. The question is whether it is lifting all ships, or drowning them.
 
Vijay Singh stirred the pot last week at Wentworth when he said the BMW Championship was 'even bigger' than THE PLAYERS Championship. Singh went on to say he was saddened that Europeans had no trouble traveling to Sawgrass for THE PLAYERS, but hardly any Americans bothered coming over to Wentworth.
 
'I would like to see a lot more Americans coming over and trying to play this tournament,' Singh said.
 
What he conveniently failed to explain was why it was only the third time in the last 10 years he played the BMW Championship if he had such strong feelings for the tournament. And perhaps the simple explanation why Europeans come to THE PLAYERS Championship is that most of them are joint members of the European and PGA tours.
 
Still, it exposed a growing divide between the tours, and how the Federation of PGA Tours is no longer effective.
 
The federation was formed 11 years ago primarily to oversee the World Golf Championships, which sounded like a great idea when they were being staged all over the world. Now the three that count toward official money are played in Arizona, Florida and Ohio, and they are under contract through 2012.
 
The one that used to rotate between the United States and Europe was folded into an existing PGA TOUR event at Doral, which turned out to be a double whammy. It not only knocked out dozens of rank-and-file U.S. players, it handed America yet another 'world' event.
 
Singh raised the idea that the BMW Championship -- a world-class event on a championship course as good as any -- could not be packaged as a WGC event, perhaps attracting more Americans.
 
Never mind that too many Americans stayed away even when there were WGC events in Ireland and Spain and London.
 
'We offered one or two events we considered suitable to be WGC tournaments but the PGA TOUR flatly refused to consider them,' said Keith Waters, director of international policy for the European Tour.
 
Ed Moorhouse, co-chief operating officer at the PGA TOUR, recalls preliminary talks about a WGC event the week before or after the British Open, but it never got beyond that.
 
'It's fair to say we didn't go into a lot of details because it was fairly obvious they didn't want to entertain a WGC in Europe,' Waters said in a telephone interview. 'It was most disappointing.'
 
The tournament that got most of the attention was Loch Lomond, home of the Barclays Scottish Open held a week before the British Open. Loch Lomond was interested, and Waters said he was certain Barclays would have been willing to up the ante.
 
One reason the PGA TOUR balked was it had obligations to the John Deere Classic, held the same week in Illinois.
 
That's why the federation has run its course. It's hard to take it seriously when Finchem, who heads up the federation, has too many competing interests.
 
A new WGC event is planned for China starting in 2009, and Moorhouse said it can rotate out of China every other year, which could mean going to Europe or Australia. That rings hollow, because Europe doesn't have a lot of options in November except for southern Spain or France, Portugal or the Middle East, where the Dubai Classic, Qatar Masters and Abu Dhabi are holding their own.
 
Perhaps the direction for Europe is to come up with its own version of the WGCs.
 
O'Grady mentioned joining forces with Japan, South Africa, Asia and Australia to create 'a hugely strong alternative to the PGA TOUR.'
 
'The idea of amalgamating with other tours to put on a really attractive schedule by whatever name we call it is one that we are in the final stages of refining,' he said.
 
One possibility is a series of events similar to the WGCs that would be jointly sanctioned by everyone except the PGA TOUR.
 
But just like anything else, its strength would be determined by who shows up.
 
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
 
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    McCoy earns medalist honors at Web.com Q-School

    By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 am

    One year after his budding career was derailed by a car accident, Lee McCoy got back on track by earning medalist honors at the final stage of Web.com Tour Q-School.

    McCoy shot a final-round 65 at Whirlwind Golf Club in Chandler, Ariz., to finish the 72-hole event at 28 under. That total left him two shots ahead of Sung-Jae Im and guaranteed him fully-exempt status on the developmental circuit in 2018.

    It's an impressive turnaround for the former University of Georgia standout who finished fourth at the 2016 Valspar Championship as an amateur while playing alongside Jordan Spieth in the final round. But he broke his wrist in a car accident the day before second stage of Q-School last year, leaving him without status on any major tour to begin the year.

    McCoy was not the only player who left Arizona smiling. Everyone in the top 10 and ties will be exempt through the first 12 events of the new Web.com Tour season, a group that includes former amateur standouts Curtis Luck (T-3), Sam Burns (T-10) and Maverick McNealy (T-10).

    Players who finished outside the top 10 but inside the top 45 and ties earned exemptions into the first eight events of 2018. That group includes Cameron Champ (T-16), who led the field in driving at this year's U.S. Open as an amateur, and Wyndham Clark (T-23).

    Everyone who advanced to the final stage of Q-School will have at least conditional Web.com Tour status in 2018. Among those who failed to secure guaranteed starts this week were Robby Shelton, Rico Hoey, Jordan Niebrugge, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Hall.

    Els honored with Heisman Humanitarian Award

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 11:41 pm

    The annual Heisman Trophy award ceremony is one of the biggest moments in any football season, but there was a touching non-football moment as well on Saturday night as Ernie Els received the Heisman Humanitarian Award.

    The award, which had been announced in August, recognized Els' ongoing efforts on behalf of his Els for Autism foundation. Els received the award at Manhattan's PlayStation Theater, where Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy.

    Els, 47, founded Els for Autism in 2009 with his wife after their son, Ben, was diagnosed with autism. Their efforts have since flourished into a 26-acre campus in Jupiter, Fla., and the creation of the Els Center for Excellence in 2015.

    The Heisman Humanitarian Award has been given out since 2006. Past recipients include NBA center David Robinson, NFL running back Warrick Dunn, soccer star Mia Hamm and NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon.

    A native of South Africa, Els won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012. He has won 19 times on the PGA Tour and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.

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    Monday finish for Joburg Open; Sharma leads by 4

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 10, 2017, 8:57 pm

    Rain, lightning and hail pushed the Joburg Open to a Monday finish, with India’s Shubhankar Sharma holding a four-stroke lead with 11 holes to play in Johannesburg.

    Play is scheduled to resume at 7:30 a.m. local time.

    South Africa’s Erik van Rooyen will have a 3-foot putt for birdie to move within three shots of Sharma wen play resumes at the Randpark Golf Club. Sarma is at 22 under par.

    Tapio Pulkkanen of Finland and James Morrison of England are tied for third at 14 under. Pulkkanen has 10 holes remaining, Morrison 11.

    The top three finishers who are not already exempt, will get spots in next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

     

     

    Stricker, O'Hair team to win QBE Shootout

    By Will GrayDecember 10, 2017, 8:55 pm

    It may not count in the official tally, but Steve Stricker is once again in the winner's circle on the PGA Tour.

    Stricker teamed with Sean O'Hair to win the two-person QBE Shootout, as the duo combined for a better-ball 64 in the final round to finish two shots clear of Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry. It's the second win in this event for both men; Stricker won with Jerry Kelly back in 2009 while O'Hair lifted the trophy with Kenny Perry in 2012.

    Stricker and O'Hair led wire-to-wire in the 54-hole, unofficial event after posting a 15-under 57 during the opening-round scramble.

    "We just really gelled well together," Stricker said. "With his length the first day, getting some clubs into the greens, some short irons for me, we just fed off that first day quite a bit. We felt comfortable with one another."


    Full-field scores from the QBE Shootout


    Stricker won 12 times during his PGA Tour career, most recently at the 2012 Tournament of Champions. More recently the 50-year-old has been splitting his time on the PGA Tour Champions and captained the U.S. to a victory at the Presidents Cup in October. O'Hair has four official Tour wins, most recently at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open.

    Pat Perez and Brian Harman finished alone in third, four shots behind Stricker and O'Hair. Lexi Thompson and Tony Finau, the lone co-ed pairing in the 12-team event, finished among a tie for fourth.