Top Billing for European Golf
Yes, in my opinion, the dunhill links Championship, won Sunday at The Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland by Stephen Gallacher, was more compelling than the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas.
This is not to say that Andre Stolz 21-under par victory in Vegas was not without its moments. Fact is, 21 is rarely a bad number for the players in the gaming capitol of the world.
And it was terrific to see Tom Lehman back in the hunt again late Sunday. The short putt he missed on the 71st hole at the TPC at Summerlin cost him a shot at a playoff with Aussie Stolz. But ever since switching to the long putter in Canada early last month, the 45-year-old Lehman has gone a long way toward exorcising his putting demons.
And how about Tag Ridings? He has been playing on a major medical extension this year after injuring his back early in 2003. All he did Sunday, going off the 10th tee, was card a tidy little 61 to earn a share of second place and guarantee himself PGA Tour status in the top 150 for 2005. If Ridings wins more than $140,000 in his next eight events, he will be fully exempt next year.
But the weekend belonged to the boys on the other side of the pond. Maybe to the victor goes the spoils. Four of the top 10 finishers at the dunhill links--Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and David Howell, were members of the European Ryder Cup team that thrashed the Americans at Oakland Hills last month. Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, who lost in a playoff to Scotlands Gallacher, almost certainly will play on a Ryder Cup team in the future.
The dunhill links has, for the moment, improved on the nice little formula that has been working for a long time at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am: This year it managed to combine A list celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Douglas and Dennis Hopper with Ryder Cup heroes and provide them with a killer rotation. The Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns are, arguably, every bit as good as Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills.
Sadly for Donald, who may quietly be the very best of a suddenly swell crop of English young guns, he shorted a 13-footer on the 72nd hole to miss the playoff with McDowell and Gallacher. It was the second time this year Donald has failed on a makeable putt on the 18th hole Sunday to miss a playoff. At the Buick Invitational in February he and Chris Riley let winner John Daly off the hook on the final hole.
But Donalds rise to stardom has been a steady one. He now weighs in at No. 25 on the Official World Golf Rankings.
And his amateur partner, Eric Gleacher, was just one of the financial eagles that gathered at the dunhill links. Gleacher and Donald both played their college golf at Northwestern University and surely had lots to talk about what with the Wildcats football team winning in overtime Saturday for the second straight week.
But Gleacher is also a heavyweight inside the halls of the power brokers of golf. He is a former Secretary of the USGA. And his firm, Gleacher & Co., recently advised Forstmann Little on the acquisition of the International Management Group that reportedly cost in excess of $700 million.
Wall St. semi-legend Teddy Forstmann, who runs Forstmann Little, partnered with Vijay Singh at the dunhill links.
The point in all of this is that the European Tour appears headed into a period of increased stature. And there was a sense that a large number of the important people in golf at the moment were in Scotland last week.
This is not necessarily at the expense of our PGA Tour. But it is a reminder to all who pay close attention, that the best and most interesting golf on your television set on Sundays can sometimes come in the AM.
Now if somebody can please do something about those six hour rounds in pro-ams, on both sides of the Atlantic. They are tortuously long.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads halted Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters when bad weather stopped play Friday during the second round.
The Englishman, who shot a 10-under 62 on Thursday, had completed 13 holes and was 5 under on the day at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat (64) was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew wit on the 11th hole at 2 under for the day after shooting an opening 72.
There was no reason given for his withdrawal, but the American has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18