2006 European Tour Schedule Announced
The 2006 season got underway in spectacular fashion last week when David Howell won the inaugural HSBC Champions tournament at the Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, China, and continues in Asia with the Volvo China Open and the UBS Hong Kong Open before moving to South Africa to contest the dunhill championship and the South African Airways Open.
A new team contest between Europe and Asia ' The Royal Trophy at the Amata Spring Country Club, Bangkok, Thailand ' starts the New Year from January 7-8, 2006 while, two weeks later, The European Tour visits its 36th destination in its 34 year history when the Abu Dhabi Golf Club plays host to the inaugural Abu Dhabi Golf Championship from January 19-22.
Completing the quartet of new tournaments is the BA-CA Golf Open presented by Telekom Austria which graduates to The European Tour after having been a fixture on the European Challenge Tour since 1997. It will take place at the Fontana Golf Club in Vienna, Austria, from June 8-11.
Like their Austrian counterpart, the Madeira Island Open Caixa Geral de Depositos and The Cadillac Russian Open both had an association with the Challenge Tour in 2005 ' in the form of dual ranking events with The European Tour - but in 2006 they will be elevated to fully fledged European Tour events in their own right.
First, in chronological order, will be Madeira at the Santo da Serra course from March 23-26, followed by the trip to Russia and Le Meridien Moscow Country Club from August 17-20. The Aa St Omer Open at the Aa Saint Omer Golf Club, Lumbres, France, from June 15-18 will remain a dual ranking tournament with the Challenge Tour on the 2006 schedule.
As well as four new tournaments, two established events will feature new venues in 2006. The first of those is the Volvo China Open from April 13-16 which will take place at the Honghua International Golf Club in Beijing, while the WGC ' American Express Championship returns to Europe for a fifth time when it is played at The Grove, Chandlers Cross, Hertfordshire, England, from September 28-October 1.
Elsewhere, two other established events will exchange months, the Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles moving to June 22-25 from August, with the slot in the schedule on August 10-13 being filled by The KLM Open after its departure from June. The other change for the latter tournament is a return to an established venue in The Netherlands, namely the Kennemer Golf & Country Club, Zandvoort, which played host to the tournament as early as 1920 and whose list of winners include Seve Ballesteros (1976) and Jos Maria Olazbal (1989).
While there are many tournaments to savour throughout the year, including the final counting event for Ryder Cup points in the BMW International Open at Golfclub Mnchen Nord-Eichenried, Munich, from August 31-September 3, it is later in September that the season will build to a crescendo.
For four weeks, the attention of the world will focus on The European Tour and on Britain and Ireland in particular, beginning with the HSBC World Match Play Championship at Wentworth Club, Surrey, England, from September 14-17, to be followed by the pinnacle of match play golf with The 36th Ryder Cup at The K Club, Straffan, Co.Kildare, Ireland, from September 22-24.
The following week the focus switches to England and The Grove for the WGC-American Express Championship while this outstanding stretch closes, fittingly, at the Home of Golf itself, when the Old Course at St Andrews, along with Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, plays host to the dunhill links championship from October 5-8.
McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi
It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.
Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson.
Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.
“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”
Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.
“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.
This was his first competitive round in four months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."