European Tour back in the PGA Tour's shadow

By Randall MellNovember 21, 2012, 4:17 pm

There is some hand wringing on the European Tour at this week’s Race to Dubai finale.

It’s a stark contrast to the finish two years ago, when the European Tour reveled in its unprecedented success.

You may remember the photo (pictured above) that came out of the Dubai World Championship just before the season finale began in 2010.

Europe’s best did everything but strike muscle poses in a photo that had to sting the pride of the PGA Tour’s best.

Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood must have looked like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to PGA Tour fans back then as they posed over all the hardware Europe claimed in a special year. Westwood, the reigning No. 1 player in the world, was front and center in the photo. The U.S. Open trophy (McDowell), the British Open’s claret jug (Oosthuizen), the PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy (Kaymer) and the Ryder Cup were literally sparkling proof that Europe was the supreme power in golf at the moment.

As if to add insult to injury, Kaymer made a point that week of saying he wasn’t going to use his PGA Championship victory to take up membership on the PGA Tour the following season. There was a big deal made in that Westwood and Rory McIlroy were not going to take up membership in the United States, either. In fact, they both skipped the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The Players Championship, in 2011.

“I think you play with all the best players in the world here,” Kaymer said at the time. “You have all the great players here.”


European media even had some fun at the expense of the PGA Tour. In Kaymer’s news conference that week, a reporter asked him if he received “a crying phone call from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem” after announcing he would continue to devote himself to the European Tour.

“Not yet, maybe I’ll get one,” Kaymer said.

There was more from European media when the PGA Tour announced in 2010 that it was easing restrictions on non-members and would no longer count The Players Championship against the 10 appearances non-members were limited to making. European media took it as a move to appease Westwood.

“The concession to Westwood, who snubbed the PGA Tour in fairly forthright terms, lends weight to the belief that the tectonic plates of global golf are shifting to the disadvantage of an organization which has long been the richest and most powerful entity in the sport,” wrote Lawrence Donegan of the The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper. “It is hard to imagine a day when that financial strength will be challenged, but how powerful is the PGA Tour these days when it backs down so meekly in an attempt retain favor with an Englishman, albeit the world's No. 1 player?”

Westwood didn’t merely join the PGA Tour this year; he announced he would move to the United States to set up an American base.

This week, Kaymer announced he will take up PGA Tour membership next year.

European golf remains vital and strong today with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy reigning as the world No. 1 and England’s Luke Donald as No. 2, and with the Ryder Cup won by Europe for the sixth time in seven tries, but the European Tour is struggling to take full advantage of all the talent it produces.

Instead of growing, the tour has fighting to hold on to tournaments.

The European Tour doesn’t look quite as vital and strong as the talent the continent is nurturing, in great part due to the fact that all those players who seemed to take pride in being exclusively linked to that tour are becoming PGA Tour members, too.

Europe may still be loaded with talent, but the PGA Tour continues to dwarf the European Tour in stature and relevance.

In fact, the European Tour has never looked like less of a threat to the PGA Tour than it does today.

Westwood and McIlroy are making homes in South Florida to serve as their PGA Tour bases. McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose already have homes in the United States.

When the European Ryder Cup charter took off for Chicago this fall, there were just three players on board. Every other member of the team was already in the USA. And more European talent is on its way to the PGA Tour. Nicolas Colsaerts, who was on that European Ryder Cup charter flight, is among the growing contingent of Europeans who will take up membership on the PGA Tour next year.

“It’s a stronger tour,' Colsaerts said this week in Dubai, 'and you have the best players in America.”

It should be clear: Europe’s best are becoming dual members, playing both tours.

Still, if anything, the PGA Tour’s shadow is darkening over the European Tour.

You can thank the PGA Tour commissioner for that, or blame Finchem if you’re a European Tour devotee.

The top 26 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are PGA Tour members.

The top five players in the Race to Dubai standings are PGA Tour members.

This Thanksgiving, PGA Tour pros ought to be giving thanks to Finchem for the way he has maximized his Tour’s opportunities and purses.

The PGA Tour has never been more vital with Finchem substantially strengthening its foundation in his 18 years at the helm. Of course, having Tiger Woods on board was a large factor, but credit Finchem for ably enhancing what Woods offers.

Briefly, in that time back in the mid-‘90s when Greg Norman worked to build a new world tour, the PGA Tour looked threatened. Finchem’s response, however, was a testament to his skills. He made one counter move after another to assure no other tour would threaten his. He created the World Golf Championships, and then he created the FedEx Cup playoffs, giving the PGA Tour a big-bang finish. Now, he’s strengthening the fall with the new wrap-around schedule giving FedEx Cup status next year to fall events that will actually kick off a new season.

Here’s the thing, though, about the PGA Tour and European Tour.

As much as they seem to be rival tours, Finchem knows the European Tour complements the PGA Tour, that there’s a meaningful partnership in a number of ways. The PGA Tour benefits from Europe’s burgeoning talent, just as the European Tour benefits in that its members increase their star power by thriving as PGA Tour and European Tour members.

So while the PGA Tour continues to grow as the game’s true giant, there ought to be a little hand wringing everywhere if the European Tour doesn’t remain vital.

Watch Golf Channel coverage of the DP World Tour Championship, Thursday-Sunday, live at 3AM ET with re-airs at 8:30AM.

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After Further Review: Woods wisely keeping things in perspective

By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 19, 2018, 3:17 am

Each week, takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On Tiger Woods' career comeback ...

Tiger Woods seems to be the only one keeping his comeback in the proper perspective. Asked after his tie for fifth at Bay Hill whether he could ever have envisioned his game being in this shape heading into Augusta, he replied: “If you would have given me this opportunity in December and January, I would have taken it in a heartbeat.” He’s healthy. He’s been in contention. He’s had two realistic chances to win. There’s no box unchecked as he heads to the Masters, and no one, especially not Woods, could have seen that coming a few months ago. – Ryan Lavner

On Tiger carrying momentum into API, Masters ...

Expect Jordan Spieth to leave Austin with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play trophy next week.

After all, Spieth is seemingly the only top-ranked player who has yet to lift some hardware in the early part of 2018. Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have all gotten it done, as have Jason Day, Phil Mickelson and most recently Rory McIlroy.

Throw in the sudden resurgence of Tiger Woods, and with two more weeks until the Masters there seem to be more azalea-laden storylines than ever before.

A Spieth victory in Austin would certainly add fuel to that fire, but even if he comes up short the 2015 champ will certainly be a focus of attention in a few short weeks when the golf world descends upon Magnolia Lane with no shortage of players able to point to a recent victory as proof that they’re in prime position to don a green jacket. – Will Gray

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Davies not giving up on win, HOF after close call

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 3:06 am

PHOENIX – Laura Davies knows the odds are long now, but she won’t let go of that dream of making the LPGA Hall of Fame.

At 54, she was emboldened by her weekend run at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup. She tied for second, five shots behind Inbee Park.

“The more I get up there, I might have a chance of winning again,” Davies said. “I'm not saying I will ever win, but today was close. Maybe one day I can go closer.”

Davies is a World Golf Hall of Famer, but she has been sitting just outside the qualification standard needed to get into the LPGA Hall of Fame for a long time. She needs 27 points, but she has been stuck on 25 since her last victory in 2001. A regular tour title is worth one point, a major championship is worth two points.

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Over her career, she has won 20 LPGA titles, four of them major championships. She was the tour’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996. She probably would have locked up Hall of Fame status if she hadn’t been so loyal to the Ladies European Tour, where she won 45 titles.

Though Davies didn’t win Sunday in Phoenix, there was more than consolation in her run into contention.

“Now people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

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Davies impresses, but there's no catching Park

By Randall MellMarch 19, 2018, 2:40 am

PHOENIX – Inbee Park won the tournament.

Laura Davies won the day.

It was a fitting script for the Bank of Hope Founders Cup on Sunday, where nostalgia stirs the desert air in such a special way.

Two of the game’s all-time best, LPGA Hall of Famer Inbee Park and World Golf Hall of Famer Laura Davies, put on a show with the tour’s three living founders applauding them in the end.

Park and Davies made an event all about honoring the tour’s past while investing in its future something to savor in the moment. Founders Marilynn Smith, Shirley Spork and Marlene Hagge Vossler cheered them both.

For Park, there was meaningful affirmation in her 18th LPGA title.

In seven months away from the LPGA, healing up a bad back, Park confessed she wondered if she should retire. This was just her second start back. She won feeling no lingering effects from her injury.

“I was trying to figure out if I was still good enough to win,” Park said of her long break back home in South Korea. “This proved to me I can win and play some pain-free golf.”

At 54, Davies kept peeling away the years Sunday, one sweet swing after another. She did so after shaking some serious nerves hitting her first tee shot.

“It’s about as nervous as I’ve ever felt,” Davies said. “I swear I nearly shanked it.”

Davies has won 45 Ladies European Tour events and 20 LPGA titles, but she was almost 17 years removed from her last LPGA title. Still, she reached back to those times when she used to rule the game and chipped in for eagle at the second hole to steady herself.

“It calmed me down, and I really enjoyed the day,” Davies said.

With birdies at the ninth and 10th holes, Davies pulled from three shots down at day’s start to within one of Park, sending a buzz through all the fans who came out to root for the popular Englishwoman.

“People were loving it,” said Tanya Paterson, Davies’ caddie. “We kept hearing, `Laura, we love you.’ It was special for Laura, showing she can still compete.”

Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

Davies relished giving all the young players today, who never saw how dominant she once was, some flashes from her great past.

“Yesterday, after I had that 63, a lot of the younger girls came up and said, `Oh, great playing today,”’ Davies said. “It was nice, I suppose, to have that. I still am a decent player, and I actually used to be really good at it. Maybe that did give them a glimpse into what it used to be like.”

She also relished showing certain fans something.

“Now, people might stop asking me when I'm going to retire,” she said.

Davies was the LPGA’s Rolex Player of the Year in 1996, when she won two of her four major championships. She was emboldened by the way she stood up to Sunday pressure again.

In the end, though, there was no catching Park, who continues to amaze with her ability to win coming back from long breaks after injuries.

Park, 29, comes back yet again looking like the player who reigned at world No. 1 for 92 weeks, won three consecutive major championships in 2013 and won the Olympic gold medal two years ago.

“The reason that I am competing and playing is because I want to win and because I want to contend in golf tournaments,” Park said.

After Davies and Marina Alex mounted runs to move within one shot, Park pulled away, closing ferociously. She made four birdies in a row starting at the 12th and won by five shots. Her famed putting stroke heated up, reminding today’s players how nobody can demoralize a field more with a flat stick.

“I just felt like nothing has dropped on the front nine,” Park said. “I was just thinking to myself, `They have to drop at some point.’ And they just started dropping, dropping, dropping.”

Yet again, Park showed her ability to win after long breaks.

In Rio de Janeiro two years ago, Park the Olympic gold medal in her first start back after missing two months because of a ligament injury in her left thumb. She took eight months off after Rio and came back to win the HSBC Women’s World Championship last year, in just her second start upon returning.

“I'm really happy to have a win early in the season,” Park said. “That just takes so much pressure off me.”

And puts it on the rest of the tour if she takes her best form to the year’s first major at the ANA Inspiration in two weeks.



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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

Arnold Palmer Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”