Little Brothers Grown Up

By Randall MellNovember 24, 2010, 1:54 am
European Tour pros are reveling in their success as their season nears its close.

They did everything but strike muscle-men poses Tuesday at the Dubai World Championship while taking photos with all the impressive hardware they’ve won this past year.

The U.S. Open trophy, the British Open’s claret jug, the PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy and the Ryder Cup are all in possession of European Tour members, and the European Tour brass isn’t being shy in its display of them at the season finale to the Race to Dubai.

Louis Oosthuizen
Louis Oosthuizen may be South African, but he's a European Tour player. (Getty Images)
Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood must have looked like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to folks at the PGA Tour offices who caught a glimpse of the Euros posing with their trophies.

Throw in the fact that Westwood’s the No. 1 player in the world, and you’ve got a pretty good picture why the European Tour believes it has never been stronger.

If not for Phil Mickelson winning the Masters, the European Tour would have made a clean sweep of the biggest international prizes in golf.

“I think you play against the best players in the world, with the No. 1 in the world, Lee Westwood, with Rory McIlroy,” Kaymer said Tuesday in explaining why he’s joining Westwood and McIlroy in devoting himself to the European Tour next year.

“You have all of the great players here,” Kaymer said.


European media are having fun with this shift in the balance power.

During Kaymer’s news conference Tuesday, a reporter asked Kaymer if he received a “crying phone call from Tim Finchem” after announcing he would continue to devote himself to the European Tour.

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

Kaymer could water some eyes in the PGA Tour offices with a big finish this week. Westwood bumped Tiger Woods to No. 2 last month. Kaymer could bump Woods to No. 3 with a good finish this weekend.

It’s possible Westwood and Kaymer will leave Dubai ranked Nos. 1-2 in the world. That could happen with either Westwood or Kaymer at No. 1.

Westwood shared news Tuesday that the PGA Tour was changing its rules for players who give up PGA Tour membership but plan to participate as non-members. Under PGA Tour rules, non-members are limited to 12 PGA Tour appearances, including majors and World Golf Championships. However, non-members who have given up PGA Tour membership face more severe restrictions. They’re limited to 10 PGA Tour appearances. Westwood and McIlroy fall into the more severe restrictions.

Under the new rules, PGA Tour officials confirmed, Westwood and non-members like him won’t have to count The Players Championship against their 10 appearances. So Westwood and McIlroy can play 11 next year.

How that news was conveyed to Great Britain’s golf fans Tuesday reflects the new strength European golf’s feeling.

“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 Guardian. “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?”

For a time, European Tour fans endured an insult from America, the notion that the Nationwide Tour was the second best tour on the planet. Nobody’s saying that now.

Still, PGA Tour players defend their turf.

“The European Tour definitely has gotten stronger the last few years,” says Ben Curtis, the 2003 British Open champ who played the European Tour as member for two seasons. “The players have definitely gotten better. The European Tour fields have gotten stronger.

“But, our tour, top to bottom, it’s a little bit deeper. Their top echelon of players are just as good, if not better, than ours right now. The top 125 on our tour are probably better than theirs.”

So which is the stronger tour today?

If you follow the money, you follow it to the PGA Tour. The PGA Tour played for purses totaling $270 million this season. The European Tour plays for $170 million.

If you look at the world rankings, the PGA Tour also prevails. PGA Tour pros played for 17,000 world ranking points this year. The European Tour plays for 12,000.

There were 32 PGA Tour and European Tour events that went head-to-head this year. The PGA Tour had more world ranking points in 23 of them.

If you throw out the major championships and the World Golf Championship events, and you identify the 15 tournaments with the most world ranking points, the PGA Tour was home to 12 of them. The Players Championship leads that list with the first three FedEx Cup events following. The top European Tour event in this category is the BMW PGA Championship, ranking seventh. The European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship and Commercialbank Qatar Masters are 14th and 15th, respectively.

“The European Tour is probably stronger than it’s ever been, but it’s still not like the PGA Tour,” said five-time PGA Tour winner Scott Verplank. “It’s just not as deep. There are 60 guys who can win on the PGA Tour any week, and I would venture to say there are 30 to 40 over there who can win any week, maybe not that many.

“We play for more money. We have most of the bigger tournaments. It’s an interesting deal, but the European Tour is good. Their top players are every bit as good as anybody else’s.”

What’s the stronger tour?

If major championships are the measure of greatness in golf, the European Tour holds the upper hand with its members winning the last three majors played. The photos coming out of Dubai this week say it all. All that was missing were European Tour pros striking muscle pros.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

Getty Images

Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. 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.