McIlroy facing unlikely challenge for European honors

By Ryan LavnerOctober 8, 2012, 4:30 pm

With four titles this season, Rory McIlroy has already wrapped up the PGA Tour money title and eliminated much of the suspense surrounding the Player of the Year award.

Not so across the pond.

McIlroy, who has sat atop the European Tour’s Order of Merit for much of the season, may have to fend off an unlikely challenge from rookie Branden Grace if he’s to capture both money titles – and Player of the Year awards – in 2012.

Grace, a 24-year-old South African, won his fourth European Tour title of the season Sunday (and fifth overall this year) at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

At one point last year, Grace was No. 362 in the world, toiling on the Sunshine Tour, needing to go through Q-School just to earn his European Tour card. Now, he’s one of the game’s brightest stars.

With his victory Sunday, Grace moved to 37th in the world. He’s the first European Tour player to win four times in his first season on the circuit, and only the 11th player to accomplish the feat overall. He’s earned €2,028,215, which puts him only €730,000 ($953,000) behind McIlroy in the yearlong Race to Dubai, the top honor in European golf.

Even Grace conceded that his goals have changed. Speaking to reporters after the final round at St. Andrews, he said, “I am all for catching Rory. … Now I am in third place, (and) first place is definitely in my sights. With a lot of big-money events coming up, €800,000 is not a lot to make up.”

Eight events remain on the European Tour schedule, including the Nov. 22-25 DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, one of the richest prizes in golf. In Grace’s case, that closing stretch is even more critical because four of those events feature a purse of at least €6,000,000.

Grace was scheduled to compete in this week’s Portugal Masters, with a winner’s share of €600,000, but instead withdrew on Monday, saying he was “pretty knackered.” McIlroy, meanwhile, is playing in the inaugural Turkey Airlines World Golf Final, an eight-man match-play event that is not sanctioned by the EuropeanTour. According to the schedule posted on his website, McIlroy is slated for three more European Tour events: the Oct. 25-28 BMW Masters, Nov. 8-11 Barclays Singapore Open and Nov. 22-25 season finale in Dubai.

It seemed unfathomable a few months ago – heck, even a week ago – but the question now must be asked: Could Branden Grace steal the money title and European Tour Player of the Year? Might Justin Rose?

Here is a tale of the tape for the favorite and two leading contenders:


The favorite: Rory McIlroy

Order of Merit: 1st

Victories: 1 (PGA Championship)

Scoring average: 70.33

The skinny: The 23-year-old Ulsterman has done much of his damage in the events co-sanctioned by both the PGA and European tours. His emphatic victory at Kiawah Island netted him a first-place prize of €1,190,937, which accounts for 42 percent of his yearly earnings on the Euro tour. He was second in Abu Dhabi and also had three top-5 finishes in the World Golf Championships events, including a runner-up at the WGC-Match Play in February.


The contender: Justin Rose

Order of Merit: 2nd

Victories: 1 (WGC-Cadillac Championship)

Scoring average: 70.03

The skinny: Like McIlroy, Rose’s lone title this season came in a co-sanctioned event, the WGC tournament at Doral. The Englishman last played a full-fledged Euro tour event in July, at the French Open (T-9), but he is scheduled to play at least the BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions to meet the 13-event minimum.


The contender: Branden Grace

Order of Merit: 3rd

Victories: 4 (Joburg Open, Volvo Golf Champions, China Open, Dunhill Links)

Scoring average: 70.80

The skinny: Only one of his victories came against an elite field (Volvo), but there’s no discounting what this rookie has accomplished. The knocks against Grace will be his four missed cuts, and his poor performances in three majors, in which his best finish was a T-51 at the U.S. Open (T-77 at British, MC at PGA). 

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm