European Tour Year in Review

By Sports NetworkDecember 13, 2006, 5:00 pm
European TourPHILADELPHIA -- The coveted Order of Merit title brings many things with it, including a lengthy tour exemption. In 2005, Colin Montgomerie claimed his eighth Order of Merit crown.
The battle for that title in 2006 was long and intense. As the battle wound down to the final few weeks, there were four players battling for the top spot and it came down to the final tournament of the year to determine a winner.
Paul Casey
Paul Casey didn't win the money title, but he did enough to earn Player of the Year honors.
Like the Order of Merit title, there were four players at the top of the charts for Player of the Year -- Robert Karlsson, David Howell, Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington.
Karlsson needed at least back-to-back top-5 finishes in the final two events on the 2006 schedule, but shared eighth and 21st instead. That left him in fourth place in the Order of Merit race.
Howell opened the 2006 International Schedule by out-dueling world No. 1 Tiger Woods for the HSBC Champions Tournament title, which gave Howell the early lead in the Order of Merit race.
The 31-year-old Howell maintained that lead into early September thanks to another win at the BMW Championship. A shoulder injury slowed Howell towards the latter part of the season and that cost him the Order of Merit crown.
With his win at the HSBC World Match Play Championship, Casey knocked Howell out of the top spot in the Order of Merit race. In the end, however, Harrington inched passed Casey for the Order of Merit title after sharing second place at the season-ending Volvo Masters.
Many would consider the Order of Merit winner, Harrington, the Player of the Year. However, Casey gets the nod here.
It comes down to a few simple things.
Casey won three times during the '06 season. He opened the 2006 International Schedule with a playoff win at the season's second event, the Volvo China Open.
Casey later picked up wins at the Johnnie Walker Classic and the HSBC. For the season, the Englishman posted 11 top-10 finishes in 25 starts.
Harrington was nearly as good with a win (dunhill links championship), three second-place finishes and eight top-10s in 20 starts. The tie breaker was Casey's performance in the Ryder Cup.
The Europeans rolled to a huge win for the second straight Ryder Cup and Casey was one of the main reasons for that. He posted a 2-0-2 record that included a hole-in-one to win his Saturday foursomes match.
Casey gets the nod over Harrington thanks to two more wins, one more top-5 finish and three more top-10 finishes than Harrington. Also because the Irishman struggled to an 0-3-1 mark at the Ryder Cup.
The tournament of the year, of course, includes world No. 1 Tiger Woods. With a leaderboard dotted with top players -- Ernie Els, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Retief Goosen, Darren Clarke and Paul Casey -- it was Woods who battled through the stellar field to come out on top.
Woods was still shaking off the rust of a six-week layoff when he headed to the United Arab Emirates for the Dubai Desert Classic. Granted, Woods was coming off a playoff win at the PGA TOUR's Buick Invitational, but the field in Dubai was poised to give him a battle.
Playing for the second straight week, Woods again needed an extra session to earn the title. Els, at the time ranked fifth in the world rankings, closed with a 5-under 67 to end at 19 under par.
Woods needed to finish birdie-birdie to force a playoff, and he did just that. Not only did he join Els at minus-19, but Richard Green was just one stroke behind that duo, while Anders Hansen and Jimenez finished two back at 17 under par.
The playoff between Woods and Els did not last as long as their epic playoff at the 2003 Presidents Cup. Els found the trees off the tee, then water with his second shot.
Woods managed to knock his second shot onto the back of the green and got down in three for par.
Els took his drop from the water and found the putting surface with his fourth. He missed his par putt and yielded to Woods, who finished off his 25th European Tour win. Woods has claimed four more European titles since then.
The loss for Els was especially hard to take since he had played the par-5 18th in minus-5 through the four rounds of regulation.
The Shot of the Year was also a tough choice. Though it did not happen in a regular-stroke play event, maybe the most stunning shot of the year was Paul Casey's hole-in-one at the Ryder Cup.
That ace closed out a 5-and-4 win for Casey and Howell over Americans Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson. It was the sixth ace in Ryder Cup history. On Sunday, American Scott Verplank aced the 14th to help him beat Padraig Harrington.
Once again, though, we will yield to the top player in the game for the shot of the year.
While en route to successfully defending his crown at the British Open, Tiger Woods drained the longest eagle of this year's Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. Sure, plenty of long eagle putts were converted, but Woods didn't have his putter in hand when this shot dropped.
Standing in the middle of the 14th fairway during Friday's second round, Woods could not even see the flag stick. The 30-year-old pulled his four-iron out of his bag and took aim.
'I never saw it. I didn't see the flag,' admitted Woods, who had won his first two British Open titles at St. Andrews. 'Just left of the TV towers was where I was aiming. I was trying to hold it on the wind. I hit it pretty good.'
Woods' approach shot landed some 15 feet from the hole and bounced a couple of times. Once it got rolling, the ball tracked right into the cup for the eagle. It was one of several eagles on the week for Woods.
Nonetheless, it was important, as Woods need every shot he could pull off. He eventually fended off Chris DiMarco by two strokes for the win.
Two of the top three choices for Rookie of the Year entered the winner's circle in their inaugural campaign on the European Tour.
Ross Fisher had a flying start with four top-10s in his first eight starts before ending 66th on the Order of Merit. Spaniard Alejandro Canizares won the Russian Open in only his fourth start on tour, but still could not manage to crack the top-100 on the Order of Merit.
Rookie of the Year goes to Marc Warren, the Scotsman who won the Scandinavian Masters title to go along with two other top-5 finishes and four top-10s overall.
Warren showed some inconsistency as a rookie, making just 12 of 28 cuts, but he played well enough in those 12 events to earn enough money to finish 42nd on the Order of Merit.
The aforementioned race for the Order of Merit involved four golfers who had good years -- Robert Karlsson, David Howell, Paul Casey and Padraig Harrington. Casey and Harrington's exploits were discussed.
Howell won twice and claimed seven top-10 finishes en route to finishing third in the Order of Merit race.
Karlsson started the year off slowly with three missed cuts in his first 12 starts and had just one top-10 finish. In his final 17 events, Karlsson posted seven top-10s, including a win at the Wales Open.
On the strength of three victories, Johan Edfors soared to a career-best 10th place finish in the Order of Merit. His wins came at the TCL Classic, the British Masters and the Scottish Open. Edfors did have just one other top-10, but three wins is a solid season for almost anyone .
Jeev Milkha Singh did miss five cuts in 2006, but he owned the Volvo tournaments. He claimed the Volvo China Open in April by a stroke over 2005 Rookie of the Year Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano.
At the season's final tournament, the Volvo Masters, Singh held off the likes of Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington to win for the second time on the season.
A year after a career-best third place finish in the Order of Merit, Paul McGinley struggled to a 52nd place finish this year. The Irishman had more missed cuts (four) than top-10 finishes (three).
Kenneth Ferrie missed nine cuts and had to withdraw from the British Open, as he tumbled to 54th in the Order of Merit one year after finishing 11th on that list.
After nine straight years finishing in the top-75 in the Order of Merit and a failed attempt in 2005 at joining the PGA TOUR full time, Phillip Price returned to the European Tour in 2006.
He didn't find much success, either. He struggled to 11 missed cuts, while earning a third-place finish at the Madrid Open. That was just one of two top-20 finishes on the season for the Welshman.
If you scroll way down the Order of Merit, you'll eventually run into Marten Olander. The Swede started 25 events during the 2006 season, but made the cut just three times.
Olander finished the year by missing 11 straight cuts. He also missed the weekend 17 of the last 18 times he teed it up in '06.
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    Teenager Im wins season opener

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 10:23 pm

    South Korea's Sungjae Im cruised to a four-shot victory at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, becoming just the second teenager to win an event on the Tour.

    Im started the final day of the season-opening event in a share of the lead but still with six holes left in his third round. He was one shot behind Carlos Ortiz when the final round began, but moved ahead of the former Player of the Year thanks to a 7-under 65 in rainy and windy conditions. Im's 13-under total left him four clear of Ortiz and five shots ahead of a quartet of players in third.

    Still more than two months shy of his 20th birthday, Im joins Jason Day as the only two teens to win on the developmental circuit. Day was 19 years, 7 months and 26 days old when he captured the 2007 Legend Financial Group Classic.

    Recent PGA Tour winners Si Woo Kim and Patrick Cantlay and former NCAA champ Aaron Wise all won their first Tour event at age 20.

    Other notable finishes in the event included Max Homa (T-7), Erik Compton (T-13), Curtis Luck (T-13) and Lee McCoy (T-13). The Tour will remain in the Bahamas for another week, with opening round of The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic set to begin Sunday.

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    Mickelson grouped with Z. Johnson at CareerBuilder

    By Will GrayJanuary 16, 2018, 8:28 pm

    He's not the highest-ranked player in this week's field, but Phil Mickelson will likely draw the biggest crowd at the CareerBuilder Challenge as he makes his first start of 2018. Here are a few early-round, marquee groupings to watch as players battle the three-course rotation in the Californian desert (all times ET):

    12:10 p.m. Thursday, 11:40 a.m. Friday, 1:20 p.m. Saturday: Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson

    Mickelson is making his fourth straight trip to Palm Springs, having cracked the top 25 each of the last three times. In addition to their respective amateur partners, he'll play the first three rounds alongside a fellow Masters champ in Johnson, who tied for 14th last week in Hawaii and finished third in this event in 2014.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Jon Rahm, Bubba Watson

    At No. 3 in the world, Rahm is the highest-ranked player teeing it up this week and the Spaniard returns to an event where he finished T-34 last year in his tournament debut. He'll play the first two rounds alongside Watson, who is looking to bounce back from a difficult 2016-17 season and failed to crack the top 50 in two starts in the fall.

    11:40 a.m. Thursday, 1:20 p.m. Friday, 12:50 p.m. Saturday: Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker

    Reed made the first big splash of his career at this event in 2014, shooting three straight rounds of 63 en route to his maiden victory. He'll be joined by Snedeker, whose bid for a Masters bid via the top 50 of the world rankings came up short last month and who hasn't played this event since a missed cut in 2015.

    1:10 p.m. Thursday, 12:40 p.m. Friday, 12:10 p.m. Saturday: Patton Kizzire, Bill Haas

    Kizzire heads east after a whirlwind Sunday ended with his second win of the season in a six-hole playoff over James Hahn in Honolulu. He'll play alongside Haas, who won this event in both 2010 and 2015 to go with a runner-up finish in 2011 and remains the tournament's all-time leading money winner.

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    Mackay still a caddie at heart, even with a microphone

    By Doug FergusonJanuary 16, 2018, 7:34 pm

    HONOLULU – All it took was one week back on the bag to remind Jim ''Bones'' Mackay what he always loved about being a caddie.

    It just wasn't enough for this to be the ultimate mic drop.

    Mackay traded in his TV microphone at the Sony Open for the 40-pound bag belonging to Justin Thomas.

    It was his first time caddying since he split with Phil Mickelson six months ago. Mackay was only a temporary replacement at Waialae for Jimmy Johnson, a good friend and Thomas' regular caddie who has a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that will keep him in a walking boot for the next month.

    ''The toughest thing about not caddying is missing the competition, not having a dog in the fight,'' Mackay said before the final round. ''There's nothing more rewarding as a caddie, in general terms, when you say, 'I don't like 6-iron, I like 7,' and being right. I miss that part of it.''

    The reward now?

    ''Not stumbling over my words,'' he said. ''And being better than I was the previous week.''

    He has done remarkably well since he started his new job at the British Open last summer, except for that time he momentarily forgot his role. Parts of that famous caddie adage – ''Show up, keep up, shut up'' – apparently can apply to golf analysts on the ground.

    During the early hours of the telecast, before Johnny Miller came on, Justin Leonard was in the booth.

    ''It's my job to report on what I see. It's not my job to ask questions,'' Mackay said. ''I forgot that for a minute.''

    Leonard was part of a booth discussion on how a comfortable pairing can help players trying to win a major. That prompted Mackay to ask Leonard if he found it helpful at the 1997 British Open when he was trying to win his first major and was paired with Fred Couples in the final round at Royal Troon.

    ''What I didn't know is we were going to commercial in six seconds,'' Mackay said. ''I would have no way of knowing that, but I completely hung Justin out to dry. He's now got four seconds to answer my long-winded question.''

    During the commercial break, the next voice Mackay heard belonged to Tommy Roy, the executive golf producer at NBC.

    ''Bones, don't ever do that again.''

    It was Roy who recognized the value experienced caddies could bring to a telecast. That's why he invited Mackay and John Wood, the caddie for Matt Kuchar, into the control room at the 2015 Houston Open so they could see how it all worked and how uncomfortable it can be to hear directions coming through an earpiece.

    Both worked as on-course reporters at Sea Island that fall.

    And when Mickelson and Mackay parted ways after 25 years, Roy scooped up the longtime caddie for TV.

    It's common for players to move into broadcasting. Far more unusual is for a caddie to be part of the mix. Mackay loves his new job. Mostly, he loves how it has helped elevate his profession after so many years of caddies being looked upon more unfavorably than they are now.

    ''I want to be a caddie that's doing TV,'' he said. ''That's what I hope to come across as. The guys think this is good for caddies. And if it's good for caddies, that makes me happy. Because I'm a caddie. I'll always be a caddie.''

    Not next week at Torrey Pines, where Mickelson won three times. Not a week later in Phoenix, where Mackay lives. Both events belong to CBS.

    And not the Masters.

    He hasn't missed Augusta since 1994, when Mickelson broke his leg skiing that winter.

    ''That killed me,'' he said, ''but not nearly as much as it's going to kill me this year. I'll wake up on Thursday of the Masters and I'll be really grumpy. I'll probably avoid television at all costs until the 10th tee Sunday. And I'll watch. But it will be, within reason, the hardest day of my life.''

    There are too many memories, dating to when he was in the gallery right of the 11th green in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman. He caddied for Mize for two years, and then Scott Simpson in 1992, and Mickelson the rest of the way. He was on the bag for Lefty's three green jackets.

    Mackay still doesn't talk much about what led them to part ways, except to say that a player-caddie relationship runs its course.

    ''If you lose that positive dynamic, there's no point in continuing,'' he said. ''It can be gone in six months or a year or five years. In our case, it took 25 years.''

    He says a dozen or so players called when they split up, and the phone call most intriguing was from Roy at NBC.

    ''I thought I'd caddie until I dropped,'' Mackay said.

    He never imagined getting yardages and lining up putts for anyone except the golfer whose bag he was carrying. Now it's for an audience that measures in the millions. Mackay doesn't look at it as a second career. And he won't rule out caddying again.

    ''It will always be tempting,'' he said. ''I'll always consider myself a caddie. Right now, I'm very lucky and grateful to have the job I do.''

    Except for that first week in April.

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    The Social: The end was nigh, then it wasn't

    By Jason CrookJanuary 16, 2018, 7:00 pm

    The star power at the Sony Open may have been overshadowed by a missile scare, but there were plenty of other social media stories that kept the golf world on its toes this week, including some insight on Tiger Woods from a round with President Obama and some failed trick shots.

    All that and more in this week's edition of The Social.

    By now you've undoubtedly heard about the false alarm in Hawaii on Saturday, where just about everyone, including most Sony Open participants, woke up to an emergency cell phone alert that there was a ballistic missile heading toward the islands.

    Hawaiian emergency management officials eventually admitted the original message was mistakenly sent out, but before they did, people (understandably) freaked out.

    As the situation unfolded, some Tour pros took to social media to express their confusion and to let the Twittersphere know how they planned on riding out this threat:

    While I would've been in that bathtub under the mattress with John Peterson, his wife, baby and in-laws (wait, how big is this tub?), here's how Justin Thomas reacted to the threat of impending doom:

    Yeah, you heard that right.

    “I was like ‘there’s nothing I can do,'” Thomas said. ”I sat on my couch and opened up the sliding door and watched TV and listened to music. I was like, if it’s my time, it’s my time.”

    Hmmm ... can we just go ahead and award him all the 2018 majors right now? Because if Thomas is staring down death in mid-January, you gotta like the kid's chances on the back nine Sunday at Augusta and beyond.

    Before the Hawaiian Missile Crisis of 2018, things were going about as well as they could at Waialae Country Club, starting with the Wednesday pro-am.

    Jordan Spieth might have been the third-biggest star in his own group, after getting paired with superstar singer/songwriter/actor Nick Jonas and model/actress Kelly Rohrbach.

    You'd be hard-pressed to find a more photogenic group out on the course, and the "Baywatch" star has a gorgeous swing as well, which makes sense, considering she was a former collegiate golfer at Georgetown.

    As impressive as that group was, they were somehow outshined by an amateur in another group, former NFL coach June Jones.

    Jones, who now coaches the CFL's Hamilton Tiger-Cats, played his round in bare feet and putted with his 5-iron, a remedy he came up with to battle the yips.

    Former NFL and current CFL coach June Jones: A master of 5-iron putting?

    A post shared by PGA TOUR (@pgatour) on

    Considering he made back-to-back birdies at one point during the day, it's safe to say he's won that battle.

    With Tiger Woods' return to the PGA Tour about a week away, that sound you hear is the hype train motoring full speed down the tracks.

    First, his ex-girlfriend Lindsey Vonn told Sports Illustrated that she hopes this comeback works out for him.

    “I loved him and we’re still friends. Sometimes, I wish he would have listened to me a little more, but he’s very stubborn and he likes to go his own way," the Olympic skiier said. "I hope this latest comeback sticks. I hope he goes back to winning tournaments.”

    Vonn also mentioned she thinks Woods is very stubborn and that he didn't listen to her enough. That really shouldn't shock anyone who watched him win the 2008 U.S. Open on one leg. Don't think there were a lot of people in his ear telling him that was a great idea at the time.

    We also have this report from Golf Channel Insider Tim Rosaforte, stating that the 14-time major champ recently played a round with former president Barack Obama at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., where he received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon.

    The Farmers Insurance Open is sure to be must-see TV, but until then, I'm here for all of the rampant speculation and guesses as to how things will go. The more takes the better. Make them extra spicy, please and thanks.

    These poor New Orleans Saints fans. Guess the only thing you can do is throw your 65-inch TV off the balcony and get 'em next year.

    Here's two more just for good measure.

    Farts ... will they ever not be funny?

    Perhaps someday, but that day was not early last week, when Tommy Fleetwood let one rip on his European teammates during EurAsia Cup team photos.

    Fleetwood went 3-0-0 in the event, helping Europe to a victory over Asia, perhaps by distracting his opponents with the aid of his secret weapon.

    Also, how about the diabolical question, "Did you get that?"

    Yeah Tommy, we all got that.

    Ahhh ... golf trick shot videos. You were fun while you lasted.

    But now we’ve officially come to the point in their existence where an unsuccessful attempt is much more entertaining than a properly executed shot, and right on cue, a couple of pros delivered some epic fails.

    We start with Sony Open runner-up James Hahn’s preparation for the event, where for some reason he thought he needed to practice a running, jumping, Happy Gilmore-esque shot from the lip of a bunker. It didn’t exactly work out.

    Not to be outdone, Ladies European Tour pro Carly Booth attempted the juggling-drive-it-out-of-midair shot made famous by the Bryan Bros, and from the looks of things she might have caught it a little close to the hosel.

    PSA to trick-shot artists everywhere: For the sake of the viewing public, if you feel a miss coming on, please make sure the camera is rolling.

    Seriously, though, who cares? Definitely not these guys and gals, who took the time to comment, "who cares?" They definitely do not care.