Endings and Beginnings

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No sooner has the European Tour ended, it starts back-up again. The 2011 campaign begins next week with the Alfred Dunhill Championship and thanks to a full schedule we know it will end 52 weeks later in Dubai. The 2011 season will be the last disjointed year, in 2012 the tour will revert back to its old calendar-based system, last used in 2000.

After a look through the 2011 circuit, a few key points stand-out:

-The “Gulf Swing” features an additional tournament, the Volvo Golf Champions, making it a four tournament jaunt through the Middle East, with stops in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Qatar and Dubai. Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods are expected to play at least one event each.

-Players not exempt for the WGC events will have a month break in February and March. This may not be welcomed by the rank and file players, but is much needed for the tour’s tournament and broadcast staff.

-The Volvo World Match Play Championship returns to the schedule but moves from the autumn to the spring and remains at Finca Cortesin in southern Spain. It will attract a top-class field.

-The Barclays Scottish Open will move to a links course in 2011 but will that make a difference to the field? Perhaps not too much this year, with Royal St. George’s hosting the Open Championship, players may not want to spend their final week of preparations battling the Scottish elements when they can spend a few days on the south course of England playing links golf in temperatures which average 10 degrees warmer.

-The Andalucia Masters venue is yet to be announced, meaning Valderrama could be absent from the tour once again.

-A new tournament appears on the schedule; the Asian Tour’s Iskandar Johor Open will be played opposite the President’s Cup in November.

-The 2012 schedule is expected to begin in mid-January in the Middle East, leaving the fate of the four South African tournaments played in 2011 unknown.
This week I’ll be part of the broadcast team at the LPGA Tour Championship, as we conclude the season at Grand Cypress. Having played the course a few weeks ago, I can safely say the tour has found the perfect venue for a season-ending event. On Thursday, Laura Davies will be wearing a microphone. Never afraid to speak her mind, Davies may come-up with a few gems during our first-round coverage. On the subject of Davies, her 2010 season could easily be overlooked. The 47-year-old has won five times on the LET, a sixth victory at the season-ending event next week in Dubai would propel her to top of the money list. Even though the standard of golf on the LET is not as high as the LPGA, the achievement is remarkable. Yet Davies can’t seem to emulate that sort of form in the United States. In 2010 she’s played 15 tournaments, with just two top 10’s, and sits two points shy of automatic qualification into the Hall of Fame.
And finally, the AJGA celebrated its 2010 season at the Rolex All-America Awards Banquet at PGA National last week. This is the second year running I’ve attended the evening, and once again I was thoroughly impressed, not only by the achievements of these players on the golf course, but by the way they carried themselves at this dinner. Both AJGA Players of the Year spoke eloquently. The girl’s recipient, Kristen Park, paid tribute to her mother and those who have supported her in her run to the top of junior golf.  Anthony Paolucci, the boy’s recipient, spoke about the need for his generation to give back to the game which was rewarding his peers with so much, a message you might expect from the game’s elders rather than high-school senior with college days and years of excitement ahead of him. Their words re-assured me that our great game seems to be in good hands.