Back to South Africa
The European Tour starts-up again this week with the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. This is the third event of the 2007 schedule to be played on South African soil but sadly the event has attracted a very weak field. The big names have failed to make the long trip from Europe down to South Africa, especially with a strong run of tournaments coming-up in the Middle East and the short holiday break. Another factor is the South African holding tax on earnings, meaning players are already losing a hefty percentage of their pay-checks before they leave the country. The biggest name in the field is 10-time PGA TOUR winner and 1998 South African Open Champion David Frost.
Notah to Play in Abu Dhabi
Notah Begay III will make his 2007 European Tour debut at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship next week. However, Begay, a European Tour qualifying school graduate has had to rely on a sponsors invitation to play in the event because his exemption category did not make the cut-off point for the strong field. Begay is one of two Americans in the field, Chris DiMarco is also back to defend his title.
A Big Year for the LET
The Ladies European Tour continues to grow and the tour will have four new events this year. The MFS Australian Open, De Vere Ladies Scottish Open, Northern Ireland Ladies Open and the Madrid Ladies Masters will boost the schedule to 25 events. In addition, the Weetabix Womens British Open will become the first womans professional event to be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews when the tour moves to the home of golf in August. The Solheim Cup also returns to Sweden later in the year. The 2007 tour begins later this month in South Africa, with the Womens World Cup of Golf.
In the United Kingdom, the Queen awards a series of honours to her loyal and dedicated subjects with a list of the recipients announced at the New Year, and this years list included a couple of golfers. Ian Woosnam was upgraded from MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) to CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to Sport, relating to his victorious run as European Ryder Cup captain, and amateur Gary Wolstenholme was awarded an MBE. Wolstenholme has been Britains most successful amateur of recent times, twice a winner of the British Amateur and a veteran of six Walker Cups, famously beating Tiger Woods in the singles at Royal Porthcawl in 1995. Wolstenholme told me it's been a tough road with a lot of sacrifices but hes delighted at the honour, and he wants to dedicate it to those involved in his game. He tells me that just because hes 46, the amateur career is far from over.
Europeans in the U.S.
Many of you have e-mailed me enquiring about European players playing on the PGA TOUR. The TOUR doesnt give exemptions to the European Ryder Cup team, nor the International Presidents Cup side starting this year, so these are the European players exempt for 2007: Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, J.M. Olazabal, Justin Rose, Richard S. Johnson, Ian Poulter, Greg Owen, Jesper Parnevik, David Howell, Brian Davis, Mathias Gronberg, Darren Clarke, Henrik Stenson, Anders Hansen, Alex Cejka, Thomas Levet and Bernhard Langer. Anyone else will need to rely on a sponsor's exemption or meet the entry requirements for certain events like The Players Championship, the majors and WGC events.
The Wisley Boys
The Wisley in Surrey, England is one of the countrys most exclusive private members golf clubs, but it's attracting some of the countrys most talented young professionals. A gang of young European Tour pros now base themselves at the 27 hole lay-out, spending their off days playing and practicing together. European Tour player James Heath; Challenge Tour regulars Kieran Staunton, Zane Scotland and Adam Gee; and Asian Tour player Ben St. John take advantage of a unique system which allows them to rent memberships from existing members who are not currently using theirs, a cost-effective method as initiation for a new member is running at around 40,000 pounds. Gee, who was a finalist at this years British Amateur Championship before turning professional, tells me the five are really developing as players by spending time together at the club. He also said theyve taken advantage of being around some of the clubs sporting members, such as tennis star Greg Rusedski and former Liverpool soccer player Jamie Redknapp. Colin Montgomerie is also a regular at the club as it's the base of his coach, Denis Pugh.
I certainly appreciate your e-mail. Many of you wrote with valid points and interesting ideas last month, some of which Ive addressed in this column. Keep them coming to the link below!
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott