European Tour back in the PGA Tour's shadow

By Randall MellNovember 21, 2012, 4:17 pm

There is some hand wringing on the European Tour at this week’s Race to Dubai finale.

It’s a stark contrast to the finish two years ago, when the European Tour reveled in its unprecedented success.

You may remember the photo (pictured above) that came out of the Dubai World Championship just before the season finale began in 2010.

Europe’s best did everything but strike muscle poses in a photo that had to sting the pride of the PGA Tour’s best.

Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood must have looked like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to PGA Tour fans back then as they posed over all the hardware Europe claimed in a special year. Westwood, the reigning No. 1 player in the world, was front and center in the photo. The U.S. Open trophy (McDowell), the British Open’s claret jug (Oosthuizen), the PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy (Kaymer) and the Ryder Cup were literally sparkling proof that Europe was the supreme power in golf at the moment.

As if to add insult to injury, Kaymer made a point that week of saying he wasn’t going to use his PGA Championship victory to take up membership on the PGA Tour the following season. There was a big deal made in that Westwood and Rory McIlroy were not going to take up membership in the United States, either. In fact, they both skipped the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The Players Championship, in 2011.

“I think you play with all the best players in the world here,” Kaymer said at the time. “You have all the great players here.”


European media even had some fun at the expense of the PGA Tour. In Kaymer’s news conference that week, a reporter asked him if he received “a crying phone call from PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem” after announcing he would continue to devote himself to the European Tour.

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

There was more from European media when the PGA Tour announced in 2010 that it was easing restrictions on non-members and would no longer count The Players Championship against the 10 appearances non-members were limited to making. European media took it as a move to appease Westwood.

“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 The Guardian, a British national daily newspaper. “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?”

Westwood didn’t merely join the PGA Tour this year; he announced he would move to the United States to set up an American base.

This week, Kaymer announced he will take up PGA Tour membership next year.

European golf remains vital and strong today with Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy reigning as the world No. 1 and England’s Luke Donald as No. 2, and with the Ryder Cup won by Europe for the sixth time in seven tries, but the European Tour is struggling to take full advantage of all the talent it produces.

Instead of growing, the tour has fighting to hold on to tournaments.

The European Tour doesn’t look quite as vital and strong as the talent the continent is nurturing, in great part due to the fact that all those players who seemed to take pride in being exclusively linked to that tour are becoming PGA Tour members, too.

Europe may still be loaded with talent, but the PGA Tour continues to dwarf the European Tour in stature and relevance.

In fact, the European Tour has never looked like less of a threat to the PGA Tour than it does today.

Westwood and McIlroy are making homes in South Florida to serve as their PGA Tour bases. McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose already have homes in the United States.

When the European Ryder Cup charter took off for Chicago this fall, there were just three players on board. Every other member of the team was already in the USA. And more European talent is on its way to the PGA Tour. Nicolas Colsaerts, who was on that European Ryder Cup charter flight, is among the growing contingent of Europeans who will take up membership on the PGA Tour next year.

“It’s a stronger tour,' Colsaerts said this week in Dubai, 'and you have the best players in America.”

It should be clear: Europe’s best are becoming dual members, playing both tours.

Still, if anything, the PGA Tour’s shadow is darkening over the European Tour.

You can thank the PGA Tour commissioner for that, or blame Finchem if you’re a European Tour devotee.

The top 26 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are PGA Tour members.

The top five players in the Race to Dubai standings are PGA Tour members.

This Thanksgiving, PGA Tour pros ought to be giving thanks to Finchem for the way he has maximized his Tour’s opportunities and purses.

The PGA Tour has never been more vital with Finchem substantially strengthening its foundation in his 18 years at the helm. Of course, having Tiger Woods on board was a large factor, but credit Finchem for ably enhancing what Woods offers.

Briefly, in that time back in the mid-‘90s when Greg Norman worked to build a new world tour, the PGA Tour looked threatened. Finchem’s response, however, was a testament to his skills. He made one counter move after another to assure no other tour would threaten his. He created the World Golf Championships, and then he created the FedEx Cup playoffs, giving the PGA Tour a big-bang finish. Now, he’s strengthening the fall with the new wrap-around schedule giving FedEx Cup status next year to fall events that will actually kick off a new season.

Here’s the thing, though, about the PGA Tour and European Tour.

As much as they seem to be rival tours, Finchem knows the European Tour complements the PGA Tour, that there’s a meaningful partnership in a number of ways. The PGA Tour benefits from Europe’s burgeoning talent, just as the European Tour benefits in that its members increase their star power by thriving as PGA Tour and European Tour members.

So while the PGA Tour continues to grow as the game’s true giant, there ought to be a little hand wringing everywhere if the European Tour doesn’t remain vital.

Watch Golf Channel coverage of the DP World Tour Championship, Thursday-Sunday, live at 3AM ET with re-airs at 8:30AM.

Getty Images

Stricker shares first-round lead in South Dakota

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:48 am

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Steve Stricker shot a 7-under 63 on Friday to share the first-round lead at the Sanford International.

The 51-year-old Stricker was 8 under through 17 holes at chilly, rain-softened Minnehaha Country Club but closed with a bogey to fall into a tie with Jerry Smith, Brandt Jobe and David McKenzie.

Stricker only got to play seven holes in the pro-am because of rain that prevented the field from getting in much practice.

''You've just kind of got to trust your yardage book and hit to the spots and then try to make a good game plan on the way into the green, too, not really knowing where to hit it or where to miss it up there on the green. Sometimes it's good, too,'' Stricker said. ''You go around and you're focused a lot more on hitting it to a specific spot and not knowing what lies ahead in the course. So I guess today was the ultimate 'Take one hole at a time' because we didn't really know anything else, what was coming.''

Full-field scores from the Sanford International

Stricker has two wins and has not finished worse than fifth in six starts this season on the over-50 tour as he continues to play a part-time schedule on the PGA Tour. Next week, he will be one of U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk's assistants at the matches outside Paris.

McKenzie, a 51-year-old Australian, had two eagles on the back nine, holing a wedge from 116 yards on the par-5 16th.

''We got told ... to play faster on No. 16, and so my caddie just said, 'Hit it in the hole so you don't have to putt it,' so I just did what he told me,'' McKenzie said.

Smith had eagles on Nos. 4 and 12.

''Honestly, I was just trying to hit some good shots and I really wasn't with the irons,'' Smith said. ''I just really didn't like the way I hit them today. You know, just the putter was the big difference for me. I just felt good with it all day, especially say outside of 10, 15 feet, where I felt like I was a lot.''

Scott McCarron, Lee Janzen and Paul Goydos were one shot back. McCarron came in second in the Charles Schwab Cup money standings behind Miguel Angel Jimenez, who is not playing this week.

Getty Images

Glover (64) leads Tour Championship

By Associated PressSeptember 22, 2018, 12:12 am

ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – Former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover shot his second consecutive 7-under 64 on Friday to take a one-shot lead at the Tour Championship.

The 38-year-old Glover, who won the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, can still regain his PGA Tour card through a medical extension if he fails to earn enough money in the four-tournament Tour Finals. But a high finish this weekend at Atlantic Beach Country Club would take care of everything.

''I've got a lot to fall back on regardless of this week, but any time I tee it up, I want to play well,'' Glover said. ''Tomorrow won't be any different. Sunday won't be any different.''

Glover had arthroscopic knee surgery in June and will have eight starts to earn 53 FedEx Cup points and keep his card. He earned $17,212 in the first three Tour Finals events. The top 25 money winners in the series earn PGA Tour cards, and the final card went for $40,625 last year.

Glover was at 14-under 128. Denny McCarthy, who has already earned enough money to secure a return to the PGA Tour, was one shot back. McCarthy, a former Virginia player, has a shot at winning the Finals money list, which would guarantee him fully exempt status and entry into The Players Championship.

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

''There's no secret about it. I'll come out and tell you I'm here to win this tournament and get that No. 1 spot,'' McCarthy said. ''I've been hungry for a while. I have a pretty hungry attitude and I'm going to stay hungry.''

Tour veteran Cameron Tringale, who has earned just $2,660 after missing two of the first three cuts, was 12 under after a 67. Last year, Tringale entered the Tour Championship at 63rd on the Finals money list and finished tied for fifth to get back onto the PGA Tour. He struggled again this season, though, missing 19 cuts in 26 starts.

''Yeah, I was hoping last year was my last time here, but I do have a comfort at this golf course and I'm excited to keep pressing,'' Tringale said.

The four-tournament series features the top 75 players from the regular-season money list, Nos. 126-200 in the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings, and non-members with enough money to have placed in the top 200. The top 25 finishers on the regular-season money list are competing against each other for tour priority, with regular-season earnings counting in their totals.

Sepp Straka and Ben Silverman were three shots back. Each would likely need a top-5 finish to earn his card.

Peter Malnati, who regained his card with a second-place finish in the opening finals event, followed his opening-round 74 with a 9-under 62, shooting an 8-under 27 on his second nine.

Four-time PGA Tour winner Aaron Baddeley was among those who missed the cut. He was 22nd on the finals money list going in and likely will fall short of earning his card.

Getty Images

Thomas (69) only three back with 'C' or 'D' game

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:56 pm

ATLANTA – Justin Thomas was tied for fourth place following his second-round 69 on Friday at the Tour Championship, which considering the state of his game on Day 2 was an accomplishment.

“I wish I had my 'B' game today. I would say I had my 'C' or 'D' game today,” he laughed.

Thomas’ struggles were primarily with his driver and he hit just 6 of 14 fairways at East Lake, but he was able to scramble late in his round with birdies at Nos. 15 and 18 to remain three off the lead.

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

“I drove it so poorly today, this is probably in my top 5 rounds of the year I'm most proud of just because I easily could have shot 4- or 5-over par today and not had a chance to win the tournament,” he said. “I hung in there and birdied two of the last four, and I have a chance.”

Thomas was slowed the last two weeks by a right wrist injury that limited his preparation for the finale and said the issue with his driver is timing and the byproduct of a lack of practice.

Thomas made up for his erratic driving with his short game, getting up and down four out of seven times including on the fourth hole when he missed the fairway well left, punched out short of the green and chipped in from 81 feet.

“[Rory McIlroy] just kind of said it looked like a ‘3’ the whole day and I kind of laughed because I played with him at The Players and I chipped in three times that first round with him, so I guess he's good luck for me,” Thomas said.

Getty Images

McIlroy two behind Woods, Rose after 68

By Rex HoggardSeptember 21, 2018, 11:46 pm

ATLANTA – Maybe it should be no huge surprise that Rory McIlroy finds himself back in contention at the Tour Championship. It is, after all, a Ryder Cup year.

In 2016, McIlroy won the finale before heading to Hazeltine and posting a 3-2-0 record. In ’14, he finished runner-up to Billy Horschel and went 2-1-2 at the Ryder Cup; and in ’12 he finished tied for 10th place at East Lake and went 3-2-0 at Medinah.

“I was on such a high a couple of years ago going into Hazeltine after winning the whole thing, and I felt great about my game that week and played well. I won three matches,” McIlroy said. “I guess it doesn't matter whether it's a match play event or whatever. If you're playing well and you've played well the week before, I think most people can carry it into the next week, whatever that is.”

Projected FedExCup standings

Full-field scores from the Tour Championship

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos

McIlroy’s performance this week certainly qualifies as “playing well.” He charged out on Friday with birdies at two of his first three holes and bounced back from a pair of late bogeys to shoot a 68 and was in third place and two strokes off the lead held by Tiger Woods and Justin Rose.

“I've made 12 birdies in 36 holes, which is really good around here, and that's with not birdieing either of the par 5s today,” he said. “So yeah, just tidy up the mistakes a little bit.”