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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    Next up for Koepka: Buddies and a bachelor party

    By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Coming off a successful title defense at the U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka arrived at the Travelers Championship in need of a nap. It appears he won’t be getting one anytime soon.

    Koepka normally wakes up by 6 a.m. without using an alarm, but without much down time since his victory at Shinnecock Hills he slept in until 8:20 a.m. Sunday morning, prior to his 10:40 a.m. tee time. Any impact to his pre-round routine appeared negligible, as Koepka fired a 5-under 65 that included seven birdies over his first 13 holes.

    “I felt like today was kind of the first day I got everything back,” Koepka said. “I was definitely running behind, but it was nice to catch up on some sleep.”

    Koepka became the first U.S. Open winner to play the week after since Justin Rose in 2013, and he finished the Travelers at 9 under with four straight sub-par rounds. While he’s got some free time in the coming days, it won’t exactly be restful.

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    “We’ve got 11 guys that I’m pretty close with, so I’m looking forward to hanging out with them in Boston for a few days and then [getting] back down to West Palm for a night, and then we’re off to my best friend’s bachelor party,” Koepka said. “I was really hoping to get some rest, but I don’t know how much that will happen.”

    Last year, Koepka took a month off following his U.S. Open win at Erin Hills, only touched a club once, and still finished T-6 at The Open at Royal Birkdale. While this will be his final competitive start before Carnoustie, he expects to make a strong run toward a third major title next month in Scotland.

    “I’m shutting it down for a while. I don’t feel like I need to play,” Koepka said. “I feel like my game’s in a good spot, played really well this week. Just some stupid mistakes and mental errors. That’s all it was, lack of focus and low energy. To be honest with you, I’m not surprised. I did play well though, I putted well, and I’m somewhat pleased.”

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    Spieth ends busy stretch without top-10 finish

    By Will GrayJune 24, 2018, 7:39 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – There were no final-round heroics this time around for Jordan Spieth at the Travelers Championship.

    After taking the title last year with perhaps the most memorable shot of the year, Spieth appeared poised to make a robust defense of his title after an opening-round 63 gave him a share of the lead. But that proved to be as good as it would get, as he played the next three rounds in a combined 3 over to drop outside the top 40 on the final leaderboard.

    It marked the end of a pedestrian run of six events in seven weeks for Spieth, during which his best finish was a tie for 21st at the AT&T Byron Nelson.

    “A lot of cut-line golf, which is somewhat unusual historically for me, fortunately,” Spieth said after closing with a 1-under 69. “Kind of a grind, but I made actually a lot of progress where I needed to within the last few weeks.”

    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos

    Spieth has struggled to get on track on the greens this year, but he has started to turn a corner in recent weeks, specifically during a missed cut at the Memorial Tournament, and he picked up more than three shots on the field this week in strokes gained: putting.

    “My putting’s right on point where it needs to be. It’s getting better every single week,” Spieth said. “It’s the best it’s been in a couple years.”

    Unfortunately for Spieth, a slight uptick in putting has coincided with some regression from his normally reliable ball-striking. Of the 74 players who made the cut at TPC River Highlands, he ranked 61st in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

    “I’ve just got to kind of get my alignment back in order on the full swing. It’s tough when you swing and you think you hit a good shot, and you look up and the ball’s, it could be 15 yards right or 15 yards left, and it’s all because of alignment,” Spieth said. “It’s literally the same thing I went through with the putting. I’ve just got to find a way to get it back on track with the full swing.”

    Having concluded a busy stretch, Spieth noted that he now has “a few weeks off.” But still in search of his first quality chance to contend heading into a final round this year, he didn’t rule out the notion of adding a start before defending his title at Carnoustie next month.

    Spieth is not in the field for next week’s Quicken Loans National, but he won the John Deere Classic in both 2013 and 2015, which will be played the week before The Open.

    “As far as leading into The Open, we’ll see,” Spieth said. “Last year I went in after three weeks off and it didn’t hurt me. So I believe I can get the work in whether I’m playing or not, to get the repetitions.”

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    Chamblee comments on Choi's unique step-through swing

    By Golf Channel DigitalJune 24, 2018, 3:55 pm

    The golf world found itself enamored with a largely unknown journeyman this weekend.

    Ho-sung Choi went from 554th in the world to No. 1 in the hearts of all those who swing the golf club just a little bit differently thanks to his run at the Korean Open.

    The 44-year-old with the exaggerated step through impact found himself two off the pace through 54 holes and in contention for one of two available invitations to this year's Open Championship at Carnoustie.

    Choi fell out of the hunt for tournament title and the Open exemption with a final-round 74, but nonetheless left an impression with his tie for fifth.

    Asked about Choi's swing Saturday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee offered the following:

    "If Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player had a golf school, what would their first professional golfer swing like? Voila," Chamblee said.

    "Both those legends had walk through finishes, but Ho Sung has taken this move to a new level with a borderline pirouette to keep from hanging back.

    "In an era when professional golfers get accused of having golf swings that all look alike, I’ve never seen anyone swing quite like Ho Sung Choi.

    "I can’t wait to try this on the range tomorrow."

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    Wallace holds off charges to win BMW International

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 3:43 pm

    PULHEIM, Germany - England's Matt Wallace shot a 7-under 65 to hold off a record-breaking charge from Thorbjorn Olesen and win the BMW International Open on Sunday.

    Wallace finished on 10-under 278 - just ahead of Olesen, Mikko Korhonen and 2008 winner Martin Kaymer, whose chances took a blow with a bogey on the 17th hole.

    ''I want to keep building on this,'' Wallace said after his third European Tour win. ''Obviously this gives me a lot of confidence to go on and play well and I want to kick on and hopefully do this in the bigger events from now on.''

    Full-field scores from the BMW International Open

    Olesen had played himself into contention with the lowest round in tournament history, with nine birdies and an eagle for an 11-under 61. It was the lowest round of his European Tour career and it gave the Dane a three-shot lead before the final group had even teed off.

    ''I was just trying today to go out there and build on my game, see if I could shoot a low score,'' Olesen said. ''Obviously as the round progressed I kept on thinking birdies and trying to make the round better. Finishing with four birdies was pretty nice.''

    Wallace turned in 34 but then made five birdies in seven holes from the turn to edge a shot past Olesen. He waited as Kaymer and Korhonen went close with rounds of 68 and 67, respectively.

    England's Aaron Rai and Denmark's Lucas Bjerregaard finished joint-fifth with rounds of 69.