A European Perspective
Woods in the Desert
Where better to build your first golf course than the worlds biggest building site, Dubai. One of seven emirates which make-up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is undergoing huge growth at the present, especially in relation to tourism. Golf courses and hotels are springing up like rabbits all over the place. Woods is no stranger to the area; he captured a victory at the Dubai Desert Classic this year, a tournament which has grown into one of the European Tours premiere events. Woods project is part of Dubailand, which will encompass his course, a clubhouse, and residential and retail environments. The project is expected to reach conclusion in 2009 (industry insiders tell me the area will be a golf tourism Mecca by the time the project is a few years old). Woods has played the Dubai Desert Classic for three straight seasons; next years event is played the same week as the FBR Open on the PGA TOUR.
Clarke Not a Sports Personality - Yet
The BBC Sports Personality of the Year award is a very high honour to us Brits. Voted on by the public at the end of the year, it makes for some thrilling Sunday evening viewing as the winner is announced in a lengthy year-in-review type program. This year, Darren Clarke was a favorite to win, but was eventually beaten-out by Zara Philips, daughter of Princess Anne and the reigning European and World Equestrian champion. Without sounding too harsh, Im glad Darren didnt take the title this year; it would have been born from sympathy rather than his achievements on the course which were obviously affected by the problems in his home-life. Clarke is one of Britains most talented golfers and should hopefully bring home a major title in the next couple of seasons, and then he will be a worthy of BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
Fisher the Next Big Star
I had the opportunity to follow Oliver Fisher for a few holes this summer at the Open Championship International Qualifier at Sunningdale. His ball striking was first class and although he didnt make it through the qualifier, he seems like the real deal as they say. He wont be overjoyed by his first tournament result ' weekend rounds of 77 and 75 put him well down the order in South Africa, but Fisher is a star of the future. He was the Faldo Junior Series champion and seems to be following the path of fellow Faldo winner Nick Dougherty, who went through the Q-school to become European Tour Rookie of the Year in 2002.
A South and Central American Challenge
In an effort to give its members more playing opportunities, the Challenge Tour is already up and running for the 2007 season. The tour went to Argentina at the beginning of December and Mexico last week. Although not official yet, it seems the first three events of the calendar year of 07 will also be in Central and South America. What does this mean? Well, look out for more of the regions golfers to creep through on to the European Tour in years to come.
Walking to Victory
The R&A announced a 22-man squad for the 2007 Walker Cup last week. Despite players like Robert Dinwiddie, Oliver Fisher and Ross McGowan turning pro, it seems the squad will be plenty healthy for the matches in September. Rory Mcllroy is the young stud among the bunch. The Irish teenager won the European Amateur Championship this seasons and so far has avoided the temptation of turning professional, aided by the fact that hell be able to play in the Open Championship next season if he remains an amateur.
The first stage of the Asian Tour qualifying school was inundated with British players. I counted almost 25 percent of the competitors to be from the UK. The tour was the breeding ground of Simon Dyson, who recently used it as a stepping stone for the European Tour. With tours springing up in India and China this year, maybe Asia could become a great way to develop as a professional.
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Reed match taught McIlroy the need to conserve energy
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – One of the most memorable Ryder Cup singles matches in recent history was also one of the most exhausting.
Rory McIlroy was asked on Wednesday at Le Golf National about his singles bout with Patrick Reed two years ago at Hazeltine National, when the duo combined for eight birdies and an eagle through eight frenzied holes.
“I could play it for nine holes, and then it suddenly hit me,” said McIlroy, who was 5 under through eight holes but played his final 10 holes in 2 over par. “The level sort of declined after that and sort of reached its crescendo on the eighth green, and the last 10 holes wasn't quite as good.”
In retrospect McIlroy said the match, which he lost, 1 down, was educational and he realized that maintaining that level of emotion over 18 holes isn’t realistic.
“It looked tiring to have to play golf like that for three days,” he said. “I learnt a lot from that and learnt that it's good to get excited and it's good to have that, but at the same time, if I need and have to be called upon to play a late match on Sunday or whatever it is, I want to have all my energy in reserve so that I can give everything for 18 holes because I did hit a wall that back nine on Sunday, and it cost me.”
U.S. team gives Tiger 'cold shoulder' after Tour Championship win
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Tiger Woods was one of the final members of Team USA to make it to the team room late Sunday in Atlanta after his travel plans were delayed by his victory at the Tour Championship.
As the team waited, captain Jim Furyk concocted a plan for Woods.
“I ran into Jim Furyk and he said, ‘We were thinking about giving Tiger the cold shoulder like they do in baseball when the guy hits his first home run.’ He asked, ‘Do you think Tiger will be OK with that?’” Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava told Ryder Cup Radio on Sirius/XM. “I was like, ‘Of course he would. He’s got a sense of humor.’”
The U.S. team had plenty to cheer on Sunday with vice captain Steve Stricker also winning on the PGA Tour Champions. But it was Woods’ reception following his 80th PGA Tour victory and his first in five years that provided the best reaction.
“Tiger shows up about a half-hour later and is looking for some high-fives from everybody and they wouldn’t give him the time of day. They weren’t even looking at him, they all have their backs to him,” LaCava said. “He’s looking at me like what’s going on? He’s not a guy who is looking for fanfare, but these are his boys. He’s looking for 11 guys to run up and give him a good hug.”
LaCava said the team ignored Woods for about two minutes before breaking the silence with cheers and congratulations.
How FedExCup has changed Ryder Cup prep
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The improved play of the U.S. Ryder Cup team might be attributed to more than just youthful exuberance or camaraderie.
Phil Mickelson said the PGA Tour schedule is also a factor.
Mickelson argued this week that the advent of the FedExCup Playoffs, in 2007, has contributed to the Americans’ better results in the biennial matches. Save for the disastrous blowout in 2014 at Gleneagles, the Americans have either won or been locked in a tight match with the Europeans.
“I think the FedExCup is a big asset for us,” Mickelson said. “In the past, we’ve had six weeks off in between our last competition and the Ryder Cup. This year, although we might be tired, we might have had a long stretch, our games are much sharper because of our consistent play week-in and week-out heading into this event.”
When presented with Mickelson’s theory, Justin Rose, the new FedExCup champion, countered by saying that the Europeans are the fresher team this week – and that could be more important during such a stressful event.
Seventeen of the 24 players here were in East Lake for the Tour Championship, meaning they not only played the minimum number of events for PGA Tour membership, but also played in at least three of the four playoff events.
Some of the European players, however, have remained loyal to their home tour and taken more time off. Henrik Stenson missed a few events to rest his ailing elbow. Sergio Garcia didn’t play for four weeks. And even Rose has adjusted his schedule during the latter part of the season, to make sure that he was as fresh as possible for the Ryder Cup. That meant skipping the pro-am in Boston and flying in on Thursday night, on the eve of the tournament, and reducing his number of practice rounds.
“It’s interesting,” Rose said. “They might feel like they are playing their way in and our guys are going to have a bit of gas in the tank. We’ll have to evaluate it on Sunday, but I’m hoping our strategy is going to be the one that pays off in the long run.”
Rose hoping for FedEx/Ryder Cup party on Sunday
SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – Justin Rose is hoping for the biggest party of all on Sunday night.
With the quick turnaround with the Ryder Cup, the newly crowned FedExCup champion hasn’t had much time to celebrate his season-long title that he earned Sunday at the Tour Championship.
“The FedExCup, for me, it finished on the plane,” Rose said Wednesday. “I enjoyed the plane ride over, but once I landed in Paris, I was one of 12 guys. I didn’t want it to carry over into this week. This week is about another job to do.”
Rose said his Ryder Cup teammates have resorted to the usual tactics – “Apparently all the drinks are on my tab this week,” he joked – but just as Team USA may have used a boost with Tiger Woods winning, the Europeans can take confidence in having the FedExCup champion on their side.
As for any premature celebrations, Rose said: “I can shelve that for another week or so. I will certainly enjoy it. It’s kind of a season-long title that you really want to enjoy. But I’d like to maybe start that party on Sunday night and here for the right reasons, because of this week.”