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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Van Rooyen holes putt after ball-marker ruling
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Erik van Rooyen was surveying his 10-footer for par, trying to get a feel for the putt, when his putter slipped out of his hand and dropped onto his ball marker.
The question, then, was whether that accident caused his coin to move.
The rules official looked at various camera angles but none showed definitively whether his coin moved. The ruling was made to continue from where his coin was now positioned, with no penalty.
This was part of the recent rules changes, ensuring there is no penalty if the ball or ball maker is accidently moved by the player. The little-used rule drew attention in 2010, when Ian Poulter accidentally dropped his ball on his marker in Dubai and wound up losing more than $400,000 in bonus and prize money.
After the delay to sort out his ruling Friday, van Rooyen steadied himself and made the putt for par, capping a day in which he shot even-par 71 and kept himself in the mix at The Open. He was at 4-under 138, just two shots off the clubhouse lead.
“I wanted to get going and get this 10-footer to save par, but I think having maybe just a couple minutes to calm me down, and then I actually got a different read when I sat down and looked at it again,” he said. “Good putt. Happy to finish that way.”
Lyle birdies last hole in likely his final Open start
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – If this was Sandy Lyle’s final Open appearance, he went out in style.
Playing on the final year of his automatic age exemption, the 60-year-old Scot buried a 30-foot birdie on the last hole. He missed the cut after shooting 9-over 151 over two rounds.
“I was very light-footed,” he said. “I was on cloud nine walking down the 18th. To make birdie was extra special.”
Lyle, who also won the 1988 Masters, has missed the cut in his last eight majors, dating to 2014. He hasn’t been competitive in The Open since 1998, when he tied for 19th.
To continue playing in The Open, Lyle needed to finish in the top 10 here at Carnoustie. He’d earn a future exemption by winning the Senior British Open.
“More punishment,” he said.
DJ, Thomas miss cut at Open; No. 1 up for grabs
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The top two players in the world both missed the cut at The Open, creating the possibility of a shakeup at the top of the rankings by the end of the weekend.
Dustin Johnson became the first world No. 1 since Luke Donald in 2011 to miss the cut at the year’s third major.
Johnson played solidly for all but the closing stretch. Over two rounds, he was 6 over par on the last three holes. He finished at 6-over 148.
Thomas added to what’s been a surprisingly poor Open record. Just like last year, when he struggled in the second round in the rain at Royal Birkdale, Thomas slumped to a 77 on Friday at Carnoustie, a round that included three consecutive double bogeys on Nos. 6-8. He finished at 4-over 146.
It’s Thomas' first missed cut since The Open last year. Indeed, in three Open appearances, he has two missed cuts and a tie for 53rd.
With Johnson and Thomas out of the mix, the No. 1 spot in the rankings is up for grabs this weekend.
Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm all can reach No. 1 with a victory this week.
TT Postscript: Woods (71) makes cut, has work to do
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Here are a few things I think I think after Tiger Woods shot a second consecutive even-par 71 Friday in the second round. And yes, he made the cut:
• Tiger said all 71s are not created equal. On Thursday, he made three birdies and three bogeys. On Friday, he made four birdie and four bogeys. Which round was better? The first. His theory is that, despite the rain, conditions were easier in the second round and there were more scoring opportunities. He didn't take advantage.
• This is the first time since the 2013 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes that Tiger shot par or better in each of the first two rounds of a major. That’s quite a long time ago.
• Stat line for the day: 11 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 32 total putts. Tiger hit one driver and two 3-woods on Thursday and four drivers on Friday, only one which found the fairway. An errant drive at the second led to him sniping his next shot into the gallery.
• In his own words: “I could have cleaned up the round just a little bit. I got off to not exactly the best start, being 2 over through three, but got it back. The golf course was a little bit softer today, obviously. It rains, and we were able to get the ball down a little bit further, control the ball on the ground a little bit easier today, which was nice.”
• At some point Tiger is going to have to be more aggressive. He will be quite a few shots off the lead by day’s end and he'll have a lot of ground to make up. Hitting irons off the tee is great for position golf, but it’s often leaving him more than 200 yards into the green. Not exactly a range for easy birdies.
• Sure, it’s too soon to say Tiger can’t win a fourth claret jug, but with so many big names ahead of him on the leaderboard, it’s unlikely. Keep in mind that a top-six finish would guarantee him a spot in the WGC: Bridgestone Invitational in two weeks. At The Players, he stated that this was a big goal.
• My Twitter account got suspended momentarily when Tiger was standing over a birdie putt on the 17th green. That was the most panicked I’ve been since Tiger was in contention at the Valspar.