The Future is Bright The Future is Dubai
Well, well, well, George OGrady really has thrown a cat amongst the pigeons with the announcement on Monday of the Dubai World Championship, the culmination of the inaugural Race for Dubai in 2009. Its the European Tours counter-punch to the PGA TOUR's FedExCup, and I think it brings a hefty blow.
The tournament, though, is more than just an event; this is the beginning of a very complex relationship with the tournaments sponsor, Leisurecorp, a division of Dubai World, a company controlled by the Government of Dubai. Not only will the tour end its season in the Middle East, but it will move its headquarters there, building what it calls a Centre of Excellence. The tours physio truck will be sponsored by Leisurecorp; furthermore, the two organizations will start a property company to develop new venues, something akin to TPC Courses but on a much bigger and grander scale. This is a huge step for the European Tour; it's OGradys legacy as Executive Director.
The tour will also revert back to the calendar year schedule; no more premature starts to the year in November. The Race for Dubai will begin in January 2009, possibly at the Dubai Desert Classic. The events in November and December that currently fall into the next calendar year schedule will either become special events, be reworked into the upcoming season or just fall back to the other co-sanctioning tour. The Volvo Masters is still up in the air. Volvo may decide to move it to another part of the schedule, and the field may be increased and not limited to the season-ending top 60 as it has in the past.
A lot of the talk is centered on the new season-ending event, a $10 million prize fund, and the $10 million bonus pool for the top 15 in the Race for Dubai (the old Order of Merit). The big question is: Will Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson be playing? At the moment the answer is no, they wouldnt have qualified. However, there are a few ways around this. Firstly Tiger plays two more events on the European Tour in 2008 than he did in 2007 and activates his European Tour membership. You see, Woods has only played nine or 10 events in each of the past couple of seasons, just below the minimum 11 to qualify for membership.
This is good news for both the PGA TOUR and European Tour players. Firstly, it keeps the publics attention on Woods being the best the PGA TOUR has to offer. Secondly, he earned enough money from those nine or 10 starts to capture the Order of Merit crown anyway, so by not being a member he gives the others a chance. In 2007 he would have taken the Order of Merit crown before we even arrived at Valderrama.
Also, the Dubai World Championship, like the Volvo Masters, offers four sponsors exemptions. I dont think this is a good idea because it cheapens the Race for Dubai; you want players to play on the European Tour throughout the season, not just in one event.
Another thing, and this will spark the most controversy among players, the minimum event requirement is lowered to nine or 10. This will not happen until at least after the next players meeting in Abu Dhabi next year. Personally, I think the tour should leave things the way they are and let Tiger find an extra couple of starts in Europe. He already has three WGC events and four majors on his schedule -- they all count -- then add the Dubai Desert Classic, the Dubai World Championship, perhaps the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and the HSBC World Match Play, and hes in. Wasnt too hard was it?
As for Mickelson or any other current non-European Tour member, I dont think they have the draw of Woods and with all due respect, does it really matter whether they are in the field?
Lastly, theres a money issue. The FedExCup pays an annuity. Its much larger than the Race for Dubai but the European Tour version will pay cash and players like that. Also, the Race for Dubai doesnt lock players into a playoff system.
Professionals golfers are lone rangers, independent beings who dont have a boss telling them what to do. They dont particularly enjoy Mr. Finchem instructing them to play the PGA TOUR Playoff events for the FedExCup. Nobody is telling them what to do in Dubai. Theyll play their normal schedule, hope for a good year, and then head for the pot of gold in the desert.
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott
First-, second-round tee times for the 147th Open
Three-time champion Tiger Woods is playing in The Open for the first time since he missed the cut in 2015 at St. Andrews. Woods will begin his first round Thursday in the 147th edition at Carnoustie at 10:21 a.m. ET, playing alongside Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Knox.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth delivered the claret jug to the R&A on Monday at Carnoustie. He will begin his title defense at 4:58 a.m. ET on Thursday, playing with world No. 2 Justin Rose and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Other notable groupings:
- Rory McIlroy will look to capture his second claret jug at 7:53 a.m. Thursday. He goes off with Marc Leishman and Thorbjorn Olesen.
- World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is playing with Alex Noren and Charley Hoffman. They will play at 8:04 a.m. ET in the first round.
- World No. 2 Justin Thomas goes at 8:26 a.m. with Francesco Molinari and Branden Grace.
- Masters champion Patrick Reed will play with Louis Oosthuizen and Paul Casey at 5:20 a.m. ET.
- U.S. Open champion and world No. 4 Brooks Koepka is grouped with Ian Poulter and Cameron Smith (9:59 a.m. ET).
- Phil Mickelson, the 2013 Open champion, will begin at 3:03 a.m. ET with Satoshi Kodaira and Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Here's a look at the full list of times for Rounds 1 and 2 (all times ET):
1:35AM/6:36AM: Sandy Lyle, Martin Kaymer, Andy Sulliva
1:46AM/6:47AM: Erik Van Rooyen, Brady Schnell, Matthew Southgate
1:57AM/6:58AM: Danny Willett, Emiliano Grillo, Luke List
2:08AM/7:09AM: Mark Calcavecchia, Danthai Boonma, Shaun Nooris
2:19AM/7:20AM: Kevin Chappell, Oliver Wilson, Eddie Pepperell
2:30AM/7:31AM: Ross Fisher, Paul Dunne, Austin Cook
2:41AM/7:42AM: Tyrrell Hatton, Patrick Cantlay, Shane Lowry
2:52AM/7:53AM: Thomas Pieters, Kevin Kisner, Marcus Kinhult
3:03AM/8:04AM: Phil Mickelson, Satoshi Kodaira, Rafa Cabrera Bello
3:14AM/8:15AM: Brian Harman, Yuta Ikeda, Andrew Landry
3:25AM/8:26AM: Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson, Nicolai Hojgaard (a)
3:36AM/8:37AM: Stewart Cink, Brandon Stone, Hideto Tanihara
3:47AM/8:48AM: Gary Woodland, Yusaku Miyazato, Sung Kang
4:03AM/9:04AM: Ernie Els, Adam Hadwin, Chesson Hadley
4:14AM/9:15AM: Pat Perez, Julian Suri, George Coetzee
4:25AM/9:26AM: David Duval, Scott Jamieson, Kevin Na
4:36AM/9:37AM: Darren Clarke, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen
4:47AM/9:48AM: Matt Kuchar, Anirban Lahiri, Peter Uihlein
4:58AM/9:59AM: Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Kiradech Aphibarnrat
5:09AM/10:10AM: Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Chris Wood
5:20AM/10:21AM: Louis Oosthuizen, Paul Casey, Patrick Reed
5:31AM/10:32AM: Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jhonattan Vegas
5:42AM/10:43AM: Yuxin Lin (a), Alexander Bjork, Sang Hyun Park
5:53AM/10:54AM: James Robinson, Haraldur Magnus, Zander Lombard
6:04AM/11:05AM: Kodai Ichihara, Rhys Enoch, Marcus Armitage
6:15AM/11:16AM: Sean Crocker, Gavin Green, Ash Turner
6:36AM/1:35AM: Brandt Snedeker, Sam Locke (a), Cameron Davis
6:47AM/1:46AM: Patton Kizzire, Jonas Blixt, Charles Howell III
6:58AM/1:57AM: Charl Schwartzel, Daniel Berger, Tom Lewis
7:09AM/2:08AM: Alex Levy, Ryan Moore, Byeong Hun An
7:20AM/2:19AM: Michael Hendry, Kelly Kraft, Lee Westwood
7:31AM/2:30AM: Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood, Jimmy Walker
7:42AM/2:41AM: Matthew Fitzpatrick, Russell Henley, Jovan Rebula (a)
7:53AM/2:52AM: Rory McIlroy, Marc Leishman, Thorbjorn Olesen
8:04AM/3:03AM: Dustin Johnson, Alex Noren, Charley Hoffman
8:15AM/3:14AM: Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Brendan Steele
8:26AM/3:25AM: Justin Thomas, Francesco Molinari, Branden Grace
8:37AM/3:36AM: Jason Day, Shota Akiyoshi, Haotong Li
8:48AM/3:47AM: Todd Hamilton, Beau Hossler, Jorge Campillo
9:04AM/4:03AM: Ryuko Tokimatsu, Chez Reavie, Michael Kim
9:15AM/4:14AM: Kyle Stanley, Nicolas Colsaerts, Jens Dantorp
9:26AM/4:25AM: Tom Lehman, Dylan Frittelli, Grant Forrest
9:37AM/4:36AM: Lucas Herbert, Min Chel Choi, Jason Kokrak
9:48AM/4:47AM: Padraig Harrington, Bubba Watson, Matt Wallace
9:59AM/4:58AM: Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Brooks Koepka
10:10AM/5:09AM: Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau, Shubhankar Sharma
10:21AM/5:20AM: Tiger Woods, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Knox
10:32AM/5:31AM: Jason Dufner, Ryan Fox, Keegan Bradley
10:43AM/5:42AM: Ryan Armour, Abraham Ander, Masahiro Kawamura
10:54AM/5:53AM: Jazz Janewattananond, Fabrizio Zanotti, Jordan Smith
11:05AM/6:04AM: Brett Rumford, Masanori Kobayashi, Jack Senior
11:16AM/6:15AM: Matt Jones, Thomas Curtis, Bronson Burgoon
Rahm's Carnousite strategy: 'As many drivers as I can'
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In his practice round Monday at Carnoustie, Jon Rahm bashed away with driver on the 18th tee, reducing one of the most intimidating finishing holes in championship golf into a driver-wedge.
Indeed, when it comes to his choice of clubs off the tee this week at The Open, Rahm has one strategy in mind.
“As many drivers as I can,” he said after playing 18 alongside Rory McIlroy. “I just feel comfortable with it.”
Playing downwind, the firm and fast conditions on the 18th have led some players, even a medium-length hitter like Brandt Snedeker, to challenge the burn fronting the green.
Rahm explained Monday why that was the prudent play.
“You can lay up with an iron farther back and have 140 or 150 meters to the front and have a 7-, 8- or 9-iron in,” Rahm said. “But if you hit a good one with a driver, you’re going to have nothing to the green.
“If you hit the rough this year, it’s not as thick as other years. You actually get a lot of good lies, so you can still hit the green with confidence.”
Rahm said that revelation was “quite surprising,” especially after encountering thicker fescue when he played the French Open and Irish Open, where he recorded a pair of top-5 finishes.
“But with this much sun” – it hasn’t rained much, if at all, over the past six weeks – “the fescue grass can’t grow. It just dies,” he said. “It’s a lot thinner than other years, so unless they can magically grow it thicker the next few days, it’s pretty safe to assume we can be aggressive.”
Remembering Jean, because we'll always remember Jean
The thing I remember about the 1999 Open Championship is that for 54 holes, it was boring. I can’t speak for the next 17, because I didn’t watch. I took advantage of a beautiful Sunday morning to play golf. When our group finished, we went into the clubhouse hoping to catch the last few holes or at least find out who won. Instead, we were greeted by an almost deafening buzz. It seemed everyone in the dining room was excitedly talking at once.
The wall-mounted televisions provided the answer. There stood Jean Van de Velde, resplendent in a white visor and blue shirt, and whatever the opposite of “resplendent” is with his trouser legs rolled up above his knees. He was up to his ankles in the burn that winds in front of Carnoustie’s 18th green, hands on hips, holding a wedge. He was staring down into the water the way you’d stare at a storm grate through which you had just accidentally dropped your car keys. You know, the “What the heck am I going to do NOW?” stare.
Van de Velde was the reason I had dismissed this 128th Open Championship as boring. Actually, he was one of two reasons. The first was that Tiger Woods was no factor. The second was that Van de Velde was running away with it, having taken a five-shot lead into the final round. It also didn’t help my interest level that I knew nothing about Van de Velde. I didn’t know Jean Van de Velde from Jean Valjean. The only thing I knew about him was that he was French, and the last great French golfer was … uh, I’ll have to get back to you on that.
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|Baggs: Choice of a lifetime for Jean Van de Velde|
|Baggs: In defense of Paul Lawrie|
As we got caught up on Van de Velde’s predicament – he had gone to the tee of the par-4 18th hole with a three-shot lead, but through a series of calamities now lay 3 … underwater – now my opinion of the guy did a 180. NOW I wanted him to win. It wasn’t going to be easy, though. Surely he would come to his senses and take a drop (4), then pitch onto the green (5) and hope to get that shot close enough that he could make the putt for 6 and claim the claret jug. A 7 – which would have plunged him into a playoff – was not a farfetched possibility.
Not farfetched at all; that’s the score he made, only it didn’t unfold quite as simply as I had envisioned. After taking his drop, Van de Velde hit his next shot into a greenside bunker. He then blasted out to 8 feet and, needing to make the putt to get into a playoff with Justin Leonard and Paul Lawrie, he did just that.
You think Leonard’s 45-footer at Brookline that won the Ryder Cup later that year was clutch? I’ll take Van de Velde’s putt eight days a week.
But there would be no happy ending for Van de Velde. In the four-hole, aggregate playoff, he opened with a double bogey and watched Lawrie win his only major.
Van de Velde got roasted in the media for “choking” and “making stupid decisions.” I felt this was unfair. So the next day, in my capacity as a sports columnist for The Palm Beach Post, I wrote this:
“I have a new hero. Jean Van de Velde, The Man Who Gave Away the British Open.” I wrote that Van de Velde had “remained true to himself” and that had he geared down and played the hole safely and won with a double bogey, he would have been quickly forgotten.
As it turned out, because of his tragedy (self-inflicted though it was), he gained far more fame for losing than Lawrie did for winning (which is unfair to Lawrie, but that’s a tale for another time). I’ll also wager that Van de Velde gained far more fans for the grace with which he took his defeat than he would have had he won. See Norman, Greg, Augusta, 1996.
Van de Velde may have made some questionable decisions – hitting driver off the tee, bringing water into play on his third shot when he had a horrible lie – but he had reasons for all of them. Nowhere do you see him saying “I am such an idiot” a la Phil Mickelson, or “What a stupid I am” a la Roberto De Vicenzo.
“Sure, I could have hit four wedges,” he recently told Golf Channel. “Wouldn’t they have said, ‘He won The Open, but, hey, he hit four wedges.’ I mean, who hits four wedges?”
There’s a great scene in the 1991 movie “The Commitments,” about putting a soul-music band together in the slums of Dublin. Against all odds, the band reaches the brink of success before sinking in a maelstrom of arguments and fistfights after its last gig.
Manager Jimmy Rabbitte is trudging home through the gloom, when saxophonist Joey “The Lips” Fagan rides up on his ever-present scooter. Joey tries to get Jimmy to see the bright side.
“Look, I know you're hurting now, but in time you'll realize what you've achieved,” Joey says.
“I've achieved nothing!” Jimmy snaps.
“You're missing the point,” Joey replies. “The success of the band was irrelevant - you raised their expectations of life, you lifted their horizons. Sure we could have been famous and made albums and stuff, but that would have been predictable. This way it's poetry.’
That’s what Jean Van de Velde created on that memorable Scottish day in July 1999.
Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship
Tiger Woods is competing in his first Open Championship since 2015. We're tracking him this week at Carnoustie.
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