A New Day is Dawning
The tournament was first played in 1988, the year before the tour made its initial venture to the desert of Dubai, and for the past 21 years, the tour has ended on the Costa Del Sol.
The area is a golfers paradise, course after course, beautiful countryside and lively restaurants and night-life. Its a vacation destination, a maana society, fast-pace comes only from the coast-road where possessed drivers hurtle along at break-neck speeds.
But alas, this little getaway spot, a two-and-a-half hour flight from London, is old school nowadays. Since 1990 the hum of golf activity from the Middle East has been getting louder every year. Oil rich nations hungry to attract business and tourism alike are broadening their appeal and diversifying their portfolio. Dubai, a seven hour flight from London, in the European Tours eyes, is the future.
If Ken Schofield put the European Tour all over the map, literally, George OGrady, as the current executive director, has thrown a large pin in the Emirate of Dubai, leaving lots of Kens little pins spread-out across the globe.
The Race for Dubai (the new name given to the Order of Merit) begins in the location of one of those little pins on Thursday. The HSBC Champions kicks-off a new era in European Tour history, and 54 weeks later the season will conclude at the Earth Course with the Dubai World Championship.
Among those present for Day 1 will be Anthony Kim and Camilo Villegas, both new members of the European Tour. Phil Mickelson will also play in China this week, but according to OGrady, he will not become a member of the tour and therefore will not be eligible for the season ending cash grab.
I think two of the tournaments that we were thinking he might have played will not fit his schedule, OGrady says of Mickelson. The tour boss will sit down with Phil and his people on Wednesday in Shanghai, but its unlikely Mickelson will change his mind.
Despite Phils absence and that of world No. 1 Tiger Woods, the fact that Kim and Villegas have opted for duel membership elevates the status of the European Tour. Those who seek their fortune on the PGA Tour are beginning to look at other options.
The PGA Tour has always been the world force, the place players see as the big dog. But the old guard is changing now and is easy to understand (the attraction of Dubai), youve got to be there with the absolutely perfect weather conditions, OGrady says.
The tour will make two visits to Dubai next season, once in late January for the Dubai Desert Classic and the other for the season ending event. The Race for Dubai will also make stops in the neighboring Emirate of Abu Dhabi and in nearby Qatar, not to mention lucrative exotic outings like this weeks tournament in Shanghai and the Ballantines on Jeju Island, South Korea. The old favorites will of course feature the Barclays Scottish Open, the French Open and the BMW PGA Championship, all boasting purses over 3.5 million.
The name associate of Dubai brings an air of financial security, the oil money isnt drying-up anytime soon. 'The Race for Dubai gives us confidence and in these financial markets confidence is a great thing to have, says OGrady.
The European Tour also has the problem of too many tournaments. In 2010, the Race for Dubai will follow a calendar year, which means squeezing the 55 tournaments in 2009 into a 10-month time period. Surely excess baggage will be dropped; itll be a survival of the fittest which couldnt come at a better time.
Those tournaments that were struggling to survive will disappear with relatively no impact to the tour itself, a perfect scenario. Meanwhile, as budgets get squeezed, the PGA Tour is working hard just to keep the events it already has. OGrady has the luxury of being able to move around the world to find his pot of gold, while PGA Tour boss Tim Finchem, at present, is constrained to three countries.
The Race for Dubai has the advantage of learning from two FedEx Cups. The PGA Tour saw a need to change and made the courageous move of doing so. It hasnt been a smooth ride with the points system, confusing even the most avid followers and a playoff which really isnt a playoff at all.
The European Tours equivalent is simple, the top 60 on the tours money list make the season ending tournament, which has a $10 million dollar prize fund. After the conclusion of the season-ending championship, the top 15 on the money list receive an extra $10 million cash and players must be present in Dubai to get the money.
OGrady seems to have pulled it off right now, but weve got a long way to go. His tour gives players events to play and sponsors value for money.
But this time of year there is a lull for American golf. Come the West Coast and Florida swings in spring of next year, the story may look a little different. America is still the place to play, the purses are much larger, a Maderia Island Open or Indonesian Open isnt even coming close to a lesser PGA Tour stop like the Viking Classic or Ginn sur Mer.
The PGA Tour still has Tiger Woods as its crown jewel. His possible return in late March or early April will bring a spotlight brighter than any weve seen, and itll be shining directly on the United States.
The Race for Dubai also brings a false sense of European euphoria, six of its richest events play-out on American soil. Three majors and three WGC events are all played stateside, and without those being part of his new master plan, OGrady would have few big name players as members.
George OGrady has been lucky with his timing, but his vision shows business leadership and foresight, a well thought-out plan that hasnt been rushed. The icing on his Dubai cake isnt there yet ' Woods and Mickelson are still not members.
But hes beginning to force the hands of the world elite ' become a truly global golfer or risk getting left behind.
Woods and Mickelson will both be keeping a close eye on this inaugural year; like OGrady they are shrewd business men and wont want to miss out on a good opportunity.
If Tiger and Phil put in their membership applications, then OGrady really has something.
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Weather extends Barbasol to Monday finish
NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - A thunderstorm has suspended the fourth round of the PGA Tour's Barbasol Championship until Monday morning.
Sunday's third stoppage of play at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came with the four leaders - Hunter Mahan, Robert Streb, Tom Lovelady and Troy Merritt at 18 under par - and four other contenders waiting to begin the round.
The tournament will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Lightning caused one delay, and play was stopped earlier in the afternoon to clear water that accumulated on the course following a morning of steady and sometimes-heavy rain.
Inclement weather has plagued the tournament throughout the weekend. The second round was completed Saturday morning after being suspended by thunderstorms late Friday afternoon.
The resumption will mark the PGA Tour's second Monday finish this season. Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open in January after darkness delayed the sixth playoff hole, and he needed just 13 minutes to claim the victory.
Watch: Spectator films as Woods' shot hits him
It was a collision watched by millions of fans on television, and one that came at a pivotal juncture as Tiger Woods sought to win The Open. It also gave Colin Hauck the story of a lifetime.
Hauck was among dozens of fans situated along the left side of the 11th hole during the final round at Carnoustie as the pairing of Woods and Francesco Molinari hit their approach shots. After 10 holes of nearly flawless golf, Woods missed the fairway off the tee and then pulled his iron well left of the target.
The ball made square contact with Hauck, who hours later tweeted a video showing the entire sequence - even as he continued to record after Woods' shot sent him tumbling to the ground:
The bounce initially appeared fortuitous for Woods, as his ball bounded away from thicker rough and back toward the green. But an ambitious flop shot came up short, and he eventually made a double bogey to go from leading by a shot to trailing by one. He ultimately shot an even-par 71, tying for sixth two shots behind Molinari.
For his efforts as a human shield, Hauck received a signed glove and a handshake from Woods - not to mention a firsthand video account that will be sure to spark plenty of conversations in the coming years.
Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter
After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.
But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.
Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":
Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.
Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.
Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.
The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.
“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.
In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.
“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”
Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.
“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.