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Opinion & Analysis

Bright or bleak? The future of the European Tour



By Kees Jan Stel

GolfWRX European Tour Contributor

With Europeans Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Sergio Garcia, Graham McDowell and Padraig Harrington already playing in America, the top European golfers spent more time on the other side of the Atlantic than on home soil.

The increasing desire to play in America has much to do with the sustained acceptance and success of the PGA Tour’s FedexCup. And who can blame the players? The total purse of around $260 million in prize money on the PGA Tour is almost twice the amount in Europe. Moneywise, it’s a no brainer to cross the Atlantic once equipped with the required exemptions.

The good news for Europe is that more stars in America will help the old continent as well. Playing on the PGA Tour will make them better players and thus increase their chances of landing a major championship, further improving Europe’s record in team events such as the Ryder Cup. But there is an obvious downside. Englishman David Lynn, who came second in this year’s PGA Championship, is one of the European Tour players that has the credentials to give the PGA Tour a shot, but he is not intent to do so yet.

“It’s not good for the Tour if guys all keep playing in America all the time,” Lynn said. “If guys just have that attitude, like ‘I’ve got the right to go and play over there, it seriously doesn’t do a lot of good for the European Tour in the future. It is a vicious circle where America keeps getting stronger and Europe keeps getting weaker.”

Complaining never solves problems. So instead of staring at the success of the PGA Tour, the leaders of the European Tour recognized the flaws and decided to up the specs on their own tour. And it seems they are heading in the right direction, since there will be a substantial revamp of the European Tour’s calendar in 2013.

With the economic climate in Europe still heavily under par (the European Tour lost six tournaments in one year due to lack of funding), it is clear that the growth of the European Tour will come from outside of Europe. There are 46 events on the European Tour, 24 of which are played outside the continent and eight of which that are played in Asia.

The recently played Turkish Airlines World Golf Final in Belek will become an official, 78-man stroke play event on the European Tour next year with a purse that will surely be one of the better ones in the season. The Turks are after a bid to stage the Olympics in 2020, and are eager to show the world they can pull off events large events like the World Golf Final.

There is also BMW Masters in Shanghai, China. In 2011, it was an exhibition tournament, but this year it was an official part of the European Tour with an 80-man field and a $7 million purse.

Last but not least there is the inaugural Tournament of Hope that will be held in South Africa in late November of next year. Co-sanctioned by the European Tour and the Sunshine Tour, it is a 10-year signed event with a $9 million purse, which places it even above the four majors and the World Golf Championships in terms of total prize money. With the $7 million WGC-HSBC Champions in China, the $6 million Singapore Open and the $7 million Dubai World Championship already scheduled, all of a sudden the end of the year on the European Tour looks completely different. Rory McIlroy was clear about it:

“I think that’s what the European Tour needs to do, give it some sort of buzz like the PGA Tour has,” he said. “It will mean a very busy end to the season for us, but an exciting one too.”

The 2013 FedExCup Playoffs will mark the official end of the PGA Tour’s 2013 official season. Competition for the 2013-2014 FedExCup will resume three weeks later with the PGA Tour’s Fall Series. Much of the refurbished European Tour season will be not be played during the ultra-rich FedExCup Playoffs, but during the Fall Series, which should give the European Tour’s more lucrative season-ending events a boost.

It will be interesting to see how players deal with the serious amounts of dollars and ranking points that all of a sudden are available. Not only it will give the top players interesting options, it also leaves a mouthwatering prospect for golf fans who have gotten used to a fading end to the season once the Wannamaker Trophy was presented.

Currently, European Tour rules state that its members must play at least 13 events in a calendar year (up from 11 last year). But it significantly helped make itself more attractive to top international talent by doing what the PGA Tour has done for years, making participation in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup counts towards membership (the Seve Trophy, a biennial golf tournament between teams of professional male golfers representing Great Britain & Ireland and Continental Europe, will also count toward membership). Since the four major championships and all the WGCs already count toward membership on both tours, the strain of joining the European Tour will be much less for players.

Rory McIlroy said in Turkey that playing both Tours was clearly on his mind, in particular since he has never won the Harry Vardon Trophy*, which is given to the Order of Merit winner (leading money winner) on the European Tour. Not that playing on both the European and the PGA Tour is easy — it requires serious travelling and intelligent planning. On the other hand, Luke Donald successfully showed last year it can be done and Rory McIlroy is close to pulling it off this year. Tiger Woods also said in Turkey that he is contemplating membership of the European Tour. This year, including the Ryder Cup, Woods fell only four events short of the 13-tournament minimum (4 majors, 3 WGCs, and the European Tour’s Abu Dhabi Championship).

Will the exile of Europe’s best players hurt the European Tour? Not necessarily, as long as they decide to play on the European Tour as well. That would indicate that they will not play on European soil as often, since the restructuring of the European Tour’s end of the season will mainly take place in Asia and Africa. That may lead to Rory McIlroy not playing in his own Irish Open and Lee Westwood and Luke Donald not playing the BMW PGA Championship (Wentworth). But if it means that in the bargain players such as Tiger Woods become members of the European Tour and Europe remains as dominant as it is in Ryder Cup, no European will complain.

*The Harry Vardon Trophy should not be confused with the Vardon Trophy, which is awarded by the PGA of America to the player with the lowest scoring average on the PGA Tour.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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  1. Pingback: – Bright or bleak? The future of the European Tour | Golf Products Reviews

  2. Dave Sefton

    Nov 2, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Another issue is the movement of tournaments away from the heartlands of golf support. Too many tournaments are being played in oil rich, fan -less desert wastelands. Only one PGA tournament is played in England each year (with The Open every other year). Fans and future players are being lost in this country, club memberships are down. George O’Grady is causing the demise of European golf. Only 3 players got on the ‘plane back to Europe after the Ryder Cup, this is a pattern which will continue and soon the Ryder Cup will also be staying on the US side of the Atlantic.

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Gear Dive: How Tiger Woods used to adjust his clubs based on swing changes



Ben Giunta, a former Nike Tour Rep and now owner of the, joins host Johnny Wunder and TXG’s Ian Fraser on this episode of The Gear Dive. Ben discusses working in-depth with Nike Athletes before the company stopped producing hard goods. He has some fantastic intel on TW and the setup of his sticks (around the 14-minute mark). They also discuss Ben’s new endeavor.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

The 2018 NCAA Men’s National Championship: By the Numbers



For the 2018 NCAA Men’s Championship, 156 participants (30 teams of five, and six individuals) will collect at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Oklahoma on May 25-30 to determine the 2018 NCAA Individual Champion and the NCAA Team champion.

There will be three days of stroke play on Friday through Sunday (54 holes). From there, 15 teams and nine individuals advance to a final day of stroke play on Monday. That will determine the eight teams who will advance to match play, and the individual 72-hole stroke play champion. Match play format on Tuesday and Wednesday will then determine the national team champion.

Who will win? Well, let’s look at the numbers from the NCAA Men’s Championships in the past 9 years (when they began playing match play as part of the national title).

Average winning score for individual stroke play

  • For 3 rounds of stroke play — 832 strokes (avg. 69.3 per golfer)
  • For 4 rounds of stroke play — 1137 strokes (avg. 71.06 per golfer)

Number of No. 1 seeds to win championship: 0

Average match play seed of eventual winner: 4.5

Where the winners have come from

  • 44 percent of winners (4 out of 9) are from the SEC: Texas AM (2009), Alabama (2013, 2014) and LSU (2015)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from the Big 12: Texas (2012), Oklahoma (2017)
  • 22 percent of winners (2 out of 9) are from Augusta, GA: August State (2010, 2011)
  • 11 percent of winners (1 out of 9) are from the PAC 12: Oregon (2016)
  • 11 percent of the match play field has historically come from mid-major teams

Mid-Majors that have Qualified for Match Play

  • August State (2010, 2011)
  • Kent State (2012)
  • San Diego State (2012)
  • New Mexico University (2013)
  • SMU (2014)
  • UNLV (2017)

Mid Majors with 4+ Appearances in the NCAA National Championship 

  • UCF (2009, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • Kent State (2010, 201, 2013, 2017, 2018)
  • North Florida (2010, 2012, 2013, 2018)

So with facts in hand, let’s hear your opinion GolfWRX readers… who’s going to be your team champion for 2018?

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Fort Worth Invitational



Under a new name, but a very familiar setting, the Fort Worth Championship gets underway this week. Colonial Country Club will host, and it’s an event that has attracted some big names to compete in the final stop of the Texas swing. The top two ranked Europeans, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose are in the field, as are Americans Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

Colonial is a tricky course with narrow tree-lined fairways that are imperative to hit. Distance off the tee holds no real advantage this week with approach play being pivotal. Approach shots will be made more difficult this week than usual by the greens at Colonial, which are some of the smallest on the PGA Tour. Last year, Kevin Kisner held off Spieth, Rahm, and O’Hair to post 10-under par and take the title by a one-stroke margin.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Justin Rose 18/1
  • Webb Simpson 18/1
  • Rickie Fowler 20/1
  • Jimmy Walker 28/1
  • Adam Scott 28/1

Last week, Jordan Spieth (9/1, DK Price $11,700) went off at the Byron Nelson as the prohibitive 5/1 favorite. Every man and his dog seemed to be on him, and after Spieth spoke to the media about how he felt he had a distinct advantage at a course where he is a member, it was really no surprise. Comments like this from Spieth at the Byron Nelson are not new. When the event was held at TPC Four Seasons, Spieth often made similar comments. The result? He flopped, just as he did last week at Trinity Forest. Spieth’s best finish at the Byron Nelson in his career is T-16. The reason for this, I believe, is the expectations he has put on himself at this event for years.

Switch to Colonial, and the difference is considerable. Spieth’s worst finish here is T-14. In his last three visits, he has finished second, first and second. While Spieth may believe that he should win the Byron Nelson whenever he tees it up there, the evidence suggests that his love affair is with Colonial. The statistic that truly emphasizes his prowess at Colonial, though, is his Strokes Gained-Total at the course. Since 2013, Spieth has a ridiculous Strokes Gained-Total of more than +55 on the course, almost double that of Kisner in second place.

Spieth’s long game all year has been consistently good. Over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first in this field for Strokes Gained-Tee to Green, second for Ball Striking, and first for Strokes Gained-Total. On the other hand, his putting is awful at the moment. He had yet another dreadful performance on the greens at Trinity Forest, but he was also putting nowhere near his best coming into Colonial last year. In 2017, he had dropped strokes on the greens in his previous two events, missing the cut on both occasions, yet he finished seventh in Strokes Gained-Putting at Colonial on his way to a runner-up finish. His record is too good at this course for Spieth to be 9/1, and he can ignite his 2018 season in his home state this week.

Emiliano Grillo’s (50/1, DK Price $8,600) only missed cut in 2018 came at the team event in New Orleans, and he arrives this week at a course ideally suited to the Argentine’s game. Grillo performed well here in 2017, recording a top-25 finish. His form in 2018 leads me to believe he can improve on that this year.

As a second-shot golf course, Colonial sets up beautifully for the strengths of Grillo’s game. Over his previous 12 rounds, Grillo ranks first in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, second in Ball Striking, third in Strokes Gained-Tee to Green and eighth in Strokes Gained-Total. The Argentine also plays short golf courses excellently. Over his last 50 rounds, Grillo is ranked ninth for Strokes Gained-Total on courses measuring 7,200 yards or less. Colonial is right on that number, and Grillo looks undervalued to continue his consistent season on a course that suits him very well.

Another man enjoying a consistent 2018 is Adam Hadwin (66/1, DK Price $7,600), who has yet to miss a cut this season. The Canadian is enjoying an excellent run of form with five top-25 finishes from his last six stroke-play events. Hadwin is another man whose game is tailor made for Colonial. His accurate iron play and solid putting is a recipe for success here, and he has proven that by making the cut in all three of his starts at Colonial, finishing in the top-25 twice.

Hadwin is coming off his worst performance of 2018 at The Players Championship, but it was an anomaly you can chalk up to a rare poor week around the greens (he was seventh-to-last in Strokes Gained-Around the Green for the week). In his previous seven starts, Hadwin had a positive strokes gained total in this category each time. Over his last 24 rounds, Hadwin ranks seventh in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 15th in Ball Striking, and ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting. He looks to have an excellent opportunity to improve on his solid record at Colonial this week.

Finally, as far as outsiders go, I like the look of Sean O’Hair (175/1, DK Price $7,100) at what is a juicy price. One of last year’s runners-up, his number is far too big this week. He has had some excellent performances so far in 2018. In fact, in his previous six starts, O’Hair has made five cuts and has notched three top-15 finishes, including his runner-up finish at the Valero Texas Open. The Texan has made three of his last four cuts at Colonial, and he looks to be an excellent pick on DraftKings at a low price.

Recommended Plays

  • Jordan Spieth 9/1, DK Price $11,700
  • Emiliano Grillo 50/1, DK Price $8.600
  • Adam Hadwin 66/1, DK Price $7,600
  • Sean O’Hair 175/1, DK Price  $7,100
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