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Opinion & Analysis

Should Patrick Reed be an Honorary Member of the European Tour?

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Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Patrick Reed. Of the four, one name sticks out, or at least it should. Earlier this month, the European Tour announced that Reed had joined his illustrious counterparts in being named an Honorary Lifetime member of the European Tour.

In practical terms, it is an award the means nothing. It does not provide an exemption to the tour, it does not guarantee starts in any tournaments and it does not bring with it any financial reward. You do get a rather shiny silver membership card and a photo op shaking the hand of Keith Pelley but beyond that nothing else.

In the grand scheme of things, it means little however to those who have been awarded honorary membership, it means a lot. The likes of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie are all honorary members. All three giants of the European game alongside the vast majority of those with their names on the list. So why Reed and perhaps more importantly, why now?

It is an unwritten rule that if you are a European Tour member and you win a major, you will be awarded honorary membership. Reed has completed the task when it comes to winning a major. In addition to Reed recently receiving the honor, Franceso Molinari who claimed his first major just a few months after Reed received the honorary accolade. In the recent past one time major winners such as Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia and Danny Willett have all received similar treatment. The one galling difference with each of these recent winners in comparison with Reed is the amount of golf that they have played in Europe. Stenson, Molinari, Willett and even Garcia have played extensively in Europe largely building careers here before stepping up to the PGA Tour.

Outside of the majors and world golf championships, Reed has competed in 16 European Tour events. Reed has built little in Europe and whilst he is a European Tour member which is something of an anomaly for a U.S.-based golfer of his ranking he has not always been overly concerned with his membership. In the past he has failed to play the minimum requirement of events and the events that he does turn up for tend to be the ones that are willing to pay for him to be there.

That he is now in the same company as the likes of Stenson, Molinari and Garcia (let alone the likes of Faldo, Seve and John Jacobs) is wrong. He has not established himself in the way that any of those named have, he has not competed long enough and he has never won an event in Europe. Quite why that is deserving of an honorary membership is something only the European Tour can truly explain, although I suspect that beyond the few soundbites that went along with the release of the news, we will hear little. It seems that Reed is simply being rewarded for keeping his membership up, and that is a sad indictment on the current state of the European Tour.

The European Tour is falling further and further behind the PGA Tour. It is rapidly becoming a two or even three-tier system with all the power lying at the top. That system has seen the advent of the Rolex Series events which cater for those at the top with sizeable prize funds and everything that goes along with it. This is in stark contrast to the relatively modest prizes on offer to those competing in last weeks Vic Open. It is no coincidence that there were no top players competing last week.

The big names have all of the power and they know it. What’s more, the Tour knows it. Sergio Garcia was not banned for his recent antics in Saudi, McIlroy trashed the Tour in the press at the start of the year because he could and he was safe in the knowledge that no one in Europe was going to do anything about it and now we have this, with the Tour bending over backwards to please someone who has supported the Tour in the way that a casual fan watches the Super Bowl but isn’t interested in much of what goes beforehand.

The difficulties that the European Tour finds itself in are further confirmed by recent announcements concerning the changes to the the Race to Dubai. Fewer players will now be eligible for the final events. As a result, whilst prize money is staying the same the share going to the winners will increase. The winner of the DP World Championship will pick up the biggest tournament winners check in golf, a cool $3 million. The Tour doing this is clearly an attempt at getting big names to play in these events. Big names, leads to happy sponsors and happy sponsors leads to more money which is great but the European Tour will never compete with the riches on offer Stateside. Changes to the prize structure, chasing money regardless of where it is coming from and the awarding of honorary membership to players who do not deserve it, simply leads to a dilution of the Tour as it is which will result it in become ever more secondary to the PGA Tour.

It may be that in 20 years’ time, Reed is a multiple winner on the European Tour, having regularly played events throughout the years. He may mean as much to the Tour as the likes of Monty and Seve or even Darren Clarke and Danny Willett however in the here and now, his honorary membership brings little honor for either he or the Tour and the question which goes beyond all of that, will the European Tour as we know it even be here in 20 years’ time?

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Matthew O’Neill is neither a professional writer nor a professional golfer, he is simply a self-proclaimed golf fanatic. Having been a golfer from the age of 8, he has been a member at his home club in Scotland from the age of 13. In the time he has been a member there he has worked in the Pro Shop, served on the club council and currently captains the Men’s Scratch Team. Playing off a handicap of 3, he competes in club and regional competitions and regularly attends at professional events. When he is not talking or playing golf, his time is spent with his young family and at work as a lawyer. A product of his generation, as well as being active on GolfWRX forums, he regularly uses social media to keep up to date with the latest golf news and views, please feel free to reach out to him on those platforms.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. MAGA

    Mar 1, 2019 at 8:42 am

    Can you guys keep him for the Ryder cup and give us Rory?

  2. mlecuni

    Mar 1, 2019 at 7:40 am

    They should give it to John Daly who often play better when in Europe.

  3. A. Commoner

    Feb 28, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    This writing is just trash. Blowhard rants about what?

  4. Jose Pinatas

    Feb 28, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Of course he should be. They asked him.

  5. Joe

    Feb 28, 2019 at 9:32 am

    The question should be: Why did the European Tour give him one. Not should he be. This is like giving someone a million bucks, then asking them why did you take it, when you should ask why was it given.

  6. mike de la hoz

    Feb 27, 2019 at 6:13 pm

    he should just stay there

  7. Tom

    Feb 27, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Ole Patrick showed his true colors when he aired dirty laundry after the USA’s embarrassing loss at the Ryder Cup….

    • Jose Pinatas

      Feb 28, 2019 at 9:49 am

      He gave his opinion, cause someone asked. So what… Theres no law saying you have to like him, or dislike him. He is who he is. The USA blew goats in France in 2018, and he got pissed off at everyone and spit fire. So what. Speith, who got throttled by the Danish Hammer retorted to hiding under a rock, and has yet to come out.

      • Tom

        Feb 28, 2019 at 12:31 pm

        Captain makes the calls on pairing….players follow captain’s lead….end of story!

        • Jose Pinatas

          Feb 28, 2019 at 7:43 pm

          Only problem.. it doesn’t work that way. The last captain that tried that was Tom Watson. Look where that got the good old USA.. creamed like butta..

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Opinion & Analysis

Top 5 wedges of all time

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Wedges. They are the “trusted old friends” in our golf bags. They inspire confidence inside of 100 yards and help us get back on track when we hit a wayward approach.

There was a time not too long ago when a bunker was considered a true hazard, but over the last 80 years, as agronomy has evolved on the same trajectory as club an ball technology, wedges have changed a great deal along the way—from the first modern prototype wedge built by Gene Sarazen to clubs featuring various plating and coatings to increase spin and performance. There are a lot of wedge designs that have stood the test of time; their sole grinds, profiles from address, and performance bring back memories of great hole outs and recovery shots.

With so many variations of wedges in the history of golf (and so much parity), this is my top five list (in no particular order) of the most iconic wedges in golf history.

Original Gene Sarazen Wedge

An early Gene Sarazen wedge. (Photo: USGA)

Gene is famous for a lot of things: the career grand slam, the longest endorsement deal in professional sports history (75 years as a Wilson ambassador), the “shot heard around the world”, and as mentioned earlier—the creation of the modern sand wedge. Although not credited with the invention of the original  “sand wedge” he 100 percent created the modern wedge with a steel shaft and higher bounce. A creation that developed from soldering mass to the sole and flange of what would be our modern-day pitching wedge. Born from the idea of a plane wing, thanks to a trip taken with Howard Hughes, we can all thank Mr. Sarazen for the help with the short shots around the green.

Wilson R90

The next evolution of the original Sarazen Design, the Wilson R90 was the very first mass-marketed sand wedge. Its design characteristics can still be seen in the profile of some modern wedges. Although many might not be as familiar with the R90, you would almost certainly recognize the shape, since it was very often copied by other manufacturers, in their wedge lines.

The R90 features a very rounded profile, high amount of offset, and a great deal of bounce in the middle of the sole, with very little camber. Although not as versatile as modern wedges because of the reduced curve from heel to toe, the R90 is still a force to be reckoned with in the sand.

Cleveland 588

You know a name and design are classic when a company chooses to use the original notation more than 30 years after its initial release. The 588 was introduced as Cleveland’s fifth wedge design and came to market in 1988—which is how it got its name. Wedges were never the same after.

The brainchild of Roger Cleveland, the 588 was made from 8620 carbon steel—which patinad over time. Not unlike the Wilson before it, the 588 had a very traditional rounded shape with a higher toe and round leading edge. The other part of the design that created such versatility was the V-Sole (No, not the same as the Current Srixon), that offers a lot more heel relief to lower the leading edge as the face was opened up—this was the birth of the modern wedge grind.

Titleist Vokey Spin Milled

The wedge that launched the Vokey brand into the stratosphere. Spin-milled faces changed the way golfers look at face technology in their scoring clubs. From a humble club builder to a wedge guru, Bob Vokey has been around golf and the short game for a long time. The crazy thing about the Bob Vokey story is that it all started with one question: “who wants to lead the wedge team?” That was all it took to get him from shaping Titleist woods to working with the world’s best players to create high-performance short game tools.

Honorable mentions for design goes to the first 200 and 400 series wedge, which caught golfers’ eyes with their teardrop shape—much like the Cleveland 588 before it.

Ping Eye 2 Plus

What can you say? The unique wedge design that other OEMs continue to draw inspiration from it 30 years after its original conception. The Eye 2+ wedge was spawned from what is undoubtedly the most popular iron design of all time, which went through many iterations during its 10 years on the market—a lifecycle that is completely unheard of in today’s world of modern equipment.

A pre-worn sole, huge amount of heel and toe radius, and a face that screams “you can’t miss,” the true beauty comes from the way the hosel transitions into the head, which makes the club one of the most versatile of all time.

Check out my video below for more on why this wedge was so great.

Honorable mention: The Alien wedge

To this day, the Alien wedge is the number-one-selling single golf club of all time! Although I’m sure there aren’t a lot of people willing to admit to owning one, it did help a lot of golfer by simplifying the short game, especially bunker shots.

Its huge profile looked unorthodox, but by golly did it ever work! Designed to be played straight face and essentially slammed into the sand to help elevate the ball, the club did what it set out to do: get you out of the sand on the first try. You could say that it was inspired by the original Hogan “Sure-Out,” but along the way it has also inspired others to take up the baton in helping the regular high-handicap golfer get out of the sand—I’m looking at you XE1.

That’s my list, WRXers. What would you add? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole: Meet the world’s most expensive putter and the man behind it

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Host Michael Williams talks with Steve Sacks of Sacks Parente Golf about the idea and implementation of their revolutionary Series 39 blade putter. Also features PGA Professional Brian Sleeman of Santa Lucia Preserve (CA).

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

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

A day at the CP Women’s Open

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It’s another beautiful summer day in August. Just like any other pro-am at a professional tour event, amateurs are nervously warming up on the driving range and on the putting green next to their pros. As they make their way to the opening tees, they pose for their pictures, hear their names called, and watch their marque player stripe one down the fairway. But instead of walking up 50 yards to the “am tees,” they get to tee it up from where the pros play—because this is different: this is the LPGA Tour!

I’m just going to get right to it, if you haven’t been to an LPGA Tour event you NEED to GO! I’ve been to a lot of golf events as both a spectator and as media member, and I can say an LPGA Tour event is probably the most fun you can have watching professional golf.

The CP Women’s Open is one of the biggest non-majors in women’s golf. 96 of the top 100 players in the world are in the field, and attendance numbers for this stop on the schedule are some of the highest on tour. The 2019 edition it is being held at exclusive Magna Golf Club in Aurora, Ontario, which is about an hour north of downtown Toronto and designed by noted Canadian architect Doug Carrick. The defending Champion is none other than 21-year-old Canadian phenom Brooke Henderson, who won in emotional fashion last year.

From a fan’s perspective, there are some notable differences at an LPGA Tour event, and as a true “golf fan,” not just men’s golf fan, there are some big parts of the experience that I believe everyone can enjoy:

  • Access: It is certainly a refreshing and laidback vibe around the golf course. It’s easy to find great vantage points around the range and practice facility to watch the players go through their routines—a popular watching spot. Smaller infrastructure doesn’t mean a smaller footprint, and there is still a lot to see, plus with few large multi-story grandstands around some of the finishing holes, getting up close to watch shots is easier for everyone.
  • Relatability: This is a big one, and something I think most golfers don’t consider when they choose to watch professional golf. Just like with the men’s game there are obviously outliers when it comes to distance on the LPGA Tour but average distances are more in line with better club players than club players are to PGA Tour Pros. The game is less about power and more about placement. Watching players hit hybrids as accurately as wedges is amazing to watch. Every player from a scratch to a higher handicap can learn a great deal from watching the throwback style of actually hitting fairways and greens vs. modern bomb and gouge.
  • Crowds: (I don’t believe this is just a “Canadian Thing”) It was refreshing to spend an entire day on the course and never hear a “mashed potatoes” or “get in the hole” yelled on the tee of a par 5. The LPGA Tour offers an extremely family-friendly atmosphere, with a lot more young kids, especially young girls out to watch their idols play. This for me is a huge takeaway. So much of professional sports is focused on the men, and with that you often see crowds reflect that. As a father to a young daughter, if she decides to play golf, I love the fact that she can watch people like her play the game at a high level.

There is a lot of talk about the difference between men’s and women’s professional sports, but as far as “the product” goes, I believe that LPGA Tour offers one of the best in professional sports, including value. With a great forecast, a great course, and essentially every top player in the field, this week’s CP Women’s Open is destined to be another great event. If you get the chance to attend this or any LPGA Tour event, I can’t encourage you enough to go!

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