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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

A road trip to St. Andrews

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In 2017, my son Brian and his wife Lauren, proposed a family trip to Scotland. Both of them have traveled a surprising amount for a couple barely 30 years old, but for us it would be a huge trip. We couldn’t get it scheduled for 2018 but everything lined up for October, 2019, a trip that might even include playing the Old Course in St. Andrews, if we got lucky. The amazing Lauren made all the arrangements, beginning with multiple email exchanges with the staff at the Old Course, who were extremely gracious and encouraging in their communications.

Unlike most other courses, in order to play the Old Course, you have three options: One is to book a very expensive trip through a travel broker who will guarantee a tee time. This is the only way to make your arrangements in advance, but you’re paying thousands for the package, which would include at least three other days of golf. Sounds great but above our budget. Secondly, you can take a real gamble and just show up at the starter’s window the day you are hoping to play, and get in line as early as 3 a.m., put your name on the list and then wait, maybe all day, maybe hopelessly. It’s no way to budget an entire day on your vacation. The third way is to use what is called the “ballot system,” submitting your request for a tee time via email to standrews.com, 48 hours ahead and hopefully getting a spot.

Now, it’s not as grim a prospect as it may sound for planning to play golf in St. Andrews. The above only applies to getting onto the Old Course. We were able to make a tee time for the Jubilee Course, one of six other courses (Jubilee, Castle, New Course, Eden, Strathtyrum, and Balgove), all part of the St. Andrews Links complex, “The Home of Golf” as their brochure proclaims. Since we were scheduling our trip for the tail-end of the golf season, the gentleman from St. Andrews wrote that he was cautiously optimistic we would be successful using the ballot system.

This wasn’t just a golfing vacation, the five us had an outstanding time touring the west coast of Scotland, including the Oban Whisky distillery, the Harry Potter train in Glencoe, Ben Nevis—the highest peak in the UK, Fort William, and the spectacular Highlands, the town of St. Andrews, and finally the marvelous city of Edinburgh. We ended up spending one night in St. Andrews, at The Saint, a lovely four-room hotel, a 10-minute walk from the Old Course. That evening, walking down cobblestone streets, with the R&A clubhouse coming into view, was like walking in a dream.

Our day started out by driving directly to the new Links Clubhouse, which has wonderful views of the courses from the restaurant. We had lunch, and I must admit to being a bit nervous over my chicken bacon mayo sandwich. We’d parked our bags in the locker room down below, it’s just what you’d expect in terms of world-class accommodations and feel. I could just imagine the pros suiting up there as they prepare to play in The Open.

Our day of golf at the Jubilee Course was spectacular, although it got off to a rainy start, but the weather cleared by the fourth hole. Mary, Jill, and Lauren formed our gallery as we teed off, then they went for a walk around the lovely town. I parred the first hole and told Brian that made my entire trip to Scotland. I was on fire, shooting 42 on the front nine but hitting only three fairways and two greens in regulation. Brian shot 45. We’d decided on match play, and I was up by three on the 11th hole. Brian then said the fateful words, “You haven’t hit into a pot bunker all day!” Which I promptly did. My game immediately tanked while he proceeded to make a total of nine pars, shooting 42 on the back, and won the match 2 & 1. Our gallery re-appeared on the 17th hole, the sun was shining, and we were in golf heaven! We ended the day with a pint at the famous Dunvegan Pub by the R&A clubhouse.

Earlier in the day, Brian had received an email from St. Andrews, unfortunately stating that we had not been selected for the ballot to play on the Old Course the next day. He resubmitted our request for the following day with fingers crossed. We headed to our next stop, Edinburgh, looking forward to exploring this ancient yet cosmopolitan city. During our walking tour, Brian received the email notification that we’d scored an 11 a.m. tee time on the Old Course for Friday. He and I would be making a road trip back north while the ladies spent the day in Edinburgh.

It was about an hour ride back to St. Andrews but traffic was quite manageable and we arrived at 9:30, plenty of time for breakfast at the Links Clubhouse. I felt that anticipatory excitement I always have right before marshaling at a big event, like a U.S. Open, where the atmosphere of the place is nearly overwhelming. Not really nervousness, but we were about to play the Old Course! Isn’t that every golfer’s dream? To say Brian was wound up tight would be an understatement, he could barely choke down half a scone. The walk over toward the starters shack, where we would meet our caddies, with the R&A clubhouse right there at the first tee was unreal.

The clerk was so gracious, taking our 130 Scottish pounds green fee (about $160), and handing us a very nice valuables pouch complete with an amazingly detailed yardage book, tees, pencils, divot tool, and scorecard. We were then approached by our two caddies, who between them had nearly 30 years of caddying experience. I got John, whose personality was perfect for me, quiet, calm, not too chatty, yet personable. Brian’s guy, Steve was just right for him as well, right from central casting with a thick Scottish brogue. He instantly bonded with Brian to become his playing partner/coach, which was just what he needed to get over the first tee jitters.

The starter, Richard, approached us as we made our way over to the first tee, greeting us much like you see them do at the start of the Open Championship. He made our presence there seem extra special, despite the fact he’d probably done the same routine 10 thousand times. He even took our picture. We were then introduced to our two other playing partners, both former members of the course, so they didn’t need caddies to show them the way. These guys were hilarious, self-deprecating, with brogues so thick I could understand maybe one word in three, not the best golfers by any stretch, which was somehow quite reassuring and certainly less intimidating. Brian proved to be the best golfer in our foursome by far although he had a rough start, hitting his drive into the Swilcan Burn.

I was really calm on the tee, it helped that there were very few spectators as it was drizzling and maybe 50 degrees. John told me where to aim, (“at that gorse bush off in the distance”) and I was able to do exactly that. As we walked off the first tee Steve said “now you can all breathe again!” I found having a caddy to be such a wonderful added dimension to this whole experience—not just as a guide to point out where in the world I should be aiming on this alien golf layout, but also to set an expectation for me on each shot which I then tried my best to fulfill. The greens weren’t too scary as I felt used to the speeds having played Jubilee, but having John read the subtle breaks and provide aiming points was terrific.

I played bogey golf through the first 12 holes but the rain only intensified and despite John’s best effort to keep things dry, the final 6 holes were a mess. Brian was one up on our match at the turn, then went on to win decisively at 5 up, with a total for the day of 5 pars and a birdie, including par on 17, the famous Road Hole. As the day went on, we found ourselves saying over and over to each other, what a wonderful experience this was despite the conditions. Steve took the traditional picture of us on the Swilcan Bridge, on our way to finishing on 18, which Brian almost parred. He later said he had such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, having conquered the Old Course.

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Podcasts

TG2: Brooks and Peter Kostis rip Patrick Reed

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Brooks Koepka and Peter Kostis both talk about Patrick Reed and his cheating allegations. Brooks was on SiriusXM and Kostis on No Laying Up don’t hold back their feelings on cheating. Kostis also has some PGA Tour beef, saying that they don’t care about the television broadcast.

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

Watch for players lofting up at altitude at the WGC-Mexico Championship

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This week, at the PGA Tour’s WGC-Mexico Championship, we are going to watch some of the best and longest players on the planet play what will effectively be one of the shortest courses on tour.

Now, 7,341 yards is by no means a cakewalk, and there are shorter courses from a pure yardage perspective played on tour—Harbour Town, as an example, only plays at 7,099 yards from the very back. The difference is Harbour Town is played at sea level while Club de Golf Chapultepec is at over 7,500 feet of elevation, and when you factor in the altitude difference between the two courses, they play very differently—more on the math in a moment.

The altitude will also factor in how some players will be setting up their equipment and we could see some adjustments. The most obvious is lofting up the driver or fairways woods to increase carry, which is something Tiger Woods specifically mentioned last year.

The biggest misconception when talking about playing golf at altitude is that the ball doesn’t spin the same in thinner air and players “loft up” to maintain spin. Let’s get into the physics to bust this “spinning less” myth and simplify the science behind playing at altitude,

The golf ball is an inanimate object, and it has no idea it’s at altitude; the air will not have an impact on how much the ball will actually spin. Yes, increasing loft should, by almost every imaginable measure, increase spin but the air it travels through will not change the spin rate.

However, playing at altitude has an effect, Let’s break down what happens

  • Thinner air exerts less drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball. The ball moves more easily through this less dense air and won’t decelerate as quickly as it flies. But note that the faster an object moves the more drag force will occur
  • Less resistance also means that it is harder to shape shots. So you when you see Shot Tracer, the pros are going to be hitting it even straighter (this makes Tiger’s fairway bunker shot last year even more unbelievable)
  • Less force = less lift, the ball will fly lower and on a flatter trajectory

Time for some math from Steve Aoyama, a Principal Scientist at Titleist Golf Ball R&D (full piece here: The Effect of Altitude on Golf Ball Performance)

“You can calculate the distance gain you will experience (compared to sea level) by multiplying the elevation (in feet) by .00116. For example, if you’re playing in Reno, at 1 mile elevation (5,280 ft.) the increase is about 6% (5,280 x .00116 = 6.1248). If you normally drive the ball 250 yards at sea level, you will likely drive it 265 yards in Reno.”

Not every player will be making changes to their bag, and some will instead focus on the types of shots they are hitting instead. When speaking to Adam Scott earlier this week, I was able to ask if he planned on making any changes heading into Mexico the week after his win at the Genesis Invitational.

“It’s very rare for me to make club changes week-to-week beyond playing in the Open Championship and adding a longer iron. The one thing I focus on when playing at altitude is avoiding partial shots where I’m trying to reduce the spin because as spin goes down the ball doesn’t want to stay in the air. I’ve experienced partial shots with longer clubs that end up 25 yards short, and because of that I want to hit as many full shots as possible”

With Club de Golf Chapultepec sitting just over 7,800 feet above sea level, we’re looking at 9.048 or an increase of just over 9 percent. That makes this 7,341-yard course play 6,677 yards (+/- where the tees are placed).

 

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