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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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On Spec

On Spec: Interview with GOLFTEC VP of Instruction Nick Clearwater

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In this episode of On Spec brought to you by Golf Pride Grips, Ryan talks with GOLFTEC’s Vice President of Instruction Nick Clearwater about his history with golf, teaching, and how he and his team at GolfTec help golfers play better.

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

From the GolfWRX Vault: The day I met Ben Hogan

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In addition to continuing to look forward to new content that will serve and engage our readership, we also want to showcase standout pieces that remain relevant from years past. In particular, articles with a club building or instruction focus continue to deliver value and convey useful information well after their publish dates.

We want to make sure that once an article falls off the front page as new content is covered it isn’t relegated to the back pages of our website.

We hope that you’ll appreciate and find value in this effort.

Industry veteran (and one heckuva writer) Tom Stites, who served as the Director of Product Development at Nike’s Oven, tells the story of how he landed a job as an engineer at the Ben Hogan Company and what his first meeting with Mr. Hogan was like.

Get a taste for Stites’ excellent piece from 2015 below.

Getting near my boy was the real reason I wanted to get to Texas, but the golf was a sweet attraction, too. With a perfect touch and timing, the Good Lord prompted the Hogan Company to advertise for a new product development engineer. On just the right day, I was changing flights at DFW and bought a copy of the Fort Worth paper. In the want ads I saw something like, ”Ben Hogan will pay you cash money to engineer and work on golf clubs.” So I applied.

My product development experience at Kohler got me the interview, but the Good Lord got me the job. It was truly a real miracle, because in 1986 I knew zero about club design and manufacturing. I was quickly made the boss of the model shop, and was to manage the master club maker Gene Sheeley and his incredible team of long-time club artisans.

Me as their boss? That was a joke.

I knew a few things about physics at that time, but these guys were the real deal in club design. I knew immediately that I was in over my head, so I went to Gene and professed my ignorance. I pleaded with him to teach me how to do the job right. At that, I guess he considered me harmless and over the next number of years he became my Yoda. His voice was even a bit like Yoda.

Read the full piece here.

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Opinion & Analysis

Why do Tour players prefer fades over draws from the tee box?

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There is a growing trend on the PGA Tour and other professional golf tours where some of the game’s best players favor a fade from the tee box. Amateur golfers often struggle with golf shots that slice away from their target. These shots can lead them out of play and have them eagerly chasing a more neutral or drawing shot shapes. Additionally, a large fraction of low handicap and professional golfers play a golf shot that draws repeatedly onto their target. These thoughts can leave you wondering why anyone would choose to play a fade rather than a draw with their driver.

The debate over whether players should fade or draw their golf shots has been intensely lobbied on either side. While this is highly player specific, each particular shot shape comes with a set of advantages and disadvantages. In order to discuss why elite golfers are choosing to play a fade and why you might as well, we must first explore how each shot shape is created and the unintended effects within each delivery combination. This article explores the ideas that lead some of the most outstanding players in the world to choose a fade as their go-to shot shape for their driver.

Before examining what makes each shot unique, golfers should be familiar with some common club fitting and golf swing terminology. Club path, clubface angle, impact location, spin-axis or axis tilt, and spin loft are all detailed below.

The curvature of a golf ball through the air is dependent on the backspin and sidespin of each shot. These spin rates are directly linked with each players golf swing and delivery characteristics. During every shot, each golfer will deliver the golf club back to the golf ball in a specific orientation. The relationship between the golf club face and the path of that club will determine much of how the golf ball will travel. A golf clubface that is closed to a club path will result in golf shots that either draw or hook. A clubface more open to the club’s path with create a shot that fades or slices. It is important that face angle measurements are taken in reference to the club path as terms like “out-to-in” or “in-to-out” can results in either of these two curvatures depending on face angle and impact location measurements.

Impact location should not be overlooked during this exchange and is a vital component of creating predictable golf shots that find the fairway and reach their maximum distances. As strikes move across the clubface of a driver gear effect begins to influence how the golf ball travels. In its simplest form, gear effect will help turn the golf ball back to the center of the golf club head. Impact locations in the heel will curve towards the middle and lead to golf shots with a more pronounced fading shape. Toe strikes lead to the opposite reaction and produce more draw or hook spin. Striking a golf ball from the upper half of the driver clubface produce higher launches and less spin, while strikes from the bottom create lower launches with higher backspin rates.

Spin-axis tilt or simply axis tilt is a result of the amalgamation of face angle, club path and strike locations. A golf shot will curve in the direction that its axis tilts during flight. Golfers familiar with launch monitors like Trackman and GCQuad, can reference axis tilt and spin-axis tilt measures for this measurement. Shots that curve to the left will have a leftward tilted axis, and shots to the right a rightward axis tilt. Golf shots tilting to the left and to the right are given names depending on which hand is dominant for that golfer. A draw or hook is a golf shot that curves in the air away from the golfers dominate hand. Right-handed players will see a golf ball hit with a draw spin from right to left in the air. Left-handed golfers see their draw shots spin from left to right. Fades and slices have the opposite shapes.

Spin loft is another critical component of creating and maintaining the flight of a golf ball. In concert with the spin-axis tilt of the golf ball, the spin loft influences the amount of backspin a golf ball possesses and will determine much of how stable that golf ball’s flight becomes. Golf shots hit with more backspin curve less violently than golf shots hit with too little spin especially in the wind. Spin loft is exemplified as golfers find themselves much more accurate with their wedges than their driver. More spin equals more stability, and this leads us to why professional players opt for their fade.

Modern drivers can be built to maximize the performance of each golfer on their best swings, but what about their misses? Golfers often lose confidence standing over their golf shots if they see the ball overdrawing or hooking too often. Overdraws and hooks create golf ball flight conditions that are unpredictable and lead to directional and distance detriments that can cause dropped shots and penalties. Because of this, elite right-handed players do not often like to see the golf ball going left from the tee box. By reducing their chances of hitting hooking tee shots, golfers often feel more freedom to swing the golf club freely and make smooth, powerful motions. This is never more evident than when watching Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson hit their drivers. While both players hit the golf ball both ways, their go-to shot from the tee is a left-to-right curving fade.

But wait, doesn’t a draw go further than a fade? While it is not inevitable that a draw will fly further or roll out more than a fade, the clubface and club path conditions needed at impact to produce each shape often lead to differences in spin rates and launch angles that affect distance. Less dynamic loft created by a closed clubface can lead to lower launch, less spin, and more distance. The drawback of these conditions is the reduced spin loft and decreased stability. So how much distance is worth losing to find more fairways? As we continue to see some of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour win tournaments and major championships distance is the premium.

Luckily, modern drivers and club fitting techniques have given players a perfect blend of distance and accuracy. By manipulating the center of gravity of each driver, golfers can create longer shots from their best strikes without giving up protection from their mishits. Pushing the weights more near the clubface of drivers has given players the ability to present more loft at impact without increasing backspin. The ability to swing freely and know that if you miss your intended strike pattern your shot will lose distance but not end up in the most dangerous hazards have given players better, more repeatable results.

While it can be advantageous for casual golfers and weekend players to chase as many yards as possible, players that routinely hit the golf ball beyond 300 yards can afford their misses to fall back if they will remain in play and give them a chance to find the green in two shots. More stability when things do not go as planned thanks to increased spin lofts and less violent curvature has allowed elite level golfers to perform consistently even under the most demanding situations and it is why we continue to see a growing number of players favor a fade from their tee shots.

 

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