Tait: Perfect ending to great year for Euro Tour
Monday, December 12, 2011
Is there ever bad news for the European Tour these days?
Doesn’t seem like it.
European Tour chief executive George O’Grady can look forward to another festive season with much to celebrate. For the second year in a row he can count three major winners from his ranks. He will also celebrate a second Christmas secure in the knowledge that the World No. 1 carries a European passport.
And O’Grady gets a few extra presents in his Christmas stocking, too.
Luke Donald’s achievements as leading money winner on both sides of the Atlantic, and the World No. 1 title, are perhaps the biggest surprises in O’Grady’s stocking. Donald is the first player to win the money list on both sides of the Atlantic.
Pay no heed to the cynics who say Tiger Woods would have achieved the same feat on three occasions had he taken out Euro Tour membership. Fact is, Woods didn’t. Besides, we expect such feats from the sometimes superhuman Woods. Not from quietly spoken Englishmen.
Discount those, too, who say Donald isn’t worthy of the No. 1 title because he hasn’t won a major. Those same critics didn’t question the world ranking system when Woods was on top.
Donald’s feat is all the more remarkable when you consider he’s the first European to win the PGA Tour money title. And since no U.S. player has ever won the European money list, it’s a feat that might stand for a long time.
Indeed, all that’s missing for Donald now is a major. It’s the same blank spot in Lee Westwood’s trophy cabinet. It seems only a matter of time before both Englishmen enter the major club.
Rory McIlroy already has that first major in his trophy case. His U.S. Open victory was one of the highlights of the European season. Justifiably, he will enter every major next season as one of the bona fide favorites.
Hopefully McIlroy will enter those majors with energy in his tank. The one small worry for everyone connected with the European Tour concerns the Northern Irishman’s scheduling. He plainly got it wrong at the end of this season, playing 11 of 13 weeks. On doctors advice he’s pulled out of this week’s Thailand Golf Championship on the Asian Tour.
McIlroy admits he’s played too much this year. He’s just 22 so shouldn’t suffer long-term consequences. Hopefully he’ll pace himself better in future. He needs to chase major trophies, not every dollar offered to him.
Another surprise Christmas presents for O’Grady was the play of Sergio Garcia towards the end of this year. The Spaniard emerged from two years in the boondocks to win twice and get back inside the world top 50. Major championship talk will surround Donald, Westwood and McIlroy next year. However, with his new claw putting grip, Garcia could surprise many people and enter that select club reserved for major winners.
And don’t discount Alvaro Quiros’s chances in the majors over the next few years either. Victory in the Dubai World Championship was his sixth Euro Tour win. He needs to shift his focus now to the majors. He openly acknowledges his poor record in the marquee events. He has too much length not to be a factor in the tournaments that realty count.
And as if all of the above isn’t enough to make O’Grady’s Christmas stocking overflow, then news that Dubai has extended the contract to stage Europe’s tour championship for another three years should bring even extra cheer. The Emirate has also upped the ante. Next year’s DP World Tour Championship, Dubai will give Europe’s elite an $8 million purse, an increase of $500,000.
Seems there is still some gravy left in the Dubai gravy train. And a lot of steam in the European Tour engine.
Yes sir, there isn’t much bad news connected with the European Tour these days.