DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – How on earth do you conquer the universe after you’ve conquered the world?
That might be the question for European Tour chief executive George O’Grady and his team as they contemplate the 2011 season. Make no mistake about it, in the battle for supremacy between the PGA Tour and European Tour, the Euro circuit won the 2010 battle hands down.
Three major winners, three World Golf Championship winners, the world No. 1 in Lee Westwood and a Ryder Cup. It doesn’t get much better.
“It’s been a fantastic year,” said Thomas Bjorn, chairman of the European Tour’s 15-man tournament committee. “Hard to say if it’s the greatest ever, but it’s certainly been very special.”
It used to be Europe had a handful of players who could excel on the world stage. Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam were the backbone of the tour back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with supporting roles played by Howard Clark, Ken Brown, Mark James and Colin Montgomerie.
Nowadays, Europe has far greater depth. That much is obvious this year with the number of players who have leaped to the forefront. After all, few would have picked Graeme McDowell (U.S. Open), Louis Oosthuizen (Open Championship) and Martin Kaymer (PGA Championship) to earn major glory this year.
“Europe’s had an unbelievable year, not just in the majors, but winning the Ryder Cup as well just shows that the European Tour is just getting stronger,” Oosthuizen said. “We’re at the stage where if there are 50 Europeans in a major then any one of them can win it, not just one or two guys.”
O’Grady agrees. More importantly, he thinks things can only get better.
“The Olympic decision will help us, because that will push a lot of young kids from diverse countries into taking up what they see as a glamorous sport,” O’Grady said.
McDowell and company might be happy with what they’ve achieved this season, but they are thinking of more peaks to conquer.
“I’m just going to take a lot of belief from what I’ve achieved this year,” McDowell said. “I’m going to pour that back into myself for the years going forward. Continue to try and improve, try to get to the world’s best player. Two or three years ago, the No. 1 player in the world seemed untouchable.”
The Northern Irishman will have to fall in line behind Kaymer. The German came to Dubai with a chance to go to the top of the world with a victory. Instead he had to settle for the Order of Merit title, beating McDowell to become the first German to claim the European money list since Bernhard Langer in 1984.
It probably won’t be the last time Kaymer tops the European pecking order, or the last season he wins a major. There is much left in store for this young German, but the same can be said for other Europeans in the shape of Rory McIlroy, Ian Poulter, Matteo Manassero, the Molinari brothers, Westwood, Alvaro Quiros, Paul Casey – take your pick.
The 2010 season has proved bountiful, indeed.