THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Perhaps the answer rests in the money won. Martin Kaymer’s pile was the highest, so if he were up counting it Sunday, that explains why he was so fatigued he couldn’t keep his commitment to play in the Chevron World Challenge.
Colleagues Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy handled the travel from Dubai to honor their word – but then again, they had smaller piles of cash to count after last week’s European Tour finale in Dubai.
Truth is, there’s little reason Kaymer should be at Sherwood Country Club for what boils down to a four-day money-grab. Choosing to caddie for his girlfriend as she goes through a pre-qualifier on the Ladies European Tour is a noble cause, so why insult us with the “fatigue” silliness? When he committed to the Chevron, Kaymer understood he’d be coming off of a stretch of four tournaments in five weeks in faraway locales – Spain, China, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
What, he just got a Google alert Sunday night that California had been moved a few time zones from the Middle East?
Though it doesn’t diminish the breakthrough campaign he has had, it reflects poorly on Kaymer. But it’s a silly-season event, you say? First of all, so what? Second of all, it might be hard for people to digest, given the turmoil that has been Tiger Woods in 2010, but the Chevron tournament host is owed a measure of gratitude by every world-class player who has raked in obscene buckets of money in the past decade or so. In other words, this isn’t saying thanks to someone named Fred Meyer.
Forget that he chose to handle things differently; Kaymer did join other global forces who declined the chance to play in the Chevron. Phil Mickelson is always on hiatus this time of year, while Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen head toward their native South Africa, and Robert Allenby to his Australia. Meanwhile, Europeans Lee Westwood, Edoardo Molinari, Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington – all of whom were within the top 25 when the tournament cutoff came in late September – said no. (For the record, Harrington has played in the past.)
Not that Woods is left with crumbs. Fifteen of the world’s top 25 players – as of Sept. 20 – will tee it up at Sherwood Country Club, and the guy who came off the bench to replace Kaymer, Nick Watney, is a major champion in waiting.
But if Chevron maintains the same date on the 2011 calendar and is played Dec. 1-4, there’s a great chance the regrets, particularly from those who have an allegiance to the European Tour, would increase. That’s because Chevron would go up against the stop in Hong Kong, an increasingly popular attraction, and be played the week before the Race to Dubai finale.
It’s difficult to envision European stalwarts skipping Hong Kong to play Chevron, then flying to Dubai for their biggest purse of the season. If Chevron were to be pushed up to late November, there would be conflicts with the World Cup in China and the Thanksgiving holiday, so for Woods, this part of the golf is much like his game: not as easy as it once was.
EURO UPRISING: Actually, it has been an entertaining past six weeks or so, what with Europeans thumping their chests in outrageous glee. The 2010 season of three major championships, a No. 1 ranking and a Ryder Cup victory for European Tour members apparently is too much for them to take.
Hey, good for them. Terrific players that they are, collectively they’re also enriched with personality and a free-spirited approach to this global golf business.
But some of the actions and comments coming from the other side of the pond are curious. As a respected colleague mentioned in an e-mail, it’s starting to take on a level of arrogance that can only be compared to that which permeated the American scene a few years ago, when some within the PGA Tour world shamelessly suggested the Nationwide was the “second best tour” in the world. Let’s hope Europeans are more reasonable than that, because the fact is, their tour is superb, and while the move into Asia is a new chapter to be applauded, the ability to turn out world-class players is an old story that never gets tired.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: To do cartwheels off the 19th hole for the success of Westwood and Kaymer, McDowell and McIlroy, Harrington and Poulter is a huge slap in the face to icons such as Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer, Lyle and Woosnam.
Oh, and there is this thought: European loyalists are saluting the fact that Westwood, Kaymer and McIlroy won’t take on PGA Tour membership (ignoring that quite a few others will, most notably McDowell, Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Robert Karlsson, plus repeaters such as Casey, Donald, Poulter and Harrington), but shouldn’t they wait until a star player with an American passport rejects the PGA Tour and calls the European Tour home?
In the meantime, we seem to be fading back to the days when there was a serious “us vs. them” mentality on the two tours.
And it says here that that’s a wonderful and healthy thing, both for business and the competitive nature. So why not jump in with a few observations to stoke the fires:
• Much has been made of the fact that an American won just one major in 2010, as if that’s news. Apparently a lot of memories aren’t working very well, because in 1994 the majors were swept by non-Americans: Jose Maria Olazabal (Masters), Ernie Els (U.S. Open), Nick Price (British Open and PGA Championship).
Did the Americans get out of the pro golf business? Actually, no. They proceeded to win three majors in each of the next four seasons, then two in 1999, giving them 14 of 20 after the 1994 doughnut.
Go back to 1990, when Hale Irwin at the U.S. Open was the only American to win a major, and it didn’t exactly take on a look of the English trying to win Wimbledon. That’s because Americans won six of the next 12 majors.
• How did the European Tour’s heralded Race to Dubai finale stack up against its American counterpart, the Tour Championship?
More world-ranking points went to the Dubai winner, Robert Karlsson (58), than the Tour Championship victor, Jim Furyk (54), but you can chalk that up to the size of the field. Only 30 players were qualified for the Tour Championship, whereas 60 made it into the European finale.
But overall, the Race to Dubai was considered on par, strength-wise, with the Transitions Championship back in March. Furyk won that week, too, and got 58 world-ranking points.
If you go strictly by the depth of world-ranked players, the Tour Championship was a stronger field as 26 of the top 50 players were on hand in Atlanta. In Dubai, there were just 18 of the top 50 assembled.
• Finally, McIlroy is right to suggest that trying to maintain full membership on both tours is a difficult task. But he needs to be careful before his comments are construed as being anti-America. He is, after all, warmly accepted here, and though he may not favor golf on American soil, he needs to be reminded that a good part of his lofty world ranking (presently 10th) is owed to how he has played here.
For the record, of the four tournaments that have given McIlroy his most world-ranking points, three have come in America – the 2010 win at Quail Hollow, and ties for third in each of the past two PGA Championships.