Year-end events will compete for star players
Too many tournaments, so few dates.
If we were talking the middle of summer, you could say it’s an old story. But as a true indication that the game is an attraction in all corners of the globe, we present the end of the year.
It used to signal time to rest.
It now is a green light to bolster the bank account and stamp the passport.
World-class players who truly love taking on the challenge of global golf now look at the November and December schedule and can’t believe the choices. And not only is the money good, but the fields are so deep you almost can’t afford the chance to pass up the world ranking points.
Soggy South African Open
Check out the conditions and players after the rain-delayed first round was completed on Friday at the South African Open.
All in all, a good thing, a very good thing. Or at least it was until a lot of hands started reaching for the pie. Next thing you know, well, what do they say about too much of a good thing?
Not only has it created chaos, it seems that ill will is blowing in the wind. Tournament officials on several continents think they have reason to be disappointed at the way 2011 will close out. Just a sampling of the conflicts:
• Convinced their serious financial backing of the Australian Masters would help land them the prime week (Nov. 10-13) before the Presidents Cup, IMG officials were not happy to not only lose out, but to then get a date (Dec. 1-4) that is miserable for their interests.
Why? Because the headliner for the last two Australian Masters, Tiger Woods, will be hosting his Chevron World Challenge at the other side of the world.
• It was widely praised that the Nov. 10-13 date was given to the Australian Open.
“It was the right thing to do,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “The Australian Open is our most-precious tournament.”
But even while Ogilvy said he hoped as many “as half” the International and U.S. team members would come play the Aussie Open one week before the Presidents Cup, a quick survey of possible players suggested otherwise.
There’s a good reason why: the Singapore Open. It’s a hugely popular tournament, one that Aussie Adam Scott won last year for the third time. Even Ogilvy concedes, “Adam rightfully should play Singapore and defend,” and it appears he is leaning that way.
Phil Mickelson, a Barclays guy, is another who favors Singapore.
• For those who cling to the myth that Woods gets whatever he wants, check out what he’s up against Dec. 1-4 for his charity tournament. Never in 12 editions has Woods struggled to get whomever he wanted, but he will this year.
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Perhaps the Australian Masters won’t affect him, but the European Tour stop in Hong Kong very well could. It’s a popular stop for Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and McDowell, all of whom were marquee names at Woods’ tournament last December.
Oh, and in South Africa that week? It’s the ultra-rich Nedbank Challenge, with Lee Westwood a likely headliner.
• As if going opposite Hong Kong and Nedbank wasn’t bad enough, the Chevron will be the week before the European finale, the Race to Dubai.
Even if a European star player were tempted to play in Woods’ tournament rather than Hong Kong, the fact they’d then have to go to Dubai would seem to knock Chevron out of the mix.
• When this wild stretch of tournaments was presented to Ernie Els at the PGA Tour season-opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he shook his head, knowing that what precedes it all is the HSBC Champions in China Nov. 3-6.
“The end of this year is going to be a mess,” Els told Golfweek at Kapalua. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. You’ve got the Aussie Open, South African Open, you’ve got the Presidents Cup, HSBC, you’ve got Dubai . . . what were they thinking, to cram everything in like that. I just don’t know. In the end, we’re going to be looking like the bad guys. That’s how these thing go.”
A week later, Els discovered that these things go from bad to worse sometimes. That’s because the Sunshine Tour and European Tour revealed that the South African Open, which was held in mid-December last year, this year will be Nov. 17-20.
That’s opposite the Presidents Cup, and consider the South African players who would want to play in both – Els, Retief Goosen, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, and Tim Clark.
They may have to choose between their national open and the Presidents Cup.
Like Els said, “a mess.”
So, in summary, it appears you could say the list of those who don’t find the November-December global schedule to their liking includes Woods, Els, McDowell, Scott, Poulter, Clark, Goosen, Oosthuizen, Schwartzel, and IMG officials.
Oh, and if those impressive South Africans were to do the unthinkable and pass up the Presidents Cup? Well, you could add PGA Tour officials to that list.
Which brings us back to another Els query – “what were they thinking?”
Personal interests, it appears, which hits at a key point to all of this. While there is much rhetoric about working together to grow the game globally, sometimes the tours can’t ignore the dollars signs that can be theirs alone.
What do European Tour and Sunshine Tour folks care about putting the South African Open opposite the Presidents Cup? The Presidents Cup doesn’t benefit them. But before you point the finger at those folks, Camp Ponte Vedra did what was best for their tour a few years ago, to the detriment of the European Tour. Commissioner Tim Finchem conceded as much in Hawaii, while dismissing the notion that he should be concerned that McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer did not take out membership on the U.S. circuit.
“The European Tour has been under a lot of pressure and we didn’t help their cause when we moved The Players to May and when we created the FedEx Cup with the playoffs,” Finchem said. “What that did was it put significant pressure on their early-summer and late-summer schedule.”
It doesn’t mean that European officials have been looking to settle a score.
It just means they’ll all work together – unless it’s better to do things on their own.
“There’s a lot going on late in the year for us and the European Tour and that will probably continue as global golf sort of continues to grow,” Finchem said. “It’s an ongoing process and we’ll just have to see how things shake out.”