Omega European Masters benefiting from end of PGA Tour season

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Omega European Masters benefiting from end of PGA Tour season

Euro Tour

Omega European Masters benefiting from end of PGA Tour season

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Thank you, PGA Tour, for ending your season ridiculously early – it means the European Tour takes center stage until November.

This week’s Omega European Masters is the start of the sprint to see who’ll win the Race to Dubai and be crowned 2019 European number one.

Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood and Sergio Garcia are the headline acts teeing it up in the Swiss Alps. Europe’s stars return from PGA Tour action while their domestic circuit seems to have been on hold.

Yes, Rory is in Crans Montana because the tournament promoter is one of his sponsors. Ditto for Garcia and Fleetwood. However, all three wouldn’t be playing if not for the PGA Tour ending last week.

McIlroy hasn’t played in Switzerland since 2011. Garcia played in 2015 after a nine-year absence. Fleetwood missed last year. Although the Swiss Masters takes places in the most stunning location on the European Tour, there was probably no way all three would have been able to fit the tournament into their schedules this season had the PGA Tour not shifted the FedEx Cup.

Sergio Garcia talks with Niall Horan during the pro-am at the Omega European Masters at Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club on Aug. 28, 2019 in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Swiss golf fans aren’t the only ones benefitting from the PGA Tour’s early finish. English golf fans will see a host of stars in the BMW PGA Championship next month. McIlroy and Fleetwood are among 10 members of last year’s victorious European Ryder Cup team teeing it up in arguably Europe’s most prestigious regular event. (Garcia and Thorbjorn Olesen are the two absentees. Garcia limits his British appearances for tax reasons, while Olesen is serving a ban after alleged misdemeanors on board a recent trans-Atlantic flight.)

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Until this year, the BMW PGA Championship was held in May. Getting European stars to return while in the midst of the PGA Tour season was sometimes like trying to get Bryson DeChambeau and J.B. Homes to play quickly. Ian Poulter’s participation was always tenuous, while Jon Rahm is only making his debut.

The bonus this year is the participation of Tony Finau, Billy Horschel and Patrick Reed. There have been questions around getting major American stars to Wentworth in the past. Seems the PGA Tour’s abrupt end to 2019 has answered those questions. It’s hard to think of Finau and Co. playing Wentworth in its previous May date. Once again, thank you PGA Tour.

So Europe’s stars begin their quest to end the season as No. 1 on their home tour in earnest this week. That’s certainly at the forefront of Fleetwood’s mind.

“With the opportunities coming up, if you’re in the hunt until the end you’ve got a realistic chance in the Race to Dubai,” said Fleetwood, 2017 European number. “This definitely feels like the start to the run in to the end of the season. It’s nice to have this stretch coming up, where with some good golf I could be in there again.”

Justin Timberlake chats with Rory McIlroy during the pro-am at the Omega European Masters at Crans Montana Golf Club on Aug. 28, 2019 in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Photo: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

McIlroy has other goals in mind. Foremost is overtaking Brooks Koepka at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

“I think Brooks has got about a three-point lead on me,” McIlroy said. “That’s my focus for the rest of the year, getting closer to that number one spot.”

He also has unfinished business in the Swiss mountains. He finished second in his 2008 debut.

“I had a wonderful opportunity to win my first event on Tour here. I was leading going into the last day, had a one-shot lead playing the last and wasn’t able to make par from there. Was beaten in the playoff (by Jeff Luquin). It’s still to this day the one event that I think of that I would like to re-do – get a mulligan.”

It would help him in his world number one quest, and light up the Race to Dubai.

So let the European Tour season begin – again.

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