European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley laid out ambitious plans with hopes of becoming a “viable alternative” to the PGA Tour.
That starts with an increase in prize money, and he went so far as to say that it would make more sense for the European Tour’s flagship event to be the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai ($8 million purse) instead of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth ($5 million purse) because of the money.
Another measure of the mountain he has to climb is the world ranking.
The gap continues to widen in the average ranking points for PGA Tour events compared with Europe — up an average of one point this year, two points from 2012.
Including the four majors and the four World Golf Championships, the PGA Tour averaged 56.4 points for the winner compared with 42.2 points for the European Tour. That’s a difference of 14.2 points, up from 13.3 points a year ago.
Throw out the majors (each worth 100 points) and the WGCs, and the PGA Tour offered an average of 49.5 points compared with 32.9 points for the European Tour.
The European Tour had six regular events that offered 50 points or more, including the BMW PGA Championship, which is guaranteed 64 points as the flagship event. The PGA Tour had seven events that offered 60 points or more, including The Players Championship, which is guaranteed 80 points (The Players actually has a stronger field by raw numbers than three of the majors).
The four events in The Finals Series for the Race to Dubai offered an average of 53 points to the winner. The four FedEx Cup playoff events on the PGA Tour awarded an average of 68.5 points to the winner.
Pelley is aware he needs time to become a viable option, and his target is the next generation of players.
“That’s not going to happen necessarily in 2016,” Pelley said last month in Dubai. “You’ll start to see it happen in 2017. You’ll start to see it come to fruition in 2018. We definitely in three to five years will have a viable alternative, so that 17-, 18-, 19-year-old doesn’t necessarily need to go to America to be able to make as much money as they possibly can.”
Setting bar high
Jordan Spieth and caddie Michael Greller have made a bet each of their three years. Greller sets a number of times Spieth must hole out from off the green, and if he surpasses the number, Greller has to take him for dinner. Of course, Spieth gets to invite anyone he wants, and last year in San Diego there were about 20 guests on Greller’s tab.
Based on what he did last year, the new number for Spieth to beat is 20. Only it doesn’t start next week at Kapalua.
“He talked me into starting in Australia,” Greller said, shaking his head.
Spieth holed out with an 8-iron on the 17th hole at the Australian Open. A week later, Spieth made a hole-in-one at Albany Golf Club on his second hole of the Hero World Challenge.
Alas, there was one sliver of good news.
“He wanted anything over 100 yards to count as double,” Greller said in the Bahamas. “So it would be four if I had gone for that.”
Holing out in the majors, however, still counts double.
Billy Horschel wanted to be the first player to win the FedEx Cup in consecutive years. Not only did he fail to make it to the Tour Championship, he didn’t make it back to Kapalua for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Horschel is known as a streaky player. He had a big run in the spring of 2013 when he won in New Orleans, and then had only four top 10s in his next 39 events. He had a great run in September 2014 when he won the BMW Championship and Tour Championship to capture the FedEx Cup, and he has had only three top 10s in 30 tournaments worldwide since then.
He thinks he knows the fix.
“We played a lot with Jordan (Spieth), a lot with Zach (Johnson). We see them hit it 10 to 15 feet on average, and I’m hitting it 20 to 30,” Horschel said. “For me to be a more consistent player and have those runs last longer than a four- to five-week stretch, my short game and wedge play need to be more consistent.”
Horschel said he has worked so hard on his short game the last few months that “I’m sick of hitting wedges.”
“If we look back at 2016, the reason I’ll have had a great year is because I put in all the time on my wedge play, and it’s a result of it,” he said.
It's all about timing
Imagine if Rickie Fowler could blend his last two seasons.
Last year was all about the majors. Fowler in 2014 joined Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to finish in the top five at all four majors (Jordan Spieth did it this year). The only problem was Fowler didn’t win any of them. In fact, he didn’t win at all.
This year, he won a career-high three times — The Players Championship, Scottish Open and a FedEx Cup playoff event at the Deutsche Bank Championship. But the majors were somewhat of a bust. He shot 81-73 to miss the cut in the U.S. Open, and he finished a combined 37 shots behind in the other three majors.
So how do you have a year of big wins and big chances in majors?
“No clue,” Fowler said with a smile. “I’ve been trying to figure that out. I don’t think there’s a justifiable answer. It’s just timing, when you get hot. You can only prepare so much and be ready to play. But actually getting it to happen at the right time?”
So which year would he rather have? He was plenty happy with this one.
“Holding trophies feels a lot better,” Fowler said.
Back to Torrey?
Adam Scott wants to play two times during the West Coast swing. One will be the Sony Open because Honolulu is on his way back from Australia. He loves Riviera, where he won in 2005 when it was reduced to 36 holes because of rain. Then again, Torrey Pines makes more sense because of the schedule. He could hang out in Hawaii an extra week and then tee it up the next week in San Diego.
Scott hasn’t been to Torrey Pines since the 2008 U.S. Open. And he hasn’t seen the North Course since he was a teenager.
He played the 1994 Junior World Championship and tied for 20th. Trevor Immelman was the runner-up that year, losing in a playoff to a kid named Ben Flam.
Also in the field that week: Jose Luis Campra, who now caddies for Emiliano Grillo, and Joe Skovron, the caddie for Rickie Fowler.