Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Spanish Joy in Portugal

"He's not small, he's just far away..." 6'5" Robert Karlsson smacks the big dog in Portugal

I'm playing catch-up after a busy week where the ol' blog bout put on the back burner, hopefully normal service will resume as the Order of Merit gets sorted out. The Portugal Masters was taken this weekend by Alvaro Quiros. It's his second win on the European Tour and was done in crushingly efficient style - 66, 68, 67 and a 68, great scoring, great consistency and a great win by three shots. He was caught briefly by Ross Fisher but pulled away again down the straight to clinch another title to add to his resume ; the South African Dunhill Championship was his maiden win last year. It gave Quiros an incredible boost in the world rankings, shooting him up 202 places in all to 94th in the world. With scoring like that it's richly deserved. And having had a decent time of it in recent weeks, without much to show, he deserved a win.

The man who got closest to him was the last European to win a major before Padraig Harrington turned all Tigerish and started collecting them ten-a-penny, the conqueror of Carnoustie, Paul Lawrie. It gave him just the 111 place boost to 158th in the world, small beans compared to Quiroz but greatly needed.

The big story was the big man vying to capture the final official Order of Merit, Robert Karlsson who's quite big. A final round 71 was good enough to see him take third place and Open up a €297,424 lead over Padraig Harrington in on Europe's money list with only the Volvo Masters at Valderrama to play, which has a first prize €708,330. All these years the European Tour have been missing a trick when they could have been having "The Race to Valderrama", how much better would that have been...

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Seve stable after 12 hours in surgery, let's keep our fingers crossed for the great man.

Seve Ballesteros is in a stable condition after undergoing a 12-hour operation to remove all that was possible of the brain tumour he was this week diagnosed with. That's the news which came today from the Madrid hospital where he underwent the procedure.The statement released pertaining to his condition said he was conscious and stable and recovering in intensive care, and there were no complications.

Things have moved very quickly since he collapsed at the Madrid airport earlier in the week, tests over the weekend uncovered the tumour and after informing his family, Ballesteros confirmed the news in a statement on Sunday. A biopsy on the tumour was scheduled for Tuesday but doctors decided to operate to remove as much of the tumour as possible before treatment.

Further in the statement from La Paz Hospital today: "The patient will spend a post-operative period in the intensive care unit. He is currently conscious and in a stable condition, although he cannot receive visits in the coming days until he recovers from the surgery."

The removed tumour shall now be analyzed, analysis which will require several days before the results are known, and they will determine what course of treatment Ballesteros may need.

Seve retired only last year following arthritic back and knee problems and doctors discovered an irregular heartbeat when he was admitted to hospital in 2007. Despite being unable to drive the ball with any sort of accuracy at all late in his career, Seve was still very high in the putting and chipping stats, he never lost his incredible short game, that magic touch and invention. Reading a few of the articles which related to Seve's retirement, I found a quote of how he was looking forward to life after golf.

"I have a number of good years left and I'd rather spend time now with my three children and my companies and friends."

I really hope that he does get through this and that he has more than a number of good years left to enjoy. For all the amazing moments he supplied the world with, he deserves it.

The Grand Slam Of Golf - Rewarding stellar wins and stale consistency...

Goosen- "I really shouldn't be here..."

Okay, so the PGA Grand Slam of golf. It's supposed to be a two day duel between the four champions of this years Major tournaments, the most elite and exclusive golf event you could imagine. A gathering of the four leading lights in golf this year, those who shone brightest when it matters most. What a fantastic concept it is. The only problem is, you get circumstances such as occurred this year, where the US Open Champion, Tiger Woods, is still nursing that dodgy knee which was creaking and groaning as he took his title. Not only that, but Padraig Harrington, having got the taste of what it's like to be a major winner last year, decided to be a greedy bugger and win two Major tournaments this year. The other dude, the guy who won the Masters, whats-his-face, umm, the guy who looks like he's wearing eyeliner of mascara or something but he's not, he's just got very prominent eyelashes, ummm.. Zimmerman, Pimpleman...

Trevor Immelman, that's it! (Admit it, when you saw the line up you'd completely forgotten he was a major winner, it seems so long ago...) Yeah, he's still alive and will take his place.

So instead of being a gala meeting between the champions of all four tournaments we get "alternates", one to take the place of Woods and as Padraig Harrington is not allowed to hit two balls to double his chances of winning, one to make up the foursome. These are decided by allocation of points according to how players performed in each of the majors. Phil Mickelson, with two top tens and another two top 20 finishes was the first alternate. But he has decided not to take part in the event and so the two back up slots go the the second and third alternates Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk.

Here's what the official website had to say about these two call-up's

"Due to their stellar play in the 2008 major championships, past major champions Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk have received -- and accepted -- invitations to play in the 26th PGA Grand Slam of Golf in October. They will join Open and PGA Champion Padraig Harrington and Masters winner Trevor Immelman in the most elite foursome in golf."

Whoa now, I think if you were to go up to any golf fan who was unaware of the points systems and asked who they thought had played the best golf in the majors this season, they would have never have picked out Goosen certainly, and few would have said Furyk. They apparently have a "stellar" record at the majors this year according to that blurb - They have one top ten between them! That was Furyk who was 5th at the Open; Goosen, the second alternate finished no higher than 14th at the US Open. He was 17th at the Masters, 32nd at the Open and 24th at the USPGA. That's not stellar, that's just stale consistency.

Now in these circumstances, what would seem fair to me would be to employ the system used for the Charity shield here in the UK, a match at the start of each season between the winners of the Premier League and the FA Cup. When, as has often happened recently, one team does the double and wins both, the match is played between the champion and the league runner-up.

SO why couldn't they have applied that principle here, instead of rewarding two players who did little to set the heart racing in any of the Majors this year, why not reward the guys who came so close to winning, the men who finished second. Judge that Harrington qualifies through the Open win first and then award the place to Sergio Garcia who ran him so close at the USPGA and actually did have a stellar season, winning the TPC, the unofficial 5th major in many eyes and bagging a huge haul of seconds. Or Ben Curtis who was also second and 7th at the Open, that's more top tens than the two playing this week combined! Surely that's a fairer reflection of who deserves to be there. And how about Rocco Mediate, who played a huge role in making the US Open one of the most intriguing in recent memory, shouldn't he be taking Tiger's place rather than the guy who finished 14th and then backhandedly accused Tiger of faking injury. It's an indication of how far off winning the tournament Goosen was that he didn't know that knee was creaking like an old barn door.

Considering the fourth place guy gets $120,000 for just two rounds of Golf, it appears to me that there are more deserving men of that money than Goosen and Furyk.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Schwartzel the model of consistency at last - shows he's the "Real" thing at the Madrid Open.

Having turned a few heads in the last few tournaments with some sizzling performances, Charl Schwartzel has taken a step forward this weekend; showing he's capable of producing that form consistently enough over four round to take a great victory this weekend. And his tournament was the very model of consistency, no repeat of the birdie blitz one round and failing to back it up the next. All four rounds in the 60's - 69, 64, 66, 66, to finish on an excellent score of 19 under. All the more impressive is that in his final round, he picked up five birdies yes, but he didn't drop a single shot, which was the difference between him and his closest rivals today. And 19 under, that's got to be one of the lowest scores we've seen on the european Tour this year. It's a pity for Schwartzel that the challenge he faced was not greater.

Once more the field at an event in Mainland Europe was not the most auspicious. Most of the big names were absent, Miguel Angel Jimenez the only real big fish, apart from Jose Maria Olazabal. Nothing much happened for Miguel, today's decent 67 proving too little, too late, finishing way off the pace on 5 under tied for 29th, when a win would have propelled him to third in the Order of Merit standings. Olazabal's main aim would have been to make the weekend, he managed that by a single shot on Friday, and will probably not be too disappointed to finish 65th on 2 over par. This week was about getting back into the "swing of things", if you'll pardon the pun and I'm sure it cheered the home crowd to see Olly back playing when the news of Seve's hospitilisation hit - as the sight of so many Spaniardsup there challenging for places would have.

Of the men who were chasing ol' Charl, Ricardo Gonzalez got closest in the end. He had the same slow start to his round as he did yesterday, parring the first eight, getting to one under for the day with a 2 on the ninth. He didn't get the same reaction on the back nine however, only three birdies for the Argentinian today and a lonely bogey - a full six shots worse than what he got yesterday. Not that two under on the way in is bad, it just demonstrates what a ridiculous spurt of golf he produced yesterday. He earns a creditable second place finish for his efforts.

Pablo Larrazabal put in a good performance again, but seven birdies were not enough for him to haul in Schwartzel, even if he hadn't bogeyed three holes today, he would still have come up short, so comprehensive was Schwartzel's win. 15 under gives Larrazabal third and another wee boost in the rankings. He's another to be watching closely, there's no more passionate or agressive player out there, he's going to be big.

Tying for fourth were two players who hit the rounds of the day, both striking only 64 blows. The manner of their rounds were rather different. Englands Robert Rock took the more conventional route, and playing some sublime golf, looked ready to set a great target for the leaders, hitting three birdies in a row twice in his first nine holes, a sensational start. He did go on to have a third set of three consecutive birdies coming in, but two bogeys took the shine off of his round a little and the target he was settin for Schwartzel. Alvaro Quiros didn't have any bogey's in his final round, and only three birdies dotted his card, but two eagles in four holes at the par 5 fourth and seventh shot him up from 11th to fourth just like Rock. What a silly round to have.

The Aussie blinks in the face of a Latin Onslaught, Plucky Schwartzel still fighting it out...

I was fairly sure yesterday that one of the leading pair at least one would not be able to keep their momentum going throughout the weekend, as they have both failed to do in recent times. Turns out I was right as once more, Marcus Fraser, looking good over the first two days, hit a three over 74 to drop away, eight shots back and now out of contention.Charl Schwartzel, the swashbuckling South African, did rather better, five birdies and an eagle got him a 66. That leaves him leading going into the final round on 14 under.

He can expect to see a challenge however as there were two absolutely huge moves through the field yesterday. The most impressive was arguably from Argentinian Ricardo Gonzalez who had one of the most ridiculous rounds of Golf you could imagine. Coasting serenely with a rack of pars and a single birdie, he was one under for his round stepping onto the tenth tee. Whether he had an energy drink, a mars bar, or perhaps a Popeye style can of spinach, I couldn't tell you: what I can tell you is that he embarked on one of the craziest runs of scoring you'll have seen outside of Tiger Woods on the Xbox. Six birdies and an eagle on the par five 14th, the second half of his card ablaze with red figures and all of a sudden Gonzalez was just one off the lead.

"I was one under after nine and thought to myself 'I need a few more birdies' - but to shoot nine under is unbelievable.The key, I think, was my drive on 10. From there, I felt more confident. My putting was also very good on the last seven or eight holes.Spain is like a second home, and I feel very good here. I'll feel a little bit of pressure in the last round but I'll try to make a good score again and play well.I will just play golf and enjoy it - that's the only thing I can do."

Gonzalez was not the only guy going very low yesterday, Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal also bagged a 62 by way of an eagle on the fourth, bogey on the fifth and then eight birdies in his last twelve holea. Larrazabal has emerged as a real character on the European Tour this year, I don't know if I've seen a golfer who more clearly leaves his heart on his sleeve than wee Pablo, shouting and cursing at himself on bad shots, skipping like a schoolchild after the good.

Two more Spaniards Alvaro Quiros and Carlos Del Moral are hot on the heels of these leaders, and it looks like a question of whether the South African Schwartzel can fend off the marauding pack which has a decidedly Latin flavour...

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Jose just scrapes through; Madrid lead held by Marcus and Charl. Which posh name will prevail...

At a time when one Spanish legend is currently ill in hospital, another is making a welcome comeback from his own health problems. Jose Maria Olazabal, who has not played in a tournament since June when he was attempting to qualify for the Open, just managed to make the cut at the Madrid Open with a 70 and a 72 to get into the weekend by one shot on level par. It's the third comeback Olazabal has had to make, plagued by arthritis throughout his career. He'll be hoping this one will be as successful as the last, when many thought he'd never play again he came back to win a second US Masters title and play in more Ryder Cups.

The news on Ballesteros, the other half of an awesome Ryder Cup pairing with Olazabal, is not so good today, as it has been revealed that he was admitted to hospital following an epileptic fit but he did move out of Intensive care last night. The hospital says he is in a stable condition. Hopefully he shares the the same powers of recovery as his good friend Jose.

The halfway lead is shared by two players who have been blowing very hot and then rather cold these past few weeks Charl Schwartzel and Marcus Fraser. They've bothe been shooting some very low rounds to be in contention in recent tournaments, though neither has kept their challenge going over a whole weekend.

The South African Charl Schwartzel again showed just how dangerous a player he could become, hitting five birdies and holing an excellent long putt for Eagle to record a seven under 64 yesterday. He appears to be capable of incredibly low scoring and if he's there or there abouts on a Sunday it won't be long before he gets his low round to nick a few big tournaments. Definitely one to be looking out for.

He was considering dropping out of the tournament but his some timely advice from his dad ensured he was there to take advantage of the injured golfers luck and hit his 64.

"I was going to withdraw but I spoke to my dad and he told me to tee off and see how I feel. I've had a sore shoulder the last couple of days and I've been sick for a while. I'm taking antibiotics and I don't feel that strong. I really didn't feel good this morning but I got a couple of birdies early on and felt a bit better. Then the sun came out and my shoulder warmed up and improved a lot."

So there it is, the perfect cure for a sore shoulder - Sun and shooting birdies.

Marcus Fraser too has had a few early leads in recent weeks, again he's started hot, with a 67 and 66 to lie nine under alongside Schwartzel with a two shot lead over the rest. He birdied three of his first four yesterday but couldn't keep that outrageous run going to streak out on his own.

Will either of this pair be able to find the consistency that they have lacked to snatch the victory this week?

Friday, 10 October 2008

Seve feelin better, hopefully he'll soon be back to his sort of japery...

Seve Ballesteros has released a statement on his website to reasssure his fans that he is doing well after he briefly lost consciousness on Monday. He's expected to be discharged on Friday.

"I wish to inform that I am feeling very well, I am awaiting the results of the tests that I have been going through. I wish to personally thank all of those who are concerned about my health condition. I want you to know they make me feel very good and I feel greatly supported by all of you."

Nice to hear that the Spanish legend is doing well and is getting the good treatment he deserves. I though this would be a good opportunity to have a look at the great man and found this little clip of him outshining Tiger Woods ball tappin skills recently: the old dog, still full of tricks.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Swede dreams are made of this - BFG Karlsson makes it two in a row...

Big trophy for a big boy.

It was too daunting a task to try to do a round up of each round of the Dunhill Links, with players at any of three courses each of the three days, Kingsbarn, St Andrews or Carnoustie, it all seemed too much to take on to go over each round individually. I've still got a bit of a Ryder Cup hangover and to be truthful a little bit of an actual hangover... Plus not only is the action occurring in three different places at once, there's a bunch of celebrity's hacking it about too - Hugh Grant, Luke Wilson, Samuel L Jackson, even frickin' Dan Quayle was there, it was just too much and too disjointed to try and summarise in my usual fashion.

When I look at the final leaderboard however, it becomes clear this tournament was only about one of the three groups of players - the third of the field who played Kingsbarns the first day, St Andrews day two, and Carnoustie day three. The top seven players all played the courses in this order, as well as 10 of the top 13. It's one of the things about this tournament, the playing conditions can highly favour one set of players. But the end was no less high quality, as the top 72 all headed to St Andrews today to settle proceedings.

There were two stand out rounds today, one from Robert Karlsson, the giant Swede, the other from Ross Fisher, the upcoming young Englishman. Seven birdies and no dropped shots for Karlsson; Five front nine birdies and an eagle on the back, saw Fisher equal him, 65's apiece for them got them to ten under overall. It hauled them into a three way play-off with German Martin Kaymer, who had a 68 today.

Once there, the imperious Karlsson did not mess around, he made birdie on the first play-off hole to take the Dunhill title. He said of it

"I had a good feeling about the first extra hole. I fancied my chances when I got the yardage for the wedge to the green."

Playing the 1st hole, which runs right alongside and shares a fairway with 18, Fisher drove into the Swilcan Burn crossing the fairway to take bogey, Kaymer gave himself a 10 foot chance but missed his birdie putt. That left Karlsson with a four footer for the title which he holed without incident.

It would give him a win in successive tournaments (he has only played the Ryder Cup since winning the Mercedes Benz the week before the team match), his 11th top ten in Europe this season. It was also enough to send him to the top of the Order Of Merit standings, leapfrogging Padraig Harrington who finished in a tie for 13th, which he sounded a little bit embarressed about, feeling his season, though remarkably consistent, doesn't quite match the major bagging Irishmans...

"It's a bonus to be top of the Order of Merit but you do not think about it, you are just trying to do your best. My season does not compare to Padraig's with his two majors. There is not much doubt about who is the best player this year."

But the Order of Merit is about racking up the dough, and that's what the Swede's little run of late has done in spades. There's four events left to decide what will be the last Order of Merit, and it ususally goes down to the wire. Harrington and Westwood will be snapping at Karlsson's considerably large heels.

For me, on a local level, it was good to see Rory McIlroy, again in the thick of it at a big event, and the creditable eight place will be a boost to his ranking and his confidence. He had a fine 67 today, his third round in the 60's and were it not for a costly 78 at Kingsbarns yesterday it could have been so much better. Watch out for him...

Pos Player Country Total Hole Today Rounds Total
1 2 3 4
1KARLSSON, Robert -10F SA-767KB70SA76CN65SA278
2FISHER, Ross -10F SA-764KB76SA73CN65SA278
2KAYMER, Martin -10F SA-465KB72SA73CN68SA278
4SANDELIN, Jarmo -8F SA-266KB72SA72CN70SA280
5LIMA, José-Filipe -7F SA-467KB71SA75CN68SA281
5WALL, Anthony -7F SA-466KB76SA71CN68SA281
5CARLSSON, Magnus A -7F SA-270KB68SA73CN70SA281
8DONALDSON, Jamie -6F SA-570SA70CN75KB67SA282
8McILROY, Rory -6F SA-568SA69CN78KB67SA282
8CASEY, Paul -6F SA-472KB70SA72CN68SA282
8HANSEN, Søren -6F SA-464KB73SA77CN68SA282
8WESTWOOD, Lee -6F SA-468KB70SA76CN68SA282

Friday, 3 October 2008

Wee wonder Woosie wants to wule the Wyder Cup once more; Sandy Lyle, there's always next time... but don't get your hopes up.

Pint-sized Welsh wonder Ian Woosnam, has thrown his wee hat in the ring for the Ryder Cup Captaincy in 2010. Having been universally heralded as a great Captain two years back at the K Club in Ireland, his name has been continually linked with the job in two years time - it's in Wales, he's Welsh, it all fits. He'd been umm-ing and ahh-ing for the past few weeks but he's finally come out and said he wants it.

"I have put my name forward at the moment but it all depends if Jose Maria Olazabal wants the job. If he doesn't want it, I feel I would like the chance to have another go."

It's fair enough that he'd want to be Captain in his own county, and it would be a massively, massively popular decision should they give it to him. I doubt there is a more patriotic nation on the planet than Wales, witness the passion they have for Rugby. That passion would be tapped and available to flood and overwhelm the Americans at the Celtic Manor, as the course surges with waves of support for their wee Woosie.

One thing may stand in the way of this: the committee responsible for choosing the next captain shall be helmed by the Great Dane, Thomas Bjorn. Famously, he was not overly enamoured with the first stages of Woosnam's Captaincy.

Here's what he had to say after Woosnam had the temerity not to pick him, choosing that useless lump Lee Westwood instead (who would go on to take four points out of 5). I'll give you the whole extended whinge in all it's glory. 'dem's some mighty sour grapes.

"I'm shocked and have totally lost respect for Ian Woosnam My relationship with him is completely dead. It looks like he needs to learn how to be a captain. If the choice had been made only on competitive results, I could go along with it. But I'm in front of Lee in all the rankings, I have played better than him in the qualifying phase and then Woosnam bases his decisions on results which are more than five years old. I don't understand the way he is handling the situation. I hadn't heard from him for six months. I have spoken to several of the players who are in the team and they haven't heard a word from Woosnam either. To be captain and not even communicate with your team at all - it doesn't give you much respect. He came into the bar at the hotel and gave me 20 seconds about Lee having won twice at the K Club. In a bar. That kind of sums it up. He can't walk up to me, tell me in 20 seconds and expect me to be happy."

They've made up since then, it hadn't even bothered Woosie at the time.

"Hopefully when this blows over after a while we can have a few beers over it"

I'm sure Bjorn will be the very definition of professional and not let the chance for payback interfere with his voting. He's one of a 13-man panel to make the decision.

One man who will be less than pleased to hear this news, is long-time captaincy hopeful Sandy "When the bloody hell am I gonna get a go" Lyle. Continually overlooked, Woosnam's Scottish contempary was his Vice Captain in Ireland and yet Woosnam doesn't even appear to consider him as a serious rival, seeing it as clearly Olazabal's turn. Another kick for Sandy's ego, what a sad, fragile bruised little thing it must be at this stage. Poor Sandy...

Thursday, 2 October 2008

The Dunhill Links - Not so much a golf tournament, as an opportunity to mock the famous. It helps me deal with the envy...

Here's a look at some of the celebrities/Jammy b******s that have been playing in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Christ, like these guys don't have a cushy enough life. They get to swan up and play in an actual Professional Golf Tournament, just cause they're famous. Some of them aren't even that famous - when the Bon Jovi drummer is getting so much attention then you know the rest of them must be pretty budget names... Well at least the mighty Huey Lewis is there, he really is Hip to be Square. Where the hell is Michael Douglas? And why can't I find a list of the celebrity scores! Now, let the therapeutic mocking commence...

Old School Star Luke Wilson looking a tad nervous, perhaps getting a twitchy bum at teeing it up in front of all those galleries

Samuel L Jackson shows off the Jedi Skills he learnt as Mace Windu, using the force to hold his ball in the air. You can see the concentration it's requiring, but he likes to do it,
for the kids...

But like any Jedi worth his salt, SLJ doesn't use the force for frivolous things like golf, that's why he's in the rough

King of Cool Samuel, has a wee chat with the greatest British false-hope-raiser of all time, Tim Henman. I used to see his dad walking around Oxford all the time, it was like he was stalking me. That's Tim's dad, not SLJ's, who is giving a wave which is camper than I thought were possible from him.

Hugh Grant strikes a pose on the greens at St Andrews, he's an old pro at these pro-ams, as an amateur, he's not a pro, he's an am... um....

"Shickety Brickety, get over you bloody ball, oh crumbs, oh crumbs... "
Huey Lewis unleashes a drive with the Power of Love...

He then has a walk and talk with Bon Jovi Drummer, Tico Torres, who warns the greens may be "Slippery when Wet". That's one for all you Bon Jovi fans out there.

Tico Torres attempts to steal the identity of Miguel Angel Jimenez, unfortunately he's trying to do so with a small child's cigar. Hardly rock'n'roll. But then neither's Bon Jovi really. That's right, I went there.

Dougray "The crap baddie from the just as crappy Mission Impossible 2" Scott.
They'll let any bugger play in this.. He has something stuck between his teeth.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Race To Dubai. A 13 month slog. No camels involved though.

I'm sure you've all heard by now about the European Tour's response to the Fedex Cup - The Race to Dubai. It's a different format to the Play-off system the Fedex has been trying, much more emphasis being placed on season long performance.This is the set up the new look tour will take.

The top 60 on the European Money list will qualify for the season finale, the Dubai World Championship (No, Dubai has not become a member of the European community, the European Tour is a globe-trotting thing these days, with quite a few Asian tournaments). The winner of this final tournament will pick up £813,800 ($1,666,660).

There will be a further $10m to be divvied up among the top 15. The winner of the race, to include the new event, will take $2m of that cashpot. It will be the end of the Order of Merit,which I had always thought was a great name for the money list, as it takes on the new moniker The Race to Dubai.

The beefy prize fund, though not on the scale of The Fedex Cup, has been enough to pique the interest of some big PGA Tour names. The biggest name to be rumoured is good ol' Big Phil. Vijay Singh, who made his name on the European tour, has also expressed interest. But the stumbling block in the path of their involvement has been the number of events required to be played to qualify for Tour Membership.

Today the requirements have been set - 12 tournaments must be played in order to qualify for membership, it had been rumoured it may be 13 so it's that little bit more manageable.

Thomas Bjorn, was the chairman of the committee setting the membership requirements and gave his take on it.

"With a 13-month season coming up it is reasonable to put the number up by one. It is not a big ask to play 12 events, especially when a lot of those guys [who may want to join the Tour] play four majors and three world golf championship events anyway. It was just time to change."

Questioned if a bigger minimum number to qualify was considered, he stated: "No, 12 was always the preferred number. "

An unexpected little caveat has been tacked on however, at least two of those tournaments must be played in continental Europe. The fields in recent tournaments on mainland Europe have been particularly weak, struggling to attract the bigger European stars, some clashing with big events in the US, others skipped as they chose to take a rest between Majors and the Ryder Cup. The only real interest they could generate was the Ryder Cup race, but that was just a few guys fighting it out and it was two guys who stayed in America who got picked anyhow. Without the Ryder Cup qualifying to at least draw a few names they would have had very sparse fields next year. This little innovation will ensure that some big players, perhaps VERY big if Phil and Vijay do come over, will play at least a few of them, which in turn should boost their chances of drawing big sponsors which in turn should draw stronger fields. Good thinking from Bjorn and co.

I think Phil should definitely go for it, there's plenty of examples of players who have had success playing both Tours, Els and Goosen are both multiple Order of Merit winners who won it while playing half the year in America. And with seven of his regular tournaments contributing to qualification anyhow, as well as the Scottish Open which he plays every year, he just needs to play four more on the European schedule to be in the Race for Dubai. This is true of many American players so it will be interesting to see who picks up the challenge.

Big Phil also has recently bought himself a plane, what better way to get use of it than by popping across the pond to play a spot of Golf. Plus, maybe he will finally include a bit of Links Golf in his schedule and work out how to hit a bump and run and that the flop shot in high winds on hard coastal greens is not a great idea. Then he might just able to challenge at The Open.