ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Looking Ahead... the European Tour

Since GC looked at the European Tour on Wednesday's Golf Central, I thought I'd do the same. Might as well keep us all on the same page, eh?

I guess the best place to start is with the debate over which tour is best - PGA or ET? I think it's time we stop thinking so narrowly. It's true that the golf played in Europe (around the world, really) is different than that played in America. Many argue that the European courses aren't nearly as challenging as the American ones. Fair enough -- that means Americans should play as well overseas as they do here, right? I mean, if the courses are easier, our guys are much better and shouldn't have any problems with "resort courses," right?

So I did a quick survey of winners on both PGA and Euro tours over the last 3 years -- that's 2009-2011 -- looking for players who won at least once on both tours. I didn't count events with less than 30 players in the field. Some events count on both tours, like majors and WGCs, so those were judged by where they were played. For example, the Masters is a US win, the Open Championship a Euro win, etc. Here's what I found:
  • American winners: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. I'll give an honorable mention to Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland for the World Cup, mainly because they both had to play all 4 rounds. That's 4 players total with wins on both tours.
  • European winners: Paul Casey, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel, Ernie Els, Luke Donald, Graeme McDowell, and Adam Scott. I also give an honorable mention to Danny Lee because he did get a win on the Nationwide Tour. That's 11 players total with wins on both tours.
It certainly looks like the European players are capable of adapting to different conditions better than the Americans. This is probably because their tour's courses vary so much from week to week while the US courses all require pretty much the same playing style.

I don't think it's a question of which tour is best, but apparently these "inferior" courses are making players more versatile. It seems pretty clear to me that, if American players want to be more competitive, they need to start playing around the world more... and not just at the events that will pay them appearance money. Forget about tours -- the best players will be the ones who play the most different styles of golf.

This probably also affects my second big question -- namely, what should we expect from the Ryder Cup? I'm a bit nervous about our chances right now. Although the US will have the home field advantage, this adaptability difference has an effect on who makes the team. Ryder Cup points are accrued by playing stroke play events... but the best US match players aren't necessarily the best stroke players, as opposed to the Euro players whose best in match play seem to excel at stroke play also.

Here's an example of what I mean: I think you can make a fair argument that some of our best match players (at the moment, anyway) include the teams of Keegan Bradley and Brendan Steele (winners at the Shark Shootout), Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland (the reigning World Cup champs), and Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson (off a good showing at the Presidents Cup). As of today, Bradley is #1 in the Ryder Cup points standings... and the only one in the Top 10. Where are the rest?
  • Woodland -- 15th
  • Kuchar -- 19th
  • Simpson -- 21st
  • Watson -- 28th
  • Steele -- T38th
This makes me nervous. Most of the best Euro players are either in the Top 10 of the OWGR or high in the Euro Ryder Cup points list. (Sergio is high enough to qualify on both lists.) So we'll have to keep our eyes on this race.

As for my players to watch:
  • I like Sergio Garcia to make his presence known on the PGA Tour this year. Look for him to get a PGA win sometime later in the year, maybe even a major.
  • Luke Donald will almost certainly be focused on the majors this year. I think coming up big in the money races has shown him that he's got more potential than even he may have believed, so I don't expect him to repeat the poor showings he had in the 2011 majors. I think he'll get one this year... and I've got a sneaky suspicion it'll be the U.S. Open, simply because that's the one that seems to fit him least. I think he'll focus better there.
  • My breakout player of the year is Alvaro Quiros. I think he's ready. That boy's drives are hotter than a habanero chile!
  • And perhaps my most bizarre prediction of the year: I think an American will win the Open Championship in 2012. I don't know who, but I expect either a Tour rookie or a sophomore.
As for the other big names on the Euro Tour... I expect them to continue as normal, but that's about it. AS NORMAL. Sacrilege I know, but I think the tide is about to shift in world golf.

No comments:

Post a Comment