Euros Turn On Each Other Too! Fernández-Castaño Cites Dyson The Tapperer While Highlighting Oddity Of Legal Spike Mark Repairing

I love these new rules of golf!

While Tom Gillis researches and reports on what Matt Kuchar underpays his caddies, things on the European Tour turned chippy as Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño highlighted the oddity of legal spikemark tapping, then threw one of his colleagues under the bus.

Dyson’s offending moment:

Besides a few of the player replies to the Tweet (Eddie Pepperell’s GIF selection was splendid), Dyson chimed in:

Seems that was not visible to Castano, however.

Golf.com Anonymous (European Tour) Player Survey: Dinner With Tiger Or Phil?

There are several interesting questions and several serious ones as executed by Adam Schupak, but these two on the lighter side were fun:

WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE DINNER WITH TIGER OR PHIL?

Tiger: 79%
Phil: 9%
Table for one, please!: 12%

HOT TAKES

“Table for one because Tiger would probably stick me with the check.”
“I’ve had dinner with Phil and I didn’t enjoy it.”
“I’d like to pick Tiger’s brain on how he overcame his suffering. That could really help me.”
“Phil. He’s got more to say.”

12% for neither!? They’re legends! Suck it up Euros!

WHICH AMERICAN PLAYER MOST IRRITATES YOU?

Bryson DeChambeau: 16%
Bubba Watson: 11%
Several tied (including Mickelson): 5%
Declined to answer: 68%

HOT TAKES

“Any of them that act like babies.”
“Wait, I can only pick one?”

Hmmm…tension between the tours!

Rory: "It's all about world ranking points" And European Tour A "Stepping Stone" To PGA Tour

We’re off to quite a start! We’ve got players whining about the prospect of on-course interviews—as if they’re being asked to do their own laundry—and now Rory McIlroy goes all Bobby Joe Grooves on the European Tour while professing the vitality of world ranking points. These guys know how to pull at fan heartstrings!

From Dave Shedloski’s Golf World story at the Sentry Tournament of Champions:

“It’s so one-sided,” McIlroy pointed out. “Look, you can talk all you want about these bigger events in Europe, but you can go to America and play for more money and more ranking points. I think as well with the world ranking points, everyone out here, all of their contracts with sponsors, it's all about world ranking points. If players are getting paid more and earning more world ranking points, why would you play over there?”

It sounded harsh, but he was only speaking the truth, and he continued.

They might play there because they play the game for the love of it, with the riches coming from that passion? Oh there I go again!

And this won’t be in any European Tour slogans this year…

“The ultimate goal is here,” McIlroy added. “The European Tour is a stepping stone. That's the truth. The European Tour is a stepping stone. That's the way it is. It's tough. I still want to support the European Tour, and I talk about this loyalty thing with Europe. … [But] it's not as though I'm just starting out and jumping ship. I've done my time. I've done everything I feel like I need to do to say OK, I’m going to make my own decisions and do what I want.”

I’ve done my time.

Looking forward to what his cheering section in the UK has to say about this! Happy New Year!

Trophy Wrap: Rahm Wins Hero, Smith Aussie PGA, Kitayama The Mauritius And One Seriously Bizarre Trophy

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Jon Rahm ended 2018 on a strong note by winning the Hero World Challenge and with the title, one of Tony Montana’s old bookends.

Kevin Casey’s Golfweek roundup.

Cameron Smith has set the stage for a big 2019 with another great week in his native Australia, this time winning the Australian PGA after a T10 at the Australian Open and runner-up finish at the World Cup of Golf with Marc Leishman, his competition at the Aus PGA. Tony Webeck reports for Golf Australia on a showdown of Australia’s two best players.

Kurt Kitayama might have trouble getting through airport security with looted security gate remnants from a displaced dictator’s palace. But hey, he’s the 2018 Afrasia Bank Mauritius Open winner so he doesn’t care, especially since it was his first win in just his third start. Alistair Tait with the details of the ex-UNLV golfer and his breakthrough week.

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🏆😀

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Pelley Touts Playing Opportunities As Stars Pass Up Race To Dubai's Free Money

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The European Tour’s Race To Dubai finished on a sour note, as Golfweek’s Alistair Tait notes in pointing out the defections of name players like Justin Rose, Paul Casey and Rafa Cabrera Bello. Each player gave up a sizable bonus check by not playing.

If the absence of star players sat heavily on Pelley’s mind, he didn’t show it in Dubai. The bespectacled Canadian may be diminutive in stature, but he’s got that hockey player’s mentality of never backing down from a scrap.

“Our two critical KPIs [key performance indicators] are playing opportunity and prize funds,” Pelley said. “The 100th-ranked player in 2016 made €275,000. This year, they are going to make over €400,000.

“This year on the schedule, I think there are 4,382 playing opportunities, which is a little up from last year but it’s five or six hundred more playing opportunities than a couple of years ago. As a members’ organization, that’s key, providing opportunities for people. We’re thrilled with the media value and we’re thrilled with what the Rolex Series has brought to the tour.”

Rolex might think otherwise. The luxury watch company probably couldn’t care less about the 100th ranked player. Star players skipping lucrative events isn’t what they signed up for.

This is ultimately the struggle of all tours: providing playing opportunities versus what is the best “product” to put forward.

Right now, the Race To Dubai is a bonus system not even able to give out bonuses when players take a pass.

On Morning Drive we discussed the struggles of all tours to find an entertaining middle ground between rewarding season-long play and a fun concluding event.

European Tour Chief Pelley: "The Saudi International is on our schedule in 2019, and I really don’t have anything more to add than that"

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As the CIA’s conclusion in the Jamal Kashoggi murder was leaked to multiple media outlets—here’s the Washington Post version—the European Tour appears set to give the mastermind behind the assassination a tournament in 2019. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was also stated by European Tour press releases to have been personally involved in the creation of the new tournament.

From Golfweek’s Alistair Tait from Dubai:

“I can simply say that the Saudi International is on our schedule in 2019, and I really don’t have anything more to add than that,” he said several times to repeated questioning.

We discussed the sensitive but increasingly-not-complicated matter last week on State of the Game with The National’s Arthur MacMillan.

Just racking the brain here, I can’t think of a tournament hosted by a known orderer of assassinations of journalists. Or anyone.

Trophy Wrap: A Day Of Winner's Circle Returns As Howell, Willett, Thompson Win, Plus Molinari And Jutanagarn Cap Off Career Years

Charles Howell beat Patrick Rodgers for the RSM Classic, giving the veteran his third PGA Tour victory. Rodgers posted an astounding 61-62 on the weekend to force a playoff, while Howell overcame a bogey-double bogey start.

Sean Martin’s PGATour.com story on Howell’s remarkably consistent career ($35 million on course earnings!), multiple close calls (16 runner-up finishes!), but has fewer victories than the Oklahoma State grad hoped for 529 starts ago.

Danny Willett started showing signs earlier this year of regaining his Masters-winning form and now returns to the winner’s circle in grand fashion, winning the European Tour’s season ending DP World Tour Championship and with it the world’s most expensive doorway pull-up bar. Alistair Tait with all of the details.

Francesco Molinari takes home a Dubai high rise for his efforts as Europe’s best player in 2018.

Lexi Thompson finished off a forgettable year by her lofty standards on a high note, claiming the CME Group Tour Championship and a Diamond Resorts trip. Hopefully they are pet-friendly for Leo’s sake.

Beth Ann Nichols with more on Thompson’s win that included her brother on the bag.

Ariya Jutanangarn took home every trophy imaginable, but it’s the the cash and the broom she’ll like treasure most in winning the Race To The CME Globe along with millions and a major.

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@mayariya cleans up in 2018!!

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And finally: Abraham Ancer wins the historic Emirates Australian Open at The Lakes. Martin Blake’s assessment for Golf Australia.

Why Is Rory Escalating A Situation That Should Not Be A Situation?

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As Rory McIlroy digs in on his schedule change at the expense of the European Tour’s image, it’s hard not to wonder if something deeper is at the root of his plan to give up membership in 2019. The move will be a blow to the tour and if the rules are not changed, end his ability to ever drive a Ryder Cup cart.

Paul McGinley, former Ryder Cupper, European Tour board member and host of next year’s Irish Open at Lahinch—which Rory plans to skip—penned his thoughts. When you read McGinley’s case for McIlroy essentially creating this fuss over not wanting to commit to just two more events, McIlroy is either creating unnecessary drama or has another motive in play.

From McGinley’s Sky Sports piece, not even trying to make the case for the Irish, but for merely playing twice after August.

The FedExCup finishes in August next year, so you've got all of September, October, November and December where the PGA Tour is played in Malaysia, Korea and various other places.

Is Rory going to play in those rather than play in Dubai, where he has had unbelievable success and offers the exact same prize money as those events? Or is he just not going to play at all over the last four months?

We've already reduced the number of events players have to play on the European Tour from five down to four, just to make it easy for the guys, like Rory, who are playing a worldwide schedule.

Rory May Cement His European Tour Winless Streak By Playing PGA Tour Full Time In 2019

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I think everyone was a bit shocked by Rory McIlroy’s suggestion he’s pondering an all-PGA Tour schedule in his 2019 future to play against better competition, particularly given how few true European Tour events he plays and that he has one win on the that tour in the last three years.

Now, saying you want to spend more time in the U.S. because you have a nice home here, the weather is better and your wife is from here would have have sufficed. But suggesting the competition element is behind your thinking when Europe just dominated the Ryder Cup and your lone win since 2016 came in the Irish Open, seems like a shot at the European Tour more than it’s a compliment to the PGA Tour.

Anyway, from Ewan Murray’s Guardian story from the season-ending Dubai event:

“I am starting my year off in the States and that will be the big focus of mine up until the end of August and then we will assess from there,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of ‘pure’ European Tour events on my schedule up until the end of August. I guess my thing is that I want to play against the strongest fields week-in and week-out and for the most part of the season that is in America.

“If I want to continue to contend in the majors and to continue my journey back towards the top of the game, then that’s what I want to do.”

We discussed today on Golf Central’s Alternate Shot:

Lawrenson: New Saudi Event Elephant In European Tour Board Rooms This Week

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As the news fails to improve over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at the hands of Saudi government agents, Derek Lawrenson of the Daily Mail wonders how much longer the European Tour can monitor the situation. Since it’s a new Saudi Arabian stop initiated by Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia suspected of ordering Khashoggi’s execution, all eyes are on the European Tour’s handling.

It's not a vast leap of the imagination to suspect the Saudis are using their oil wealth to lure sport into something of a devil's pact, to present a more acceptable persona to cover up human rights abuses.

But are we in the Western world really in a position to take the high ground and dictate where sports events should be staged?

While Lawrenson correctly notes that the Western world has its violence issues, none of them were potentially endorsed or ordered by the person described by the tour as having visited Londonto confirm the full-field event that will play a key part in the European Tour’s early-season Desert Swing in 2019.”

Lee Westwood Permanently Parts With Longtime Looper Billy Foster To Spend More Time Doing His Own Yardages

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Lee Westwood and longtime looper Billy Foster have officially split, with the move actually happening before the former World No. 1 captured the Nedbank accompanied by his girlfriend, Helen Storey.

The split could have reverberations across the bib-wearing circuit when coupled with Matt Kuchar’s win the same week as Westwood while using a local caddy. In Westwood’s case, it was not love that drove him to make the move, but a desire to have a true luggage handler who freed him up to do his yardages and thinking. His best finishes in 2018 all came with either his son or girlfriend toting the bag.

From James Corrigan’s Telegraph account:

“Lee wanted to work differently to everything we had ever done, which basically meant me just carrying the bag,” Foster said. “I struggled to adapt to that situation as a caddie, and it created a bit of an uncomfortable atmosphere on the course.

“Ultimately it was no good for Lee and not fair on me either. So unfortunately the partnership had run its course and we both knew that.  Times change. It has been a great 10 years of my life with Lee and we had many special times and successes together.”

Who Needs A Pro Jock? Vice Captain's Westwood, Kuchar Return To Winner's Circle

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It was a big weekend for 2018 Ryder Cup VC’s who put away their driving gloves and rode the classic Cup boost to victories. I’m not sure which is more meaningful—Lee Westwood at the Nedbank or Matt Kuchar at Mayakoba—both both pulled off their feats without full-time pro jocks.

Alistair Tait for Golfweek on Westwood’s win in a strange year for the Englishman. As for the effort of girlfriend Helen Storey...

“It was great to do it with Helen,” he said. “She’s caddied twice for me this year, and we lost in a playoff in Denmark and we’ve won here.”

The winning couple:

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Winning in style 💑🏆 #NC2018 #RolexSeries

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Meanwhile in Mexico, Matt Kuchar added the event late, gave regular bagman John Wood the week off due to his own schedule conflict, and won on the PGA Tour for the first time in over four years.

On the bag for Kuchar? Local looper “El Tucan.”

Josh Berhow with the story for Golf.com on the Kuchar mystery man who kept the bagstrap warm and the good reads coming in Wood’s place. Kuchar next tees up at the World Cup of Golf, presumably with his regular looper.

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Kuch and El Tucan, what a team. 🏆

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Saudi Arabia: Tiger Turns Down Massive Overseas Appearance Fee

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A much deserved narrative is forming as Tiger Woods reportedly joins Roger Federer in passing on a huge Saudi Arabia appearance fee, reports the Telegraph’s James Corrigan. The inaugural European Tour event, already on the ropes even before Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, is to be played Jan 31-February 3rd, the week after the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

Yet it is understood he deemed Saudi Arabia to be an excursion too far - even for at least £2.5m - an amount that apparently dwarfs anything he has received before for an official overseas tournament.

Sources say he was first approached in the summer, after his dramatic competitive resurrection at the Open, where he led going into the last nine before finishing sixth, and then at the USPGA Championship, where he finished second.

By then the Kingdom had already signed up Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Paul Casey to play in the government-sponsored event, which has become even more controversial since last month's pre-meditated killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Istanbul.

European Tour: Thanks For Nothing France!

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So they put on a wildly successful Ryder Cup (well, until the apparently epic disaster that was the Monday-after outing…) and all France now has to show for helping Europe take back the cup?

An October, non-Rolex Series event in a wasteland when stars will likely gear up for the Race to Dubai. That was the buried lede from the 2019 schedule announcement where the Sistine Chapel of Ryder Cup venues—if you listened to Euros the last six years—did deliver in many ways and gets downgraded within a month of hosting the biennial team matches.

From an admittedly shaky English translation of an unbylined AFP story where the word “degraded” is used to describe the move.

The Open de France loses its importance. It's official, the tournament will no longer benefit from its status of "Rolex Series" next year. Moreover, it will not take place in June but in October, from 17 to 20.

Title sponsor since 2017 for a period of at least three years plus two years in option, the Chinese tourism group HNA, entangled in serious financial problems, has failed the organizers several months ago. The replacement of Alstom had allowed the Open de France, oldest tournament in continental Europe, to integrate the eight "Rolex Series", the newly created category grouping the most prestigious competitions of the European circuit.

How quickly—and I mean quickly—they forget.

British Masters Saved In Grand Fashion: Hillside, Tommy Fleetwood To Host

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The European Tour unveiled its 2019 schedule with 47 events once again and a new fall finish anchored by the BMW Championship and followed by the Open de France’s move from May to October but losing Rolex Series status (au revoir!).

Besides elevating the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship to Rolex Series status, the other headlining news is the last minute salvation of the the British Masters. Thought to be in danger, the event has landed the beautiful Hillside Golf Club next door to Royal Birkdale and Ryder Cup hero Tommy Fleetwood as host of the 2019 edition.

From the European Tour release where you can also access the full schedule:

In terms of dates, Tommy Fleetwood will have an eye on the second week of May when he follows in the footsteps of his fellow countrymen Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose as the central figure of the British Masters hosted by Tommy Fleetwood.

The man who contributed four points to Europe’s remarkable 17 ½ - 10 ½ Ryder Cup triumph at Le Golf National last month, will assume the role at Hillside Golf Club in his native Merseyside, the celebrated links part of the glorious stretch of terrain recognised as England’s Golf Coast.

“I can’t wait to host the British Masters in my home town,” said Fleetwood. “It will be such an honour and I’m so grateful to have been asked.

“I’m extremely proud to follow the great ambassadors of our game who have hosted this tournament. I am very confident that Southport will make everyone welcome and the north west of England, and its love of golf, will embrace this opportunity and show support to us all.”

The British Masters hosted by Tommy Fleetwood will mark the European Tour’s first visit to Hillside since 1982 when Tony Jacklin won the Sun Alliance PGA Championship – the precursor to the BMW PGA Championship – beating his fellow Ryder Cup Captain Bernhard Langer in a play-off.

Hillside Golf Club also played host to the European Tour in its inaugural season in 1972, when Tommy Horton won the Piccadilly Medal, and the following year when former Tour Chairman Neil Coles won the PGA Match Play title. It was also utilised by the R&A as a Final Qualifying venue for the Open Championship from 2014 to 2017. 

Is Brexit To Blame For The Apparently Impending (Re)Demise Of The British Masters

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With Sky Sports ending its four-year run of the rejuvenated British Masters, Global Golf Post’s Colin Callander considers the various reasons for this historic tournament’s demise (again).

In light of the incredible state of English golf, a Ryder Cup win and moderate success of the event with its revolving host concept, Callander ultimately wonders if uncertainty over Brexit is scaring off potential sponsors.

Not explored but another potential factor: tax implications of appearing in multiple sporting events in England.

Her Majesty’s Corgies must eat well!

Trophy Wrap: Leishman Is CIMB Worthy, Pepperell Takes British Masters, Chun Claims The Hana, Langer Wins No. 38 In The SAS And Tennant Wins US Senior Women's Am

Marc Leishmann fended off—who else?—but Justin Thomas along with 54-hole co-leaders Gary Woodland and Shubhankar Sharma to take the CIMB Classic and the solar panel trophy for the winner.

Because it was just too bloody cold for anyone to go back outside, Eddie Pepperell posed inside Walton Heath’s clubhouse to celebrate his Sky Sports British Masters victory. Alistair Tait with details of the win for Golfweek.

In Gee Chun takes the turquoise jacket and a matching lamp base in the KEB Hana Bank:

Bernhard Langer won again on the PGA Tour Champions, his 38th title. This time it’s the SAS Championship and a piece of crystal he can pawn to buy a non-white belt with.

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Trophy No. 38 for @bernhard.langer. 👏🏆

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And it was a few days ago, but congrats to Lara Tennant for winning the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur. The 51-year-old had her father on the bag! Scott Lipsky with the the story of Tennant’s 3&2 win over Sue Wooster.

New Evidence Surfaces Suggesting Europe Is Enjoying This Ryder Cup Win A Bit Too Much

Enjoy it, savor it, hype it a little, but a MoliWood signage build out at the British Masters when your tour is in the red? Too much! The Golf Gods will note this.

Great Aces! Pepperell's High Bouncing Spinner, Whee Kim's Beemer

Two beauties today for different reasons.

Eddie Pepperell at Walton Heath will down as one of the wackiest hole-in-one’s you’ll ever see. From round one of the 2018 Sky Sports British Masters:

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Wow. Just wow 💥 #BritishMasters

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At the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, Whee Kim files a stock ace but gives it a little extra something with the delayed running reaction after hanging around the tee to pose with his new 7 series plug in hybrid! Not a full on Rich Beem reaction but a Beemer in his future!

Another Fine Flashback: The First Live TV Ace By Tony Jacklin

Another gem from the European Tour archives was posted to celebrate this week’s British Masters at Walton Heath, this time the first ace seen on live television.

Here I would have guessed Sarazen at Troon in 1973 was the first, but it was six years later by Tony Jacklin: