Huggan On State of Euro Tour, Monty

John Huggan wonders if recent European Tour happenings are hurting the Tour. Starting with the weird Irish Open antics this week.

Then there was Thursday's opening round of the Irish Open at the Colin Montgomerie-designed Carton House. Serious questions need to be asked at European Tour headquarters about a venue whose topography is so flawed that a bit of wind is enough to provoke suspension of play. On a proper course - one where the 'architect' pays appropriate attention to the prevailing meteorological conditions in an area that he visits more than a handful of times - these sorts of things don't happen.

Or, at least, they don't on courses where the greens are built to receive good shots rather than to repel them. Witness the third round of the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2002. In squally weather that was a million times worse than we saw three days ago, the world's best course was certainly difficult, but remained playable - although it was sometimes hard to ascertain that fact, so loud was the squealing from various competitors. Equally, it is hard to imagine golfers being asked to leave the premises at one of Ireland's premier links, say Portmarnock, when the breeze rises to no more than a little gusty.

And he quotes a player, who isn't too keen on the quality of events or fields:
None of the above nonsense is, of course, helping the European Tour at a time when pressure from its main competitor, America's PGA Tour, has never been so intense. Nor will it change the view of at least one well-respected Ryder Cup player that the quality of the product is slipping.

"One of the great myths on the European Tour is that the standard of play is rising every year," he says. "You hear guys saying stuff like: 'Yes, I have to keep improving just to stand still.'

"What a load of rubbish. The real truth is that, apart from the few really top-class events we have each year, tournaments like the BMW Championship at Wentworth, the general quality of the fields week-to-week is falling. Which makes sense if you are paying attention. Look at the number of top guys who have disappeared off to the PGA Tour over the last five years or so. Not just Europeans, but Australians too.

"The harsh truth is that, if you are any good at all, the European Tour represents increasingly easy pickings."

Huggan also looks at Monty's consideration of the two-driver strategy:

Speaking of Monty, the eight-time European No.1 - good job Tiger's winnings are ruled ineligible by his failure to compete in 11 counting events! - is apparently considering following Phil Mickelson's lead and carrying two drivers, one for fading, the other for drawing.

While this nonsense is a logical extension of the distances that the leading players now hit the apparently turbo-charged ball with their turbo-charged clubs - who needs a 3- or 4-iron after a 330-yard drive? - it is also more than a little depressing. Rather than a game of skill and technique, golf is turning into a mere test of power. Purchasing power, that is.

Let me see, shall I buy a hook or a slice today? Shot-makers of the past, men like Ben Hogan who viewed golf as an art rather than a science, must be spinning wildly in their final resting places.