Huggan on Euro Scheduling, Wentworth's Redesign

John Huggan's Sunday in The Scotsman ;) column looks at the European Tour's scheduling dilemma, the Fed Ex Cup, and Ernie Els' redesign work at Wentworth. Naturally, he's skeptical.

The biggest thing on O'Grady's mind is easy to identify. Next year, America's PGA Tour will embark on a radical new schedule climaxing with something called the Fed-Ex Cup, a 'play-off' series modelled on the mystifyingly-successful NASCAR, in which cars drive round and round in endless circles to no obvious purpose.
Regarding the European Tour...
With more and more of Europe's leading players spending more and more time in the US, the traditional European Tour schedule will have to adjust. For instance, the British Masters, which was held at the Belfry three weeks ago, will move to September to avoid a clash with the Players Championship, which will switch from March to May.
"It will become readily apparent when we refine our 2007 dates where we're trying to focus ourselves. We spent a lot of effort with various players to find the right period to put tournaments in. We are examining where we are with the PGA Tour, because they bring a welter of marketing muscle and money to any situation."

Allow me to decode. Without actually saying so - the man is a diplomat - O'Grady is alluding to the fact that the PGA Tour in the shape of commissioner Tim Finchem is a classic bully, who couldn't care less about the effect of his actions on anyone other than his members. For the good of the game is not a phrase that the former Washington lobbyist is too familiar with.
On the upside, many doubts remain about the long-term success of the Fed-Ex series thingy. The suspicion here is that, as with so many things in golf, it will come down to the level of interest that one Tiger Woods can muster. If the world No.1 decides that he has better things to do, like winning the major championships that history will actually remember, the whole thing will quickly fold.

Which would not be good news for Finchem. If recently- released viewing figures are anything to go by, America's ever-shortening attention span is causing many of Uncle Sam's nieces and nephews to reach for their remotes when a golfer appears on their TV screens - Tiger or no Tiger. Should the Fed-Ex series fail to deliver - sorry, couldn't resist that - it is hard to imagine where the PGA Tour would go next. China, probably. Still, all of that is for the future.

As for Wentworth...

Even at the new, turbo-charged Wentworth, misgivings remain. Take Ernie Els's new fairway bunkers - one left, one right - on the opening hole. While O'Grady enthused about how their presence would provoke players into thinking on the tee, it was hard not to shake one's head inwardly.

Rather than encouraging thought and choice, the traps dictate only how the hole has to be played. As things stand, the drive is now merely a test of execution - can you hit it between the bunkers?

Had Els placed one or more bunker up the left side, which offers the more favourable angle into the distant green, and merely left the right side as it was, the players would have been offered a genuine option. Driving close to the bunker would bring reward in the shape of an easier approach; playing safe down the right would take the sand out of play, but leave a more difficult second shot.

That's called strategy, folks.

Come to think of it, a bunker stuck right in the middle of the fairway would have been better. That really would have made the players ponder.