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  • Alistair Tait

An asterisk for Europe's number one?


Collin Morikawa has a chance to finish 2020 as the European number one. In fact, the contest to become the Race to Dubai winner could come down to a dogfight between Morikawa and Patrick Reed.


Both have committed to play in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai from December 10-13, along with Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood and Victor Perez. They're currently the top five players on the Race to Dubai. No word yet on the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and last year’s Race to Dubai winner Jon Rahm, among others. It’ll be interesting to see who actually turns up in Dubai. You can bet Keith Pelley and the European Tour are canvassing like mad to get the stars to play.


Nothing against Morikawa, who lies third on the Race to Dubai behind Fleetwood and current number one Reed. I had the pleasure of meeting Morikawa during the 2017 Walker Cup at ultra-snooty Los Angeles Country Club. He was one of three U.S. players along with Doug Ghim and Maverick McNealy to win four points out of four. Not only was he impressive on the golf course, he was impressive off it too. He was well spoken, polite, and clearly had no airs and graces. What you saw was what you got. A model amateur and now a model professional.


Nor have I anything against a first American winner of the Harry Vardon Trophy, the chalice that goes to the man who ends the season atop the Race to Dubai, formerly the order of merit.


In a straight choice between Morikawa and Reed, I’ll take this year’s PGA Champion over the 2018 Masters champion every time. As I wrote in April, I’ve found Reed very accommodating when I’ve spoken to him on the European Tour. He’s been courteous, polite and answered questions patiently and fully.


However, Reed’s actions in last year’s Hero World Championship alienated a lot of golf fans, me included. I suspect somewhere up in that great clubhouse in the sky six-time Open champion Vardon might feel the same way. Bet you old Harry would’ve known he’d brushed sand in a bunker, twice, back in the days when bunkers weren’t as perfectly manicured as they are now.


Put it this way, Patrick Reed, European number one, won’t sit well with a lot of European golf fans.


Having said that, Reed makes the effort to fly across the pond and play the European Tour. Despite a restricted schedule caused by this pandemic, he played in the Saudi International and then came over for the BMW PGA Championship, where he finished third. Dubai will be his third "regular" tournament, and he has his sights set on a historic first.

“Winning the Race to Dubai and the European Tours’ Order of Merit has always been a goal of mine. I came close in 2018 and you can bet I will do my best to earn the number one spot,” Reed said.
“It would be an honour to become the first American to win the Race to Dubai. I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Reed might only have played two regular European tournaments out of his seven counting events on this year’s schedule along with the two WGCs and the three majors, but it’s two more than Morikawa.


The PGA champion is listed as playing five European Tour events, the three majors and two WGCs. Dubai will be his only regular European Tour appearance of the season yet he can win the Harry Vardon Trophy. What?

"“I’m excited to travel to Dubai and play there for the first time," Morikawa said. "The opportunity to win the Race to Dubai is a thrill, and it would be a great way to end an unforgettable year,” "

I know this year is a bit of write off for obvious reasons, and Morikawa may have chosen to play in more tournaments. Nevertheless, if Morikawa walks off with the European Tour number one title by playing just one regular European Tour event then perhaps his name should have an asterisk beside it on the list of European number ones. Maybe that's true of whoever wins the Race to Dubai. Mind you, maybe this whole year needs an asterisk.


#JustSaying: “No. When I walk past my trophy cabinet and see those six Order of Merit titles it gives me a warm glow.” Colin Montgomerie in 1998 on swapping his European number one title for a major. Monty eventually won eight order of merits

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Robopz
Robopz
Nov 19, 2020

I have no clue what the right answer is there, for either side. Seems to me some stronger alliances with key events might make sense, but how can that be done without looking like or actually being a PGA Tour takeover? (And like you, I'm not sure I see the value in that either way)


But there could be another driver to those discussions and ultimate decisions. That would be the other potential 800# gorilla in the room... the PGL. I haven't heard any more since the supposed offer letters went out a few months ago. But I suspect it'll all come up again the week of the Saudi international in February. They've obviously opened up their sizable checkbooks t…

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ajt
Nov 19, 2020

They're in tight spot. As Keith Pelley said, diversity used to be Europe's advantage; now it's a disadvantage. I don't blame big players like Rory and others for not travelling, and wouldn't slam them for missing Dubai. At the same time, you have to give Pelley and the tour credit for scrambling a schedule together in these uncertain times.


There's been talk of the PGA Tour taking over the ET for years. Whether the PGA Tour would have an appetite for that right now is questionable. Mind you, there are many strong characters who will resist that, like Thomas Bjorn and Paul McGinley who sit on the board. You can bet they want the ET to retain its independence.....

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Robopz
Robopz
Nov 19, 2020

Peculiarities of this season aside... seems the European Tour is in a bit of a spot.


On one hand they must have the most minimum requirements to entice their homegrowns to actually remain members... but on the other hand, the membership bar is so low it entices PGA Tour guys to come over and carpet bag the Race to Dubai by playing the minimum.


But what's the ET to do beyond what they are already doing? Not much that I can see unless they either merge, or at least co-sanction a significant number of events with the PGAT. And I certainly understand the reluctance by many to do that.

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