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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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