Golf Capital: Belgium’s World Cup triumph as The Match goes extra holes

@hamishneal

Belgium won the World Cup of Golf on the weekend it took Phil Mickelson 22 holes to win The Match as Aaron Rai scored the first European Tour event of the new season as the ET flew it’s way from the Middle East to Hong Kong to start a new season.

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Opening Drive

 

Belgian duo Thomas Pieters and Thomas Detry secured a world cup for the European nation, coming five months after they seemed to start the men’s football World Cup as everyone’s roughie before finishing third after they lost to France in the semi-final. An impressive three-stroke triumph capped proceedings on Sunday at The Metropolitan course to see them see of the host nation, Australia, and Mexico.

 

The victory was set-up as the Belgians entered the weekend tied for the lead before their round of 63 in Saturday’s fourballs (best ball) gave them a five shot lead heading in Sunday. This was not only the first time Belgium had won the event but their best result since a T4 in 1955!

It wasn’t pretty but Phil Mickelson ground out victory in The Match over Tour Championship winner Tiger Woods in the controversial Las Vegas contest on Friday. The win came after 22 holes but failed to get going early on from a quality point of view as it wasn’t until the fifth that each player registered their first birdie.

 

England’s Aaron Rai won the opening European Tour event of the season breaking a run of Australian winners of the Hong Kong Open after finishing at. Like Belgium in the World Cup Rai had a commanding lead (six strokes) heading into Sunday at the Fanling course but Matt Fitzpatrick’s six under 64 had the Wolverhampton native nervous until Sheffield’s Fitzpatrick dropped a shot at 17.
Player Performance Notes

 

This week the Australasian Tour heads to Queensland for the Australian PGA which is co-sanctioned with the European Tour.

 

Under 20: Lucas Herbert. Seventh in this event last year since then Herbert has placed in the top ten on six occasions in European Tour events which has seen him rise from 290 in the world to 82.

 

20 to 50: Cameron Davis. Despite only finishing T40 in his title defence of the Australian Open Davis showed signs of promise for this time of year going 69-68 in the middle two rounds which was impressive given the tough conditions on Saturday but the bookend rounds of 76 and 75 cruelled any real chance of a result. He showed great resolve after playing his first three holes in seven over.

 

20 to 50: Curtis Luck. Now a PGA Tour member Luck was 11th here in 2017 and might appreciate the return to the track having missed the last three cuts on the PGA Tour as he shifts from the Web.com.

 

20 to 50: Jake McLeod. The NSW Open winner followed that up with third in the Australian Open and he’s improved at this event in the last three years after missing the cut he was 25th in 2016 then 11th last year. Another interesting player here is Anthony Quayle who I watched at the Australian Open, he did well in the last co-sanctioned event between the two tours – the Fiji International.

 

Greens in regulation

 

For the fourth year since it’s inception the Greg Norman Medal has gone to a female with Minjee Lee claiming the honours at Tuesday’s awards night. Lee, who started the year ranked 19, is now ranked sixth having climbed to as high as five following an LPGA win during 2018 to go with her Victorian Open triumph. Lee joins Jason Day (twice) and Marc Leishman as winners of the award.

 

This week the limited field events start on the US PGA with the 18-player Hero World Challenge taking place in Bermuda. Whilst the European Tour’s other tournament for the week the Mauritius Open is held at the Four Seasons Golf Club in Anahita.

 

Tap In

 

Shadow Creek in Las Vegas played host to The Match and no other city in the US of A would have been more appropriate. My chief disappointment with it was not the concept itself which I’ve written about recently but more along the fact it wasn’t broadcast in Australia. At the time the 19-time combined major winners were competing for the USD9 million across the Foxtel platforms we copped replays of the previous day’s action in the World Cup of Golf and Hong Kong Open. That’s not unusual and in normal circumstances would be fine but if you are going to trumpet a brand new ‘Netflix for Sports’ it’s no good if you can’t get the big viewing event for that time on your main platform.

Technology was also a major hindrance to the coverage in the USA with the pay per view platform falling over and the event eventually going out for free (Doesn’t that sound familiar to FIFA World Cup fans in Australia.)

The apparently obscene prize fund could be argued to be a market correction or commission of sorts for two players who generate great interest which in turn generates revenue for the tour and it’s players. Would it have been acceptable if the prizemoney was 5 million or 3 million?

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Weighing up pros and cons of the event. The fact PGA Tour players compete for the funds they do each week is because of Tiger Woods and, to a lesser degree Phil Mickelson. The apparently obscene prize fund could be argued to be a market correction or commission of sorts for two players who generate great interest which in turn generates revenue for the tour and it’s players. Would it have been acceptable if the prizemoney was 5 million or 3 million?

 

Yes there should have been clarity around the charity aspects, yes there should have been more fans (maybe paying an entrance fee to said charity) but that wasn’t possible due to the rules around the use of drones in the TV coverage, strange but they are the civil aviation rules the event had to abide by.

But really if the argument is something like this shouldn’t at least be attempted because the prizemoney is too much it’s an odd position to come from and one with limited reasoning. As a change to the four day 72-hole stroke-play events which appear to take place on similar courses each week in the USA this is a good idea. I’d love a European Tour version with Rory McIlroy (assuming he stays eligible) versus Justin Rose. I’d also love more Golf Sixes events – team and individual.

Images via golfdigest.com and reviewjournal.com

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