Justin Thomas finally came good when winning the USPGA Championship at an entirely re-modelled Quail Hollow. And such is the consistency of the man who has cemented his place in golf’s ‘Holy Trinity,’ the top-three of the OWGR, few would discount his potential for a successful defence at Bellerive CC, St. Louis, Missouri and what would be the first back-to-back Wanamaker Trophy wins since Tiger Woods in 2006 and 2007.
Perhaps the most understated and underrated performance on the PGA TOUR last year was Korean Si Hoo Kim’s victory in the Players Championship, the so-called, ‘Fifth Major’. Whilst such is the predictability of the WGC events that it would be a turn-up-for-the-book were Dustin Johnson not to add to his full set of WGC titles, having on in both Mexico and the Match Play last term.
Meanwhile, the European Tour has never fully recovered from blue-chip brands such as Volvo, Barclays, Ballantines and BMW either entirely - or partially - withdrawing from the circuit, the 2018 International Schedule looking decidedly threadbare compared to the halcyon era.
Whilst saluting Keith Pelley’s thirst for innovation and creativity, the inaugural Golf Sixes last term was a qualified success and does not have a venue so far. this year, whilst the Belgian Knockout and the Shot Clock Masters carry a sense of novelty and a lack of authenticity about them.
Furthermore, the European Tour has failed to persuade any of its existing sponsors – or indeed new partners - to buy into the recently elevated exclusivity of the Rolex Series, presuming that both Omega-sponsored events in Dubai and Switzerland would be off-limits. Whilst events such as the Philippines Golf Championship, the NBO Oman Golf Classic and the Czech Masters are puffed-up Challenge Tour events, makeweights at best.
Indeed, 20 of the European Tour’s 51 events announced to date fail to pass the US$2m prize money threshold. One of those, the much-publicised European Championships at Gleneagles which will see men and women play in the same tournament for the first time takes place slap-bang in the middle of the WGC Bridgestone and USPGA Championship, meaning that the men’s side will be deprived of its top talent.
Of the leading professional tours going into 2018 with a spring in their step, it is the Asian Tour, for so long the bridesmaid and often jilted at the later when promising to be the bride that has that feel-good-factor about it.
With almost US$8m on offer between the EurAsia Cup and the Maybank Championship in the first two months of the year, and the CIMB Classic confirmed again for October 2018, Malaysia is enjoying a prominent position on the world stage. Especially, at long last with a player, 2017 Order of Merit winner Galvin Green to match the country’s events portfolio, its investment and its undoubted ambition.
If CEO Josh Burack can leverage the Asian Tour’s new-found status, back at the heart of golf in China, with a springtime and autumnal event in the PRC in the US$1-2m bracket, then a vital step towards fulfilling its undoubted potential will have been taken.