Luke Donald becomes the first golfer to win US PGA & the European PGA Tour Money List

Yesterday Luke Donald became the first golfer to officially win the US PGA & the European PGA Tour Money List in the same season.

Donald added the European Order Of Merit, or Race to Dubai as it has become known, by finishing third in the Dubai World Championship yesterday.  The only player that was able to stop him was Rory McIlroy.  But he failed to win the event and finished 10 strokes off the lead following a poor final round. The event was won by Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, by two shots with an excellent 19 under.

The US PGA & the European PGA Tour Money List awards are given to the player who wins the most prize money over the course of a season. At his peak, Tiger Woods managed this feat in unofficially by winning European tour titles on an invitational capacity.

But for Luke Donald to achieve this twin award officially means he had to agree to play a minimum of 13 tournaments on the European tour and no less than 15 tournaments on the US PGA.

This massive achievement comes at the end of a great year for Luke Donald who, for the first time in his career was ranked world number 1. But without wishing to take the shine off what is truly a great achievement, I find it a little bit at odds that the number 1 ranked golf player and the winner of both the US PGA Money List & European Order Of Merit goes to someone who didn’t win a single Major in 2011.

There’s no doubting Luke Donald is one of the best golfers in the world right now.  But I want a number 1 ranked player to be the best in the world, someone who wins, a true champion, like Tiger Woods was in his prime.  Not a ‘steady Eddie’ who hardly ever three-putts.

While many pundits are still suggesting Rory McIlroy is the next Tiger Woods, It is Luke Donald that will celebrate Christmas after winning £4.19m in the US and £3,632,685 on the European Tour this year.


Tiger Woods speaks, but golf still waits

In amongst all the promises, the apologies and the admissions, the sporting world learned absolutely nothing about Tiger Woods after he revealed he had no idea when he would be returning to the PGA Tour.

Rumours had him returning next week, next month, in time for the Masters, not at all this season or never depending on the source you read, and Friday’s ‘press conference’ did absolutely nothing to stop any speculation about the world No 1’s future.

While Tiger Woods is under no obligation to tell everyone when he might be ready to return, the style of the speech he made showed that he is in no frame of mind to be taking his eye off family matters for now, and just a brief mention of the sport that has made him a worldwide superstar showed that he clearly has plenty of other things on his mind.

For now, golf betting has Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy as the front runners for most tournaments and it is up to them to try and keep Woods out of the headlines. The way his return to the public eye was designed was widely criticised though, most vocally by Ernie Els.

You can understand the South African’s disappointment as well, given that the speech took plenty of gloss away from the WGC-Accenture World Matchplay, ironically sponsored by one of the companies that used to sponsor Woods.

So what now? Well, the PGA Tour has to move on without Woods and based on the first six weeks of the season it might not be easy. Attendances are down (although next week’s Phoenix event is traditionally a big draw), interest is down and the names of the winners so far have hardly set the Online Betting world alight.

No doubt PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, while publicly backing Woods, is desperate for him to return sooner rather than later but, for now, he will have to hope that some fireworks come soon or even big events on the schedule like Bay Hill and the Masters could prove to be damp squibs as well.

But for now there is nothing golf fans, golf punters and the golfing press can do but speculate, and that’s never really good for anybody. We all went into Friday hoping for something concrete, but despite the candidness of the admissions and apologies, all that happened was a scripted piece of theatre which told most people nothing.

Winning boring is just fine for Steve Stricker

Steve Stricker moved back to the number two spot in the world rankings after his victory in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club last the weekend on the PGA Tour.

The dependable Wisconsin native led for most of the last three rounds and, unlike early last season, showed a good deal of composure after seeing his six-shot lead cut to two on a couple of occasions by Luke Donald and JB Holmes.

Stricker’s story is quite an amazing one as it is only six years since he lost his card on the PGA Tour and wondered what the future would hold after completely losing his swing with a driver, something a player with little distance off the tee would find a career-killer.

But he bounced back in style in 2006, finishing in the top ten at seven tournaments, mainly on sponsors’ exemption entries. Since the end of 2006 he has won five tournaments and competed well in the majors.

Victory in one of those has to be the next aim as he has top ten finishes in all four of them over the last two seasons.

Stricker’s resurgence is underlined by the fact that those betting online can get 5/2 on him topping this year’s US Money list.

He will never win any prizes for distance or for playing an exciting game, but in these times of improved technology he gets by, and on the greens there is barely a better player in the world. He topped the PGA rankings with the flat-stick in 2009 and putted superbly at Riviera while others were wasting chances.

Now, with Tiger Woods on the sidelines, he has the right to call himself the best active golfer in the world and what a deserved honour that is for a man who could walk down most high streets in the US and not be recognised.

Steve Stricker is certainly more deserving of the recognition at the moment than a surly Phil Mickelson, who huffed and puffed his way around a Riviera course he has won on twice in the past.

Who cares if Stricker admits to being boring? When it comes down to it, getting that little white ball into the hole is all that matters to him. At the moment he is the best in the world at doing it. Golf doesn’t always have to be exciting or controversial – boring will do just fine after all the travails Stricker has been through.

Phil Mickelson urges quick return for Tiger Woods

Recently, fame-hungry individuals have fed the media’s obsession with prying into the lives of celebrities by fuelling speculation about Tiger Woods‘ private life. It’s become such a focus in the press that one could be forgiven for forgetting that Woods is one of the most talented and successful sportsmen in history.

It’s therefore refreshing to see one of the player’s closest rivals, Phil Mickelson, express his desire to see the talented golfer back on the scene sooner rather than later.

Phil Mickelson revealed that he cares “deeply” about the problems currently affecting Tiger Woods and is obviously desperate to see him make a quick return for both personal and professional reasons.

Some might have been betting that those golfers put in the shade by Woods’ obvious talent would be rubbing their hands in glee at his absence from the sport but, according to Mickelson, this simply isn’t the case. Rather, it would seem that everyone is missing Woods, especially since “nobody will be able to fill the shoes that are voided right now”.

Any sportsman who cares about the public image of their sport wants the best players to be competing on a consistent basis and there is no doubt that without Woods, golf has taken something of a knock. It’s now up to players like Mickelson to come together and show the world that they’re capable of stealing the headlines away from the few determined to make them focus upon less savoury topics.

Scott McCarron’s not feeling groovy

With Tiger Woods otherwise engaged the golfing world had been looking to Phil Mickelson to provide some early-season success on the PGA Tour, but instead he has found himself in the headlines for the wrong reasons.

In the run-up to the Northern Trust Open much of the coverage has involved Mickelson’s continuing use of the Ping Eye2 wedges he has in his bag, which contravene the new ruling with regards to the banishment of square grooved clubs.

The Ping Eye2 wedge is currently exempt from the ruling and offers excellent control over short distances, especially from the rough. The difference is so great that Mickelson used it during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines despite the club being more than 20 years old.

The biggest talking point came after veteran pro Scott McCarron used a word that is not often bandied around in golf – cheat – to condemn those few still using the club, despite the fact they are not breaking the rules.

Of course, the spirit of the game is what McCarron should have been talking about, but to use the ‘C-word’’ was a shock to many, Mickelson included.

After a few days McCarron did apologise, but the row still rumbles on as the PGA Tour is yet to close the loophole in their rulebook. Talks to find a way to outlaw the old clubs without a legal fight are apparently being held with Ping. For now though, the club can still be used.

Whether Mickelson will be satisfied with the apology is another matter – he admitted he felt slandered by the comments and as one of the biggest names on tour, and apparently one of the cleanest, there is a chance he will take a stand.

But the arguments over square-grooved clubs have at least taken some of the spotlight away from Tiger’s indiscretions and brought the focus back to the action on the course, even if it is not for the right reasons.

Phil Mickleson is currently 6/1 favourite in the golf betting for the Northern Open Trust and his nearest priced competitor is Steve Stricker at 12/1.