I am sometimes asked, as a serial tv watcher of sport, what is my favourite? Answer: the final day of the European tour.
On the USPGA I often feel that competitors are more concerned about making the cut than winning. You therefore have golfers of quality like Matt Kuchar and Charles Lowell III who have never won a major or even that many PGA events but have trousered up squillions of dollars. However on the European tour – rarely played in Europe – the prize money is less so golfers have to go for it. This leads to an exciting final day.
The European tour is now in its Gulf statse swing and yesterday was the final day of the Abu Dhabi Championship i. Not only is this stage the most lucrative in prize money the same is spent again to attract the likes of Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Rory McIlroy.
American golfers do not travel that well and I rarely back them as they have taken their cut before making it. Henrik Stenson is a great player in the desert.
I was attracted to last year’s winner Tommy Fleetwood. The Southport man has – like Tyrell Hatten – emerged from the pack of common journeymen to prove a really effective tourney player. With his long, straggly locks and Beatnik beard he looks more like a Big Issue seller than a serial winner. He has a top all round game and a competitive instinct.
Yesterday after the front nine Fleetwood was five behind the leader Ross Fisher. Fleetwood then made his charge, with 5 birdies on the back nine to win. Fisher did not play badly though he bogeyed the 15th. His body language and the time he deliberated with his caddy Woody indicated to me that he would not win. Fleetwood made the greens in regulation and crucially sank long putts. It was breezy out in Abu Dhabi, more Royal Birkdale in North West England weather for which Fleetwood was perfectly attuned.
Where will Fleetwood go from here?
Danny Willett and before him Sandy Lyle won Masters but their careers crated after that. Has Fleetwood the mental resilience and the mindset to stay at the top like Faldo or Jacklin or will be another Paul Way? You can never really predict as last year he had an annus mirabilis – marrying , fathering a child and winning serious moolah – but what about 3 years hence? No such doubts about USA PGA Careerbuilder Challenge victor , Jon Rahm, ranked 3 in the world with earnings of just under $9m . Back him for every major in 2018.
Look how back injury and a disordered personal life undermined Tiger Woods. Talking of moolah always good to start a year with a winner though the missus has already earmarked most of it.