European Tour Update

    While the focus of the golf world centered on the Masters, the European Tour resumed at the Valderrama Open de Espana (Spanish) which is hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation. The tournament has the same four-day run on the calendar as the RBC Heritage Classic and suffers from the same problem of top players taking time off following the year’s first major.

    Still, many top Europeans were in attendance including Garcia (currently world #16) and Rafa Cabrera Bello (#28), Spain’s top two players. In the end, Andrew Johnston, the world’s 233rd ranked player got his first career European Tour win. He defeated Joost Luiten by a single shot and tournament host Garcia by two strokes. Garcia’s closing round 67, the low round of the day, almost got the job done for him. Ultimately he was done in by a third round 75 on the par 71 layout. Johnson withstood the pressure of being the third round leader and put up a respectable one-under par 70 to capture his first win. The victory was a popular one for the bearded one affectionately known as “Beef” by his friends.

    Johnston won his first Challenge Tour event (European equivalent of the Tour) in June of 2014 and followed it up a month later. This is turning into a breakthrough year for Johnston. He finished in a tie for 4th at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in late January. He currently ranks 16th in “the Race to Dubai” (European money list).

    Here is a quick update on the Race to Dubai rankings:

    Player Total Points

    1. Danny Willett 2,740,474

    2. Louis Oosthuizen 1,547,861

    3. Rafa Cabrera Bello 1,330,596

    4. Rory McIlroy 1,321,645

    5. Henrik Stenson 1,045,465

    6. Branden Grace 936,353

    7. Lee Westwood 883,024

    8. Charl Schwartzel 712,172

    9. Soren Kjeldsen 625,222

    10. Chris Wood 576,440

    The European Ryder Cup standings contain a lot of the same names, but are in fact distinctly different. Through last week’s tournament, the top ten players on the “European Points” list are: Danny Willett, Rory McIlroy, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Andy Sullivan, Victor Dubuisson, Rafa Cabrera Bello, Chris Wood, Seren Kjeldsen, Henrik Stenson and Kristoffer Broberg.

    Some of the names notable for missing on both lists are Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia. Europe’s official qualifying for their Ryder Cup team is more complex than the American team’s. The European format also has a “World Points” list which also comes into play. That list contains Rose at #4 and Garcia at #8. This wrinkle was created to help European players who don’t exclusively play the European Tour. Several of their top professionals play for extended periods of time in the U.S. were the purses are larger and the taxes are lower.

    When you add the fact that some U.S. based tournaments count for European Tour purposes (such as the Masters, the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship and the WGC events), the process gets very complicated.

    The next big championship on the European Tour is the BMW PGA Championship which will be held at the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England the final weekend in May.