Performances in PGA Tour majors hurt Ernie Els, helped Justin Rose
Justin Rose was recently crowned the European PGA Tour’s Player of the Year, winning the coveted Order of Merit and simultaneously snapping most of our attention away from what were other, more marquee Euro tour golfers that seemed to be having a hell of a 2007.
There was Angel Cabrera winning the U.S. Open. There was Padraig Harrington winning the British Open. Euro Tour veteran Ernie Els seemed to wake up during the second half of the year and contend in nearly every event the was playing in.
But there was Rose hoisting the storied Harry Vardon Trophy. I thought: Rose? He wasn’t even representing the International side in the Presidents Cup.
Rose’s year went down like this: $4.3 million in earnings, two wins (the Master Card and Volvo masters) and nine top-10s out of a mere 12 events played.
But you could make the argument that Els, who finished second on the Order of Merit, had the better year: $3.7 million in earnings, two wins (the South African Open and the HSBC Matchplay Championship) and 12 top-10 finishes in 18 events played.
But the Order of Merit, Europe’s money list, comes down to earnings, not performances, and it seems what gave Rose the edge over Els is a slightly better performance record at the majors this year. Rose never finished outside 12th in any of the majors (including finishing fifth at the Masters and 10th at the U.S. Open). Els finished fourth at the British Open and third at the PGA Championship, but also 66th at the Masters and 51st at the U.S. Open.
The small amount of money separating Rose and Els came down to those bad finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open for Els.
But it was really Harrington’s Order of Merit to lose - which he managed to do. Harrington’s 2007 saw $3.6 million in earnings, two wins (the British, and the Irish Open) and seven top-10s in 15 events. But he had the same uneven performance as Els in the majors: Seventh at the Masters, 92nd at the U.S. Open, first at the British, 42nd at the PGA Championship.
Still, it really took his lawn-chair like fold at last week’s Volvo Masters at Valderrama to seal his Order of Merit choke. Harrington was trailing Rose by four strokes heading into last Sunday’s play, but he putted terribly even as Rose was coming back to the field (Rose eventually won in a playoff), including missing a five footer on No. 17 for birdie. Harrington finished fourth, and called it “a real opportunity lost.”
For Rose, who burst on the scene 10 years ago at Royal Birkdale only to struggle to make a cut for the next two years, ending the Euro Tour season on top was sweet. “It’s a relief,” he said.
He can thank his play in the biggest events of the year - that made the difference.
On another note, you got to hand it to the European players. While the PGA Tour takes essentially a two-month hiatus before the 2008 season kicks off in January (a longer break if you are of the mind that the season really ended with the FedEx Cup), the Euro Tour’s 2007 season ended last week at the Volvo and the 2008 season promptly kicked off today in China for the HSBC Champions, where Niclas Fasth and Vijay Singh are in the early lead.
Rest? Who needs rest?
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You didn't mention Rose's medical problems. He missed several key events during the year because of issues with his back. He won the European Order of Merit with only 12 starts so the records indicate that he performed pretty well in every even he played - quite exceptional consistency.
After a disastrous start to his Pro career, which probably began way too early, at 17, Justin rose has been getting better and better. He's worked at his weight, his technique and his work ethic. He came close at The Masters and he seems to have the game to play anywhere - links, US parkland, European courses (he lost a playoff for the BMW PGA at Wentworth) and Australia, where he won the MasterCard. He's had a very successful season, despite his back problems, and throughly deserves the Vardon Trophy.
If he didn't, he wouldn't have won it.
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