10 alternative European Tour storylines from 2017

Golf News

Mark Townsend runs down his favourite moments from the European Tour season that you aren't talking about

1. The Bill Haas Award for getting up and down

On the same weekend that Jordan Spieth holed out from the bunker in the Travelers play-off, Richard Bland was producing his own short-game heroics in Germany. And we won’t spoil what happened just two holes later – though the text on the tweet does that anyway…

The Southampton man eventually came up one shot short as Andres Romero took the victory – his first since the week after nearly winning the Open at Carnoustie in 2008.

Coming in at highly commended is this effort from Padraig Harrington in Turkey…

2. 61 not out

We had five 61s on the European Tour in 2017 – Hideki Matsuyama at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Michael Hoey and Sebastian Soderberg at the Rocco Forte Open, Paul Dunne at the British Masters, and Ross Fisher at the Dunhill Links Championship.

But we’ll give it to Fisher given it was 11 shots better than par. And it also came on the Old Course which was a new low for the old lady…

There had been 13,145 professional rounds played on the Old Course and nobody has shot lower than Fisher. And his 21-under still wasn’t good enough to get the better of Tyrrell Hatton as he came up three shots short of his good friend.

There were seven birdies on the front nine and four on the trot from 12-15 which meant that two birdies in the last three would result in a first 59 on the tour.

Pars at 16 and 17 then meant that he needed an eagle at the drivable and iconic last to shoot the magical number. His drive left him a 25-footer from just off the green but he then took three putts. Just a 61.

“It was fun, I got off to a fast start and made some early putts. Shame not to birdie the last, but I’m not complaining with 61,” Fisher explained, before revealing the contents of his fridge.

3. We were on a break

This has been the year of the surprise break-up – Rory McIlroy and JP Fitzgerald, Jason Day and Colin Swatton (as his caddie), Phil Mickelson and Bones, Sergio Garcia and TaylorMade – but almost the most surprising was Lee Westwood and his manager and long-standing friend Chubby Chandler.

Chubby Chandler

The partnership had lasted 24 years when news came through at the Scottish Open that Chandler and his company International Sports Management would no longer be representing the Englishman. Chandler explained that Westwood had ‘decided to go down a different path’. That path will be with IMG.

The reason behind the fall-out is yet to emerge, a legal dispute between the golfer and the ISM agency was reported in July, and Chandler has likened it to ‘a divorce’.

Danny Willett and Ryan Fox also left ISM in 2017 to follow Matt Fitzpatrick who went his own way at the end of last year.

4. FaceTime of your life

Lee Slattery’s September was something else. He nearly won the Czech Masters having taken two weeks off in August in anticipation of his wife Faye giving birth to their second child early, as had happened with their first.

But when there was no new arrival he headed back out on tour and shot one of the rounds of the year, a 65 on a grim day two weather-wise in the Czech Republic.

And, given he was playing well, he headed on to Crans for the European Masters which is where he got a FaceTime call midway through a curry to say that his other half had gone into labour.

“I got back to the apartment and within half an hour she had the baby. It was absolutely incredible, it was great to watch and I was in floods. We named her Penelope, or Penny for short. She made it look very easy! I’m calling it a FaceTime Baby.”

He then shot a 75 on Thursday to look like missing the cut so he could catch an early flight home and meet his new daughter. But then fired that 62 on Friday and eventually tied for 6th.

5 Practiser of the Year

They used to – and probably still do – say that you can tell a lot from the blisters from a (bad) grip.

Or you just hit a phenomenal amount of balls and are the 17th best player on the planet.

Alex Noren

These hands belong to nine-time winner and the current Wentworth champion Alex Noren and the photo was taken by his compatriot Kristoffer Broberg after a long day of practice ahead of the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Noren is well renowned for being a big range junkie and, allied to his penchant for a practice swing drill, he has a golf club between his mitts. He often wears two clubs in practice and, yet, his hands still look like this.

6. Mum to the rescue

Haotong Li’s mum found fame at Le Golf National when she waded into the murky depths to retrieve her son’s putter which, she soon found out, was now in two pieces.

The 22-year-old bogeyed the 11th on Thursday and then dispatched the putter into the water.

Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters and Tyrrell Hatton were two groups behind and got to witness the whole carry on, finding it suitably hilarious before she apparently she threw it back in when she realised it had most likely gone over her son’s knee.

He actually played the last seven holes in level par, finished the week with a tie for 7th and, three weeks later, nearly won the Open at Birkdale.

7. Card games

The doom and gloom of one year can very quickly disappear with a couple of big weeks on the European Tour.

Take Austin Connelly. He missed out last year at Q School, went to the Challenge Tour but didn’t like the course set-ups as they didn’t suit him (he’s not the longest) and he then took his chances at the Open by finishing 14th.

He was then second at the KLM Open, pocketing €200,000, and he finished the season in 80th spot and with full privileges for 2018.

Then there was the American Julian Suri who also went into 2017 hoping to get off the Challenge Tour. In August, having won on the second-tier tour, he then won the Made In Denmark by four shots after weekend rounds of 65-64 and finished the year like a train with various top 10s. The New Yorker began the year well outside the top 1,000 in the world, he is now 63rd.

And finally caps off to Dean Burmester. The South African lost his card last year with ease but then pieced together a brilliant start to 2017. A 4th place at the South African Open got him into Abu Dhabi where he was 7th and, by March, he was a winner at the Tshwane Open. Job done.

He then came within two shots of winning the Tour Championship in Dubai.

8. Twist and strike

Padraig Harrington seemed to be more prominent in 2018 and around the middle of the season his ever-evolving swing had developed a new look to it.

As always  with the Dubliner it is best to let him describe what he’s up to: “If you look at the younger guys they finish with a very high right shoulder and their right shoulder closer to the target.

“As you get older you put more stress on your body and I was struggling to get my right side through but it was physically too much work. Stepping through takes all the pressure off my back and after having the neck surgery the last thing that I want to do is to put pressure on it.

“It might look odd but guys do it in their practice swings a lot.”

9. Dunne and dusted

It would seem a little churlish to not include Paul Dunne and his final-round heroics at the British Masters.

Two years on from holding the joint lead after three rounds of the 2015 Open Championship Dunne picked up his first win thanks to a closing 61 and a chip-in birdie at the last. In the end he held off a fast-finishing Rory McIlroy who shot 64-63 himself.

In Morocco earlier in the year Edoardo Molinari picked up three shots in the last two holes to join Dunne in a play-off which he then won with a par. This time around Dunne made no mistake with seven birdies and an eagle around Close House.

“I had a couple of chances to win earlier in the year and didn’t really press the accelerator when I needed to,” Dunne said. “So I woke up this morning and said to myself I was going to try and win this thing rather than let anyone hand it to me.

“Edoardo finished birdie-eagle to get into the play-off so I was kind of waiting for the scoreboard here to show a McIlroy hole in one at the last.”

10. Ending 2017 with a Howeller

And not the best year for David Howell…

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