The Future of European Golf is in Safe Hands
THE future of European golf is in a very, very good place. Viktor Hovland has just won his first tournament on the PGA Tour, living up to all the hype that has surrounded him.
But he is not alone. Robert McIntyre isn’t in the field for this week’s Players Championship. He should be because he is good enough. He should instead have been playing in the Kenya Open, but the tournament has been cancelled because of the coronavirus.
The Scottish left-hander was a revelation in his rookie season and knows that getting into the winners’ circle is the next step. That he is good enough is beyond question, but he knows that in golf there are no guarantees. Who would have thought that Sami Valimaki would have won the Oman Open is just his sixth start? Or that Alexander Levy would be scrambling around desperately trying to discover the form that had him tipped as a certain Ryder Cup player?
McIntrye, aged 23, has many things going for him. The strongest club in his his bag, without the slightest shadow of a doubt, is his temperament. Sure, he gets upset by poor shots. Who doesn’t? But he instantly puts them out of his mind and moves on. He has the most beautiful golf swing and possesses a short game to die for.
It is worth recapping on his rookie season. He recorded seven top-10s, including three runner-up finishes, at the British Masters, the Made in Denmark and the European Open. There were also a further four top-20 finishes. He only missed five cuts. And this in his first season on the European Tour.
And then there is the 18-year-old Danish sensation Rasmus Hojgaard, a golfer who is mature way beyond his years.
Højgaard first came to prominence in July 2016 when he won the Danish International Amateur Championship, was part of the Danish team that finished third in the European Boys' Team Championship and won the McGregor Trophy in successive weeks. Early in 2018 Hojgaard played for Europe in the Bonallack trophy against Asia/Pacific before going on to secure the individual competition for the boys Toyota Junior World Cup, four strokes ahead of his brother Nicolai. Denmark also won the team competition. He was also a member of the Danish team that won the Eisenhower Trophy in 2018 and played for Europe in the Junior Ryder Cup.
He only turned professional last year and played on the Challenge Tour, finishing joint second in his first start at the Challenge de Espana. He finished 21st in the order of merit, which meant he had to go to qualifying school, where he finished in a tie for fifth place, thus securing full playing rights for the European Tour.
And then, lo and behold, he only went and won the Mauritius Open in December. This boy is the real deal - as is his twin, Nicolai. And it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that one or both will be challenging for places on Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team come September.
The Kenya Open was first played in 1967 and boasts some high-profile winners, including Seve Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Trevor Immelman.
It was won last year by Guido Migliozzi, a 23-year-old Italian, will be especially disappointed at the cancellation of the Kenya Open. It was one of two victories he enjoyed last year. The other came at the Belgian Knockout, and he has continued his top form in 2020, coming within a whisker of winning the Oman Open.
He turned professional in 2016, and spent most of the following couple of years playing on the Alps Tour and Challenge Tour. The Italian struggled on the Challenge Tour but won three times on the Alps Tour, once in 2017 and twice in 2018, as well as losing the 2018 Alps de Las Castillas in a three-man playoff.
In November 2018, he finished tied for 13th place at qualifying school and four months later found himself in the winners’ circle in Kenya.
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