The Most Underrated Events in Golf
THERE are some golf tournaments that you know will always deliver, whether it be by providing guaranteed drama or an incredible atmosphere.
I never miss the Phoenix Open because I love the atmosphere created by the vast galleries and the way the players interact with those fans. Yes, the spectators go too far sometimes, but they add a different dimension.
And then there is The Masters at Augusta, the season’s first major played at the same course every year. It is a special place and as you watch the final round unfold you know that something unexpected is always going to happen.
It got me thinking about tournaments that might not obviously capture the public’s imagination.
Here are a few that I think you should be putting in your diary.
This is a tournament that has been hosted at a variety of courses but has now found a special home at Le Golf National and is proof positive that a course can make a tournament. This is the same course that saw Europe thrash the USA at the Ryder Cup in 2018. It is a stunning venue, with a host of risk and reward holes and lots of great vantage points for on-course spectators.
This is on the list because of the fans. We keep hearing about how incredible Scottish golf fans are - as a Scot, I have to declare an interest when I say that this is a fact. But anybody who has ever visited Ireland - south or north - will know that the Irish are a breed apart. In the first place, they are incredibly welcoming and generous. And they are very passionate about sport. And no matter where the Irish Open is staged the fans flock in and create a very special atmosphere. Just ask Shane Lowry, who won the tournament as an amateur. Or Jon Rahm. It is one of life’s great mysteries to me that Rory McIlroy does not play in this tournament every year. I love it!
Let’s be honest, this is a tournament that has been played on some pretty poor courses, especially when you consider that it is always staged the week before The Open, which guarantees a world-class field. Thankfully, in recent years the venues have improved. If you are playing in The Open, you want to warm up on a world-class links course. The DP World Tour, in association with the PGA Tour, has finally got the message. If you are a proper golf fan, you should attend the Scottish Open for all sorts of reasons - the quality of the field and the price of tickets for starters. Get it in your diary.
Every two years there is a huge focus on the Ryder Cup but the reality is that we haven’t seen a close Ryder Cup since Medinah and that incredible final-day comeback by Europe. If you want thrilling competition and unlikely results, the Solheim Cup is the team event you should be watching. On paper, the USA should win every single time this match is played. Golf is not played on paper - thank goodness!
Arnold Palmer Invitational
Another tournament that is defined by the quality of the course. Bay Hill can be a real brute. Arnold Palmer may no longer be with us, but his legacy lives on thanks to this incredible tournament. Tiger Woods won it eight times. Other recent winners include Rory McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler, Jason Day, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Tyrrell Hatton, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh. Need I say more?
The DP World Tour has been responsible for some terrific innovations and right up there with the best of them is this tournament, which sees men and women compete against one another. And, of course, in 2022 Swedish golfer Linn Grant won by a staggering nine strokes. We need more tournaments like this please.
Farmers Insurance Open
Torrey Pines North and South courses host this PGA Tour event. The South Course, which hosted the US Open in 2008 when Tiger Woods needed 91 holes to see off Rocco Mediate, is a monster at 7,765 yards and features a wonderful closing par five that calls for a second shot played over water. It has seen many dramatic finishes over the years, never more so than in 2017 when Jon Rahm won his maiden PGA Tour title by holing an outrageous putt on the 18th green. This is another tournament that was once Tiger Woods’ private property - he won it seven times, including four in a row from 2005.
WGC Dell Technologies Match Play
I love matchplay golf. Who doesn’t? And the Dell Technologies Match Play is always a must for me because the form book is often torn up and thrown out the window. Yes, the likes of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy have won it. But so have Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Hunter Mahan, Ian Poulter and Geoff Ogilvy. And nobody who witnessed it will ever forget the 2013 final between Jason Day and Victor Dubuisson, when the Frenchman’s recovery play was like watching Harry Houdini. The only thing is that the American fans don’t really get it - why else would they sit in the stands by the 18th green?
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
What’s not to love about a tournament staged at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns, three of the best links courses on the planet? Well the fact that this tournament is played so late in the year is the thing that most readily springs to mind. This is an event I love, purely and simply because of the three courses that host it. But it could be even bigger and better if only the DP World Tour could find a way to get it into the summer schedule. Nevertheless, it is a tournament that has seen some great stories being written, none better than when Oliver Wilson ended a miserable run of form to land his first DP World Tour title.
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