Golf Can Be a Cruel Game - Just Ask These DP World Tour Stars
PROFESSIONAL golf at the highest level can be an incredibly rewarding way to make a living. With the Qatar Masters having just concluded, for the DP World Tour’s elite there is much gold still to play for in the final two events of the season, the Nedbank Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship.
It will all come down to a battle between Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm to see who is crowned Race to Dubai winner and all the gold that comes with it.
For those players, and all the others who have made it to this stage, it is all about world ranking points and increasing their bank balances.
But the Qatar Masters also marked a low for a number of well-known golfers. Only those who finished in the top 116 in the rankings have retained their cards and get to do it all again next season. And the 2023-24 season gets under way almost immediately after the DP World Tour Championship.
So while McIlroy, Rahm and others such as Ryan Fox, Robert MacIntrye, Victor Perez, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood can look forward to another lucrative year ahead, spare a thought for the men who now face the most uncertain of futures.
And they include some “proper” golfers who have some career-defining decisions to make. Do they head to the grind that is qualifying school? If they do so and fail they must then decide if they can face a season on the Challenge Tour, where they will be playing alongside some young, talented and incredibly hungry golfers.
On the face of it, a tournament field consisting of the likes of Alexander Levy, Wilco Nienaber, John Catlin, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Alejandro Canizares, Thomas Aiken, Nicolas Colsaerts, George Coetzee, Darren Fichardt, Stephen Gallacher and David Horsey could expect to attract decent crowds.
Unbelievably, each and every one of those golfers finished the season outside the top 116 and have lost their playing rights.
Catlin won the Andalucia Masters and Irish Open in 2020 and the Austrian Open the following year and looked like becoming a fixture on tour. There was even speculation that the American had the game to make it on the PGA Tour. But he missed 16 cuts in 2023. He is about to turn 33 and faces a spell in the wilderness.
Colsaerts was one of Luke Donald’s Ryder Cup vice-captains. The giant Belgian has struggled with his health. He is one of the most popular golfers on the DP World Tour and will pick up plenty of sponsors’ invites. But his days of playing in the sport’s biggest tournaments look to be over.
George Coetzee was once seen as one of the brightest talents to emerge from South Africa. He is a five-time winner on the DP World Tour and has several wins on the Sunshine Tour but he has also lost his card. At 37 years of age, will he really want to head back to qualifying school, or face a year on the Challenge Tour?
Nienaber is an enigma. Still only 23 years of age, he hits the ball further than anybody else on the DP World Tour. He has lost his card again. He still has time on his side but until somebody takes this gifted young man to one side and convinces him that the time has come to resist constantly going for his driver it is hard to see how he can ever succeed.
Horsey, Aphibarnrat and Levy are all multiple winners on the DP World Tour who also now face uncertain futures.
Aphibarnat is overweight and admits that he eats too much fast food. If he is ever to get back to the top of the game it seems obvious that he has to do some work on his fitness.
Levy has suffered with injuries and may have to make some difficult decisions. He was once a golfer who made birdies for fun but he now struggles to break par.
Horsey is a four-time winner but his last success came at the Made in Denmark in 2015. It has been one long struggle since then and he missed 11 cuts in 2023, with a best finish of tied 28th at the Soudal Open. Where does he turn now?
Gallacher turns 49 later this week. Will he fancy qualifying school? Surely not. But he may just grab a season on the Challenge Tour as he prepares for life on the Legends Tour when he turns 50.
So as you watch Europe’s superstars in action in South Africa and Dubai, spare a thought for all these golfers and remember how quickly form can desert you. And there can never be any guarantees that it will return.
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