It's a Turkish delight as eight greats battle it out for big bucks
22:00 GMT, 8 October 2012
When Chubby Chandler was approached by the Turkish Golf Federation about starting a megabucks tournament, they envisaged one featuring 100 or so of the world's best players.
'But there are plenty of events like that already,' replied Chubby. 'Why not try something different Why not a tournament with just the best eight golfers'
That idea was not new either, of course. Chandler was thinking back to the glory days of the late Mark McCormack’s World Match Play Championship at Wentworth, when the likes of Arnold Palmer, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus would gather each October for a glorious autumn festival.
Jet-setters: Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods are in Turkey for the World Golf Final
It is the spirit of that much-missed spectacle that he has tried to recapture with the first Turkish Airlines World Golf Final, which begins on Tuesday.
True, the venue has shifted thousands of miles to the East, as is increasingly the way these days, and the players might even be seen wearing shorts rather than wrapped up to the nines.
But you might have to go back to the late Sixties or early Seventies to find the last time anyone tried to get the world’s top eight players together and seven of them actually accepted the invitation.
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So it is that the event features not only Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy but Justin Rose and Lee Westwood. Rounding off the elite gang are Webb Simpson, Hunter Mahan and Charl Schwartzel, with Matt Kuchar stepping in for Luke Donald, the only man to turn down the invitation.
The organisers have got lucky, with the game still on a high after the momentous events at Medinah, and no fewer than six of the eight are playing for the first time since the Ryder Cup. There’s clearly an appetite for more head-to-head, although the format needs explaining.
The eight are separated into two groups of four, with everyone playing each other in their group over the first two days at medal matchplay (ie. the player with the best score over 18 holes wins). The leading two in each group go forward to the semi-finals on Thursday, with the final on Friday.
Naturally, these eight don’t come cheap. Even last place is worth 200,000, while the winner will receive 1million.
And yes, we will see Tiger versus Rory. Funnily enough, they’ve been ‘drawn’ in the same group and will play one another on Wednesday afternoon. Having coughed up all that dough, you didn’t think the organisers would leave that match-up to the vagaries of chance now, did you
The action begins with McIlroy v Kuchar, Westwood v Simpson, Rose v Mahan and Woods against Schwartzel.
If you want to know how hard it is to win on the European Tour, consider that a player as good as the two-time Ryder Cup man Francesco Molinari has only three titles to his name in eight years of toil.
That puts the startling feat of the gifted South African Branden Grace, in winning four times in his rookie season, into its proper light.
Links king: Branden Grace with his prize on the Swilkan Bridge at The Old Course
One of those wins came in a play-off against his two idols, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Another came on Sunday at the Dunhill Links played at the Home of Golf, where the 24-year-old became the first man on tour this year to lead from wire to wire.
‘The next South African major winner,’ declared the Open champion — and who would quibble with Els’s prediction
Tom is looking for a happy return
This time last year we were all getting rightly excited at the amazing sight of a young man winning a prestigious title in only his third start on tour. Now he returns to Portugal to defend his Masters crown this week as the forgotten man.
Glimpse of his best: Tom Lewis at St Andrews
What on earth has happened to Tom Lewis This year, the Englishman has competed in 21 strokeplay tournaments without so much as a single top-10 finish. What a sad contrast to the fresh-faced amateur who led The Open after the first round last year.
Lewis has been talking with Justin Rose, who endured similar growing pains, and maybe he can follow his example. On Saturday at the Dunhill Links there was at least the hint of a corner being turned as the 21-year-old shot 65, his best round of this difficult season.
Now he returns to the place on the Algarve where all his memories are good ones. Let’s hope for more signs of recovery.
Quote of the week
‘I think I’ll take that bandage off now! How can all your good shots turn out bad Ugggh, this game!’
John Daly, after following up a 63 in Las Vegas last week with an 86. Painful, no doubt, but not his ‘personal best’ in Sin City. The colourful one once followed up winning $500,000 (312,000) at a tournament with losing three times that amount on the slot machines.