Just three months ahead of the moment when the men and women professional golfers share the biggest stage of them all in Rio, the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour discovered the delights of competing at the same location in the same week.
Although staged on different courses at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Morocco, the chance to mix and share facilities in Rabat was voted an overwhelming success by both Tours.
Jeunghan Wang became the second Korean to win on the European Tour in three weeks, beating Spain’s Nacho Elvira at the second hole of a play-off for the Tropheé Hassan II on the Red Course. Meanhile, Spain exacted a measure of revenge on the Blue Course as LET rookie Nuria Iturrios won the Lalla Meryem Cup to record her first victory.
Strong finishes in Morocco caused some movement in the Olympic Rankings from the women’s perspective, with Emily Kristine Pedersen of Denmark and Albane Valenzuela of Switzerland sharing fifth place and pushing their way into the Rankings in 35th and 59th places respectively. Pedersen takes the place of Nanna Koerstz Madsen while Swiss teenager Valenzuela is one of two amateur players currently in the women’s Olympic Rankings, the other being Ireland’s Leona McGuire.
Also into the top 60 is Anne Van Dam of the Netherlands with Dewi Claire Schreefel dropping out.
Noora Tamminen of Finland claimed fourth place to jump two places on the Olympic Rankings to 43rd.
“I think golf is one of the most historic sports with a long tradition that has developed very much over the last few decades within golf itself and in its own niche. The Olympic Games provides us with an opportunity to go beyond millions of people watching but billions of people watching, reaching new people, new fans. This puts golf into the same structures within countries where there is a National Olympic Committee, where a sport federation will put more effort behind the game’s grass root programmes because we are in the Olympic programme. So I believe it’s going to be a game changer.” Ivan Kodabakhsh, CEO of the LET.
“The Olympics provides us with an incredible platform, and we’re very keen to seize the opportunity. To showcase the game globally is terrific, and should help highlight the unbelievable skill of male and female golfers. Perhaps most importantly, it is a great chance to engage with and attract the casual sports fans, who might not otherwise have considered getting into the game of golf seriously. We have billions of people worldwide tuning into the Olympic Games, and if we can appeal to even a tiny fraction of those viewers, then golf in the Olympics will have served its purpose. Any chance to expose our game to a global audience can only be a good thing.” Keith Pelley, CEO, the European Tour.
On the PGA Tour, James Hahn ended a run of eight missed cuts to win the Wells Fargo Championship after a play-off with fellow American Robert Castro. Britain’s Justin Rose finished third to remain ninth on the Olympic Rankings. Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler tied for fourth and stay third and fifth respectively on the Road to Rio. New Zealand’s Danny Lee was tied ninth and moves up four spots to 16th with Australia’s Marcus Fraser a newcomer inside the top 60 in 31st following Marc Leishman’s request not to be considered for selection.
“I kind of look at it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience to actually be part of the Olympics, with it being the first time back in over 100 years. So if I have the chance to go down there and play for Team USA and walk in the opening ceremonies and be a part of the Olympics, it would be pretty special.” Rickie Fowler.