News & Opinion

Fall golf matters to serious fans

The main argument for ending the PGA Tour season in September is that golf on television can’t compete with college or pro football. That’s largely true for the casual fan, who goes away just after the first kickoff. But for the diehards who can’t get enough golf, either on the course or on television, there’s plenty that’s worth watching.

Take Europe, for instance. Last week, we got up close and personal at three of the great courses in Scotland – Kingsbarns, Carnoustie and the Old Course at St. Andrews – in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. It’s Europe’s version of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, minus the celebrities and endless pictures of amateurs playing bad golf.

There’s plenty of significant golf left to play in Europe. This week’s Italian Open is one of the European Tour’s Rolex Series events, with a purse of $7 million. Many of the tour’s stars are there as well as Spain’s Jon Rahm, who plays the PGA Tour but is in Europe for the next few weeks to chase the tour’s Race to Dubai.

Speaking of which, the three-week Final Series starts Nov. 2 in Turkey and culminates two weeks later in Dubai at the DP World Tour Championship, at which the winner of the Race to Dubai will receive a bonus of $1 million.

Because professional golf is truly a global game, it behooves us to get to know players from around the world, and the European Tour is as big of a melting pot as there is in the game.

Besides, if you watch the Euro Tour, the telecasts are in the morning and coverage usually ends in time for kickoff.

Speaking of global tours, the LPGA still has meaningful golf to play. The women’s tour is in the middle of its Asian swing, and its Race to the CME Globe will culminate Nov. 16-19 at the CME Group Tour Championship, where the winner of the season-long points system will receive a $1 million bonus.

The Champions Tour has four events left, starting this week at the SAS Championship and finishing Nov. 10-12 at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship, where Bernhard Langer is likely to win his fourth straight Schwab Cup.

The PGA Tour, in its fifth season of a wraparound schedule, started the 2017-18 season last week in Napa, Calif. While most of the Tour’s stars skip the fall events, you still get some cameo appearances. Phil Mickelson played at the Safeway Open and tied for third.

It was a perfect time to put together a pairing for the first two rounds of John Daly, Cameron Champ – a Texas A&M senior who led the U.S. Open in driving distance after two rounds – and long-drive champion Jamie Sadlowski, who is testing the waters of a career in tournament golf. It was no surprise that Sadlowski dusted them both off the tee.

We had our first look at Maverick McNealy, the former Stanford star who spent a great deal of time over the past years casting doubts that he would pursue professional golf and remain an amateur. The former No. 1 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking made his professional debut with a sponsor’s exemption into the Safeway Open.

He started fast with a 68 in the first round but played unremarkable golf the rest of the event, tying for 52nd.

The fall also is a great time to be introduced to Tour rookies. Tyler Duncan, a 28-year-old who spent the past three years playing the Tour full-time, graduated this year through the Tour Finals and led the Safeway after three rounds, ultimately tying for fifth.

Tony Finau showed why he’s on the cusp of winning for the first time since early 2016 on the PGA Tour. He finished second at the Safeway, two shots behind Brendan Steele, who successfully defended his title.

And the first WGC event will be played at the end of the month: the WGC HSBC Champions in China. And like most of the overseas events, this one will be broadcast each morning, well before kickoff.

So, if you are the captain of your remote, hit the button during timeouts or at halftime. You’ll see some pretty good golf.

Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email:; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf