Different Strokes: Hoey goes in search of treasure at Challenge Tour Grand Final

Philip Reid with all the latest from the world of golf

Alone he stands, which is a situation Michael Hoey – at 42 years of age and a veteran in getting the job done when it matters – has been in before: the Co Antrim man is the sole Irishman to have made it to this week's Grand Final on the Challenge Tour in Mallorca, where precious cards to the full European Tour will be dispensed.

In all, the limited field of 45 comprises players from 20 countries – Sweden, France and South Africa with five apiece have the largest contingents – but, as if to underscore just how tough life can be on the secondary circuit and the quality at play, Hoey was the only Irish player to emerge from the season-long Race to Mallorca.

“Proper players about now,” tweeted Hoey at one point back in August after another week of outrageously low scoring on the Challenge Tour.

The leading 20 players on the order of merit after this week’s finale will earn full tour cards. Hoey heads into the event in 36th place and with some work to do but, for the five-time winner on the European Tour, that prize remains within his own destiny.


Interestingly, highly-rated South African Wilco Nienbar (in 25th) has opted to play in Grand Final rather than in this week’s European Tour stop, the Portugal Masters. The springbok is 143rd on the Race to Dubai standings but has viewed the Challenge Tour route as his best bet in securing full playing rights on the main circuit for 2022.

Muirfield set to be Major attraction

Muirfield’s hosting of next year’s AIG Women’s Open will be a noted first on two fronts: the first time it will host the women’s British Open, and the first time it will have hosted a Major championship since it ended its male-only membership policy.

Tickets for the championship – to be held on August 4th-7th, 2022 – are available to fans online this week with expectations of heavy demand with the women’s professional golf on an upward trend, especially on the back of Europe’s dramatic Solheim Cup win.

While Muirfield has yet to get an advance date for the men's British Open (it has played host on no fewer than 16 occasions, most recently in 2013 when Phil Mickelson triumphed), that decision in 2017 to admit women members (12 women joined two years later, in 2019) has again put it back in line for future Opens. The next available slot won't open up until 2026, with venues decided up to Royal Portrush in 2025.

The first step in that process is in the staging of the AIG Women’s Open next year, with advance tickets available for £30 (€35.50) for adults and under-16s admitted free of charge.

Word of Mouth

"This is a testament to what I have done. I'm so proud that all the work is starting to pay off because it's hard when things are not going your way and you feel the whole world is against you" – Bronte Law on getting back to winning ways in the Dubai floodlit tournament, after a miserable season in which she had missed nine cuts, including three in her previous five appearances. Law had slipped to 133rd in the world prior to the win under the desert lights, which moved her back up to 111th on the Rolex rankings.

Twitter Twaddle

Well @lhgolf5 and @Pughdog1 . . . U FARKEN BEWDY FELLAS . . . How GOOD . . . CONGRATS to U BOTH on a job well done – Aussie golfer Scott Hend back on Twitter (after a three week break) and picking up in his own inimitable way in congratulating Lucas Herbert and bagman Nick Pugh on the win in Bermuda.

Six over after six holes Thursday . . . Birdied the final hole Friday to make the cut on the number . . . Fought back for a top five finish . . . – Scott Stallings on never giving up in the Bermuda Championship.

I'm excited to be continuing great design work in Vietnam and growing the game in the region – Nick Faldo in announcing the start of construction work at Silk Path Dong Trieu Golf Club, located 90km from the country's capital Hanoi. The resort project has a completion date in 2023.

By the Numbers: 7-8

That's the number of weeks which Jon Rahm has stayed at the top of the official men's world rankings. That will move to eight next week, as the Spaniard's reign at the top is guaranteed to be extended as this week's tournaments in Mexico and Portugal can't alter the top three.

On this day: November 2nd, 1997

Once upon a time, the old Volvo Masters provided the finale to the European Tour season and Lee Westwood – still a young buck of just 24 years of age – provided a glimpse of his star quality when he claimed the championship of 1997 at Montecastillo Golf Resort in Jerez, Spain.

The tournament was disrupted by bad weather which forced it to be reduced to 54 holes instead of 72 and Westwood emerged as the champion, firing a third-round 68 to opening rounds of 65 and 67 for a total of 200, which gave him a three stroke winning margin over Pádraig Harrington.

Westwood turned in 34 and collected four birdies on the homeward run to lift the title. “Winning a place on the European Team [at Valderrama] and then winning the Ryder Cup was a lifetime goal, but this is the icing on the cake,” said the Englishman who was a busy man that year, his globetrotting seeing him play no fewer than 31 tournaments and record wins in Malaysia, Spain, Japan and Australia.

In the Bag

Lucas Herbert – Bermuda Championship

Driver: TaylorMade SIM2 (9 degrees)
3-wood: TaylorMade SIM (15 degrees)
Utility: TaylorMade P790 UDI (5)
Irons: TaylorMade P7TW (3, 4, 6-PW)
Wedges: TaylorMade MG3 (50, 54 and 56 degrees)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5

Know the Rules

In a fourball match play match, Players A and B are on the same team: in playing a hole, Player A's tee shot on a Par 3 that is played entirely over water comes to rest in the penalty area while Player B's tee shot comes to rest on the putting green. The side proceeds to the putting green without Player A playing a ball under the penalty area rule. Player B then takes four putts to complete the hole. Player A decides to leave the putting green, go back to the tee and put another ball in play. Are there consequences for doing this?

Yes. Rule 23.6/2 (Partners must not unreasonably delay play when playing in advantageous order) covers such a situation and, in this case, are liable to a one-stroke penalty (Rule 5.6a) for unreasonably delaying play.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times