In holing out for a birdie to win the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, Henrik Stenson struck the final shot of the 2014 European Tour season. And what a season it’s been: 49 tournaments in 26 different countries with well over €100,000,000 of prize money handed out. Rory McIlroy has won two Majors and firmly established himself as World Number 1, Martin Kaymer claimed a second Major title and Europe won the Ryder Cup again – their eighth victory in the last 10 instalments of the competition. Here below is a whistle-stop run through of the 2014 European Tour, take a deep breath!
A good start
The 2014 Race to Dubai kicked off last November in South Africa where Morten Orum Madsen got off to a flyer by winning the South African Open Championship. That was as good as it got for the Dane though. He failed to post a top-10 finish for almost a year, until a tie for fourth in the Portugal Masters. He ended the season 67th on the rankings.
A couple of veterans made good starts to their campaigns. Thomas Bjorn won the Nedbank Golf Challenge and Miguel Angel Jimenez took the Hong Kong Open title in the same week. Bjorn’s victory helped propel him into the Ryder Cup team, while Jimenez became the oldest winner in European Tour history, a record he broke later in the season when he won again at the Open de Espana.
At the start of the calendar year, the Tour took its usual trip to the desert. Pablo Larrazabal won in Abu Dhabi, Sergio Garcia was victorious in Qatar and Scotland’s Stephen Gallacher defended his title in the Dubai Desert Classic. Gallacher played his heart out through the 2014 season in an effort to qualify for Paul McGinley’s Ryder Cup side, set for Gleneagles. The Scot needed to come second in the final counting event to guarantee his spot. When he came up one shot, and place, shy in the Open d’Italia he was disconsolate, but he didn’t suffer for too long as McGinley quickly named him as a captain’s pick.
Victor Dubuisson made a name for himself by reaching the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play. In the end he lost out to Jason Day, but he gave the Australian something to think about by refusing to give in. The charismatic Frenchman twice got up and down from cactus bushes to keep his hopes alive! Dubuisson enjoyed a fabulous season – he ended the Race to Dubai in fifth place and played a pivotal role in the Ryder Cup.
Another man who delivered a great performance at Gleneagles announced his return to the very top level with victory in one of the Tour’s flagship events. After struggling with issues on and off the course for a number of months, Rory McIlroy was back to his best in winning the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. It marked the start of a stellar summer for the young Northern Irishman. He won the Open Championship with a brilliant performance at Royal Liverpool, he then crossed the Atlantic and won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and the USPGA Championship. He was European Tour Number 1 with something to spare and he solidified that ranking with a tied second place finish at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
By winning his second Major at the U.S. Open, Martin Kaymer made it three European Major victories out of four – only Bubba Watson’s Masters triumph prevented the clean sweep.
Finland’s Mikko Ilonen won twice – the Irish Open and then the Volvo Match Play at the London Club. Frenchman Alexander Levy also picked up two titles. He won in China, then again in the rain-shortened Portugal Masters.
It looked as though Levy would win a third title three weeks later in the first of the European Tour’s Final Series events. He was on irresistible form for the first three and a half rounds of the BMW Masters in Shanghai. But the spell was broken on the back nine on Sunday. He played the last six holes in five over par and dropped back into a tie at the top of the leaderboard. He then lost out to Marcel Siem in a playoff.
Rory McIlroy was so far ahead on the Race to Dubai standings that he could afford to miss the first three of the four Final Series events. There was a mathematical possibility that his nearest pursuers could catch him, but the likes of Jamie Donaldson and Sergio Garcia needed victories and they weren’t forthcoming. Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka of the USA won the HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Opens respectively, meaning Rory was secure as European Tour Number 1 before hitting a shot in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, Dubai.
It’s a mark of McIlroy’s talent that, despite playing poorly in the Tour Championship, he still finished in a tie for second. Overcoming a back-nine wobble, it was Sweden’s Henrik Stenson who took the victory. He won the event in 2013 and successfully defended his title to move to second place on the final Race to Dubai Standings and to second place on the Official World Golf Rankings.
So that was it for 2014, but there’s barely time to draw breath – the 2015 European Tour circuit kicks off in less than two-weeks time!