Gary Murphy column: It’s not all about the money despite PGA and European Tour contrasts

Jon Rahm (Image: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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I've often bemoaned the gap in quality between the European and PGA tours and this week provides the latest in a long list of examples.

To compare the CJ Cup in Las Vegas and the Andalucia Masters in Spain makes for rather uncomfortable reading.

The American purse of approximately €8.5m is almost three times the €3m up for grabs at the Real Club Valderrama.

No fewer than 17 Ryder Cup players, five FedEx Cup champions and 36 players from the world’s top-50 will also tee it up in the States.

One edge the European Tour does boast is the fact Jon Rahm, currently the best player in the world, will be on this side of the pond.

I write ‘currently’ because the Spaniard’s place at the top of the rankings, a status he has held for 16 of the past 17 weeks, is at risk.

If Dustin Johnson wins in Vegas and Rahm fails to secure a top-15 finish in Spain, the American, with a T8 and T6 in his last two outings, replaces him at the summit.

While there’s no denying the growing gap between the two tours, there’s always a special buzz around the European tournaments at this time of year.

Our events are also rich in history and prestige, something the American tournaments, for all their riches and razzmatazz, struggle to emulate.

What Europe lacks in star quality, it makes up for in style and tradition. So many of our tournaments boast a back catalogue of iconic winners and special memories.

(Image: Getty Images)

Rafa Cabrera-Bello provided one last week when he tapped into the emotion of a special week to become the latest homegrown winner of the Spanish Open.

The 37-year-old added his name to a star-studded list that includes two-time winner Rahm, Sergio Garcia and the great Seve Ballesteros, who won his national title three times.

While this week’s test at Valderrama will be very different to Club De Campo and one of the toughest in Europe, it will have a familiar feel to last week’s event in Madrid.

The atmosphere should be fantastic with locals, holidaymakers and expats providing a unique mix in the galleries.

With the end-of-season nearing, and rankings at the forefront of everyone’s mind, there is also a lot on the line.

The Andalucia Masters is perfectly placed on the calendar to provide a sliding doors narrative for a number of careers resting on the bubble.

So while Rahm and fellow Ryder Cup players Matt Fitzpatrick and Bernd Weisberger will attract the spotlight, history tells us one of the lesser lights will also produce a performance to cement their status for next season.

The PGA Tour may have a monopoly of money and star names this week, but there’s still plenty to look forward to at Valderrama.

Which Rory will turn up?

Rory McIlroy
(Image: Getty Images)


Which Rory McIlroy will turn up at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas?

The former World No1 welled up at the end of a frustrating Ryder Cup and the raw emotion we witnessed on Sky suggests he has a lot on his shoulders.

Rory has been going through a lot of swing changes in recent times and he is currently a shadow of himself.

Earlier this week, Ewan Porter highlighted on Twitter the negative effects major swing changes have had on Aaron Baddeley’s game.

It struck a chord.

“Hard to believe any coach could look at his swing from 1999 and think anything needed to change,” wrote Porter.

And yet some coaches can’t help tinkering with a player’s technique. Sometimes it works and you pocket a sense of progression, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Looking for an edge can be destructive and I hope Rory finds the right balance moving forward.

Since his two major wins in 2014 and FedEx Cup triumphs in 2016 and 2019, the pack has changed, new stars have emerged and his place in the pecking order has altered.

Rory should relish that new challenge, but only results can bring confidence and validate your game.

At the moment he can’t buy a result.

Now ranked 14th in the world, McIlroy is a long way off the top-five, never mind the likes of Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson wrestling for top spot.

We all know what he is capable of, but at the moment his A-game is missing and his B-game has slipped. Not a good combination.

Now 32, it feels like Rory’s at a crossroads and the next 12 or 18 months will tell us if he is still a viable threat or whether his major winning days are behind him.

Shane Lowry should grab his chance

Shane Lowry will defend his Open title at Royal St. George's this week.
(Image: ©INPHO/Tommy Dickson)


Shane Lowry should grab his chance in a limited field at this week’s CJ Cup.

Only 78 players tee it up in Vegas, so it’s a chance for the 2019 Open champion to lay down a marker in the opening weeks of the new PGA Tour season.

Shane qualified through his FedEx Cup ranking and his recent performance at the Ryder Cup reinforced his status as one of Europe’s top players.

I know he would dearly love to win again on the PGA Tour and the fact he has yet to win a regular event in the States will be a massive motivation. He already has a major and WGC title on his CV, but he’ll know he has more levels to his game and weeks like this are a chance to show them.

To feature more at the business end of high-profile tournaments, Lowry just has to become more consistent and eradicate the sloppier elements of his golf.

At his best, Shane plays world top-10 golf and doing that on a more regular basis has to be the goal.

Marrying attitude and ability week in, week out is the difference at this level.

Betting slip

ANDALUCIA MASTERS

Justin Harding – 50/1 EW

Boasts a good course history here and might strike again.

Masahiro Kawamura – 55/1 EW

Japanese player has the skill set to thread it through the pines.

THE CJ CUP

Cameron Smith – 50/1 EW

A fan of the big stage and this week is certainly one of those.

Joaquin Niemann – 55/1 EW

The Chilean is capable of upsetting these odds. I like this price.

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