While the 2011 PGA Tour schedule lumbers out of the starting blocks later on this evening with the first round of the Tournament of Champions(!), the 2011 Race to Dubai is already several weeks old– nearly a month older than 2011 itself. This week’s tournament– The Africa Open– is the third of the tour’s South African swing and, prestigious title aside, probably its least competitive. That said, it has managed to attract a couple of the host nation’s leading lights in Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel, as well as a raft of up-and-coming talent.
The week’s real Euro-related action, though, is to be had in Thailand, where Black Mountain Golf Club plays host to the Royal Trophy, a Ryder Cup-style exhibition match played between teams from the European and Asian tours. While the team sheets very much have ‘Pre-Season Exhibition’ writ large upon them, the absence of some of both continents’ heaviest hitters makes for a nice opportunity to see some stars of the future in action (and ‘stars of the future’ isn’t just a collective term for the few who can be bothered trekking to Thailand for what is essentially a laborious PR exercise).
The European team, captained by Colin Montgomerie, features Ryder Cup stars Henrik Stenson and Peter Hanson, Matteo Mannasero, Johan Edfors (looks like a cross between Jesus and Roger Federer), Rhys Davies (silky, silky putting stroke) and the enigmatic Pablo Martin (winner of the recent Alfred Dunhill Championship).
The Asian team, helmed by Joe Ozaki, features a pretty exciting line-up of Ryo Ishikawa (no introduction needed), Noh Seung-Yul (Asian Tour number one at only nineteen and possessor of a beautiful action), Kim Kyeung-Tae (…), Yuta Ikeda (very promising) and Shunsuke Sonoda from Japan, Chinese numero uno Liang Wen-Chong, Jeev Milka Singh, and European Tour veterans Thongchai Jaidee and Prayad Marksaeng from the host nation.
Though the week is more about fostering ties between the tours and promoting golf in Asia, the last outing proved to be a pretty spirited affair. I wouldn’t expect fireworks, but the Tussle in Thailand, maybe?