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Chris Wood: Final Series could learn from US Tour

Shanghai Master: It was great to see American Patrick Reed playing on the European Tour in China (Photo by Getty Images)

Shanghai Master: It was great to see American Patrick Reed playing on the European Tour in China (Photo by Getty Images)

After finishing my final round in the BMW Masters on Sunday, I sat in the players’ lounge at Lake Malaren and watched the leaders battling it out down the stretch.

It was gripping to see all the twists and turns involving players like Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed, and all credit to Kristoffer Broberg for the brilliant birdie he produced at the first play-off hole to win the tournament.

Yet chatting with my fellow TGP columnist David Howell, we both felt that there was something missing. Yes, the last couple of hours produced a great finish, but there could have been more passion had there been more at stake.

This has been the seventh year of the Race to Dubai, and the more recent development of a three-tournament final series leading up to the climax has seen some very strong fields competing for big prize money.

But the composition of the startsheets for the three tournaments was largely decided by money list positions at the end of the Hong Kong Open last month, which was the final qualifying event.

What would have given both the two tournaments in Shanghai and the Turkish Airlines Open more of an edge would have been if they had all involved an element of elimination as a build-up to this week’s season-ending DP World Tour Championship.

That’s what happens in America with the early autumn FedEx Cup play-off series all feeding into the climax of the US Tour Championship. I don’t want to see us having to mimic everything the Americans do to be successful, but it could be worth looking at.

There was, however, quite a story behind my own performance at Lake Malaren, which saw me finish in 22nd place with a nine-under-par total that was only eight shots behind Broberg’s winning score.

On the practice range on Thursday I was very close to pulling out, as I was struck by a violent back muscle spasm. It was so bad that I couldn’t even set myself to hit a nine-iron, let only play a shot with it.

Thanks to the urgent efforts of the Tour physios and a powerful combination of painkillers and anti- inflammatories, I made it to the first tee just in time.

And despite struggling for the first two rounds, I still managed to shoot 70 and 69.

And just as the 18th had a big impact on the closing action on Sunday – it also had a big effect on my pay cheque.

Because over the four rounds I drop-ped five shots at the last with a double bogey on the Saturday after finding the lake.

Fortunately, however, the pain in my back has gone. In my early days on Tour I did have a lot of problems, but the spasm in Shanghai was the first I had suffered for two and a half years, and hopefully the last.

I would love to finish the season with a good performance this week at The Earth Course in Dubai, which is always in fantastic condition. There is never a blade of grass out of place; it has the best greens we play all year and the sand in the bunkers, using the same grade as they have at Augusta at an enormous cost, always offers good lies.

And there is so much to play for this week on top of the Race to Dubai points. The top 30 on the end-of-year money list will be playing in The Open at Troon next July, and the top 15 will get shares of the $6.25 million bonus pool.

For players like me there is also the chance to get into the top 50 of the World Rankings, and to qualify for the World Golf Championships and the other Majors, like The Masters in 2016.

Yesterday in Dubai our new chief executive Keith Pelley said he would, in cooperation with The R&A, be working on a campaign to cut out slow play in golf, which will be a welcome move.

And we will all applaud his target of increasing the prize money on our Tour and more opportunities to play in bigger tournaments by 2018.

I am fully supportive of the decision to change our membership rules from playing a minimum of 13 tournaments a year, which in the past have included the co-sanctioned Majors and WGC events, to a minimum of five, excluding the big eight.

For US-based players like Luke Donald and Graeme McDowell, who are both currently outside the world’s top 50, this will still enable them to qualify for the Ryder Cup and may even persuade Paul Casey to take out membership again.

All of the above measures are positive moves towards strengthening the appeal of the European Tour, so let’s hope they all come off.

*This article was originally published in TGP on 18 November

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