DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Bernd Wiesberger is almost single-handedly making Austria known for more than its ski slopes and après-ski atmosphere. Wiesberger, 34, who was born in Vienna, was leading the Race to Dubai, the European Tour’s season-long points race, on the eve of the last event of the season, the DP World Tour Championship, though Jon Rahm ultimately eclipsed him in his bid to become the first Austrian to win it.
Think of countries that punch above their weight in terms of producing internationally renowned golfers and Ireland, with five major champions in the past 12 years, comes to mind. Austria deserves a mention. There are barely 100,000 registered golfers in that country and only 160 golf courses yet Wiesberger (above) was ranked 23rd in the world at the start of last week and his countryman Matthias Schwab was 16th in the Race to Dubai and 80th in the world. By comparison England alone (and not the United Kingdom, which would include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) has 1,800 courses. A recent report by KPMG suggested that Austria has had a greater growth in numbers taking up the game than any other country in Europe.
Wiesberger’s best result in a major championship is 15th in the 2014 USPGA Championship when he played in the last group with Rory McIlroy, who won, and they finished in darkness. He has won three events on the European Tour this season alone, making seven in his career.
Wiesberger’s Austrian predecessors on the European Tour include Martin Wiegele, whose only victory came in the 2010 Saint-Omer Open, and Markus Brier, who won twice, in 2006 and 2007.
“I am very lucky right now in Austria with not only myself playing well this year but also Matthias doing a great job and almost catching a couple of titles this year,” Wiesberger said. “Yes, good times for Austrian golf.”