Finally a true World Golf Championship

By Doug FergusonNovember 3, 2010, 3:14 pm

WGC-HSBC ChampionsSHANGHAI  – The players and the props showed just how much the landscape of golf has changed at the HSBC Champions.

A year ago, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson sat across from each other in a mock game of Chinese checkers to kick off the festivities in this final World Golf Championship. They stood out as the top two players in the world. There was little argument about that.

Now it’s a lot more crowded.

This time, tournament organizers brought Woods, Mickelson, Lee Westwood and PGA champion Martin Kaymer to Shanghai’s riverfront in the famous Bund district. They were equipped with swords, and they struck a pose to celebrate the ancient Chinese martial art of tai chi.

It was a bit dramatic, but the point had been made.

Golf finally has a real battle for No. 1 in the world, and it figures to play out at Sheshan International over the next four days.

“It’s an interesting time for golf,” said Westwood, who ended Woods’ record reign at No. 1 in the world. “It’s a lot more interesting when it’s more volatile with who can become world No. 1. Martin has obviously played very consistently just recently. Tiger and Phil have been at the top of the world rankings for a while, as I have myself. I think for the neutral (fan) who doesn’t normally watch golf, it’s captured their imagination.”

This used to be the time of year when players chase appearance money in exotic locations, wanting to win for pride but without the kind of pressure found during the summer.

That might not be the case when the HSBC Champions starts Thursday.

“It’s exciting, I’m sure, for the public,” Woods said. “But as far as the players are concerned, I think everyone still has the same focus, and that’s to win tournaments. That’s how we got into the position we’re at, how we got our ranking as high as the top four players in the world. We were able to win golf tournaments. That’s why we’re here doing that.”

Woods is no longer No. 1, nor has he looked like it for most of the year. He has gone 51 weeks and 12 tournaments without a victory, the longest drought of his career. At stake this week is trying to avoid getting shut out on the PGA Tour for the first time in his career. This also is the only World Golf Championship he has not won.

“I’ve come close,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, I just haven’t done it yet.”

He wasn’t particularly close last year, despite playing in the final group with Mickelson. Woods’ game blew up on the front nine to fall from contention, and Mickelson held on for a one-shot win over Ernie Els.

Westwood hasn’t been playing much at all.

He put himself in position to be No. 1 by finishing second in the British Open at St. Andrews despite a calf injury that was affecting his ankle. Since then, Westwood has played only six rounds in stroke play and four matches in the Ryder Cup.

If he doesn’t finish ahead of Woods or Kaymer – and possibly Mickelson – he most likely won’t be No. 1 by the end of the week. That wouldn’t be such a disgrace. The first time Woods reached No. 1, he lasted only one week.

Kaymer had a chance last week if he had finished among the top two in Spain, but he tied for 21st. What makes the German stand out are his victories this year. He not only won the PGA Championship in a playoff at Whistling Straits but had three other titles on the European Tour, making him the most prolific winner this year.

He also leads the European Tour’s money list and has a chance to become the first German to win the Order of Merit since Bernhard Langer in 1984, a few months before Kaymer was born.

“I think Tiger, the last 10 years or last 12 years, he’s the No. 1 in the world,” Kaymer said. “I think in everybody’s head, he’s still the best player in the world. Of course, he’s playing not so good at the moment. When people say I’m playing like the No. 1 in the world at the moment, it’s nice to hear. But officially, Lee Westwood is the No. 1.”

It can be tough to keep track, although it ultimately comes down to great golf.

The rough is thick again at Sheshan International, and the greens are relatively firm from a recent cold spell in Shanghai. And while there is so much emphasis on the current version of the “Big Four,” the field is strong as ever, typical of a world championship.

It features 15 of the top 20 in the world, with most of the absentees being Americans who choose not to play or travel this time of the year – Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Dustin Johnson and Zach Johnson. The other is British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, still recovering from an ankle injury.

Mickelson has won the HSBC Champions twice in the last three years. He finally is fully healthy for the first time since he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. And despite failing to get to No. 1 over the last six months, he is still in the mix.

“I would love to accomplish that, but the only way to do that is play good golf,” Mickelson said. “And the only way to do that is to not worry about it and try to make some birdies. This is a tournament that has a lot of world ranking points, one of the strongest fields in golf, on a course that I’ve played well on in the past. I feel like I can put together a good week here and compete for the title.”

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PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.

LPGA:

We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

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Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.


Full-field scores from the Joburg Open


Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm
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Sharma among three Open qualifiers at Joburg Open

By Will GrayDecember 11, 2017, 12:16 pm

Shubhankar Sharma earned his first career European Tour win at the rain-delayed Joburg Open and punched his ticket to The Open in the process.

Sharma returned to Randpark Golf Club Monday morning after storms washed out much of the scheduled final day of play. Beginning the re-start with a four-shot lead, he hung on to win by three over South Africa's Erik Van Rooyen.

Both men can make travel plans for Carnoustie next summer, as this was the second event in the Open Qualifying Series with three spots available for players not otherwise exempt who finished inside the top 10. The final spot went to Shaun Norris, who tied for third with Finland's Tapio Pulkkanen but had a higher world ranking (No. 192) than Pulkkanen (No. 197) entering the week.

The Joburg Open was the final official European Tour event of the year. The next tournament in the Open Qualifying Series will be the SMBC Singapore Open in January, where four spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs.