HSBC Champions: WGC red-headed stepchild

By Doug FergusonNovember 1, 2011, 6:23 pm

SHANGHAI – Except for the red carpet in bunkers on the practice range, signs posted in English and Chinese, and bicycles competing with BMWs for space on the road, the HSBC Champions looks like any other World Golf Championship.

Too bad the PGA Tour doesn’t see it that way.

The Tour opened itself to criticism – and even silly whispers of a conspiracy – by deciding to wait until after the HSBC Champions before sending ballots for its postseason awards. The tournament counts as an official win if a PGA Tour member is holding the trophy Sunday at Sheshan International, so it was the right decision to wait

For those who saw ballot delay as a slight against Luke Donald, they’re missing the point.

The only bias this exposed was how the PGA Tour continues to treat this WGC differently from the other three. Otherwise, there is no way it would have forgotten that the season really didn’t end when Donald ran off six straight birdies, shot 64 to win at Disney and establish himself the clear favorite as player of the year.

And the bias looks even worse considering the other “world” events are all played in America.

“This should be treated as the rest,” Thomas Bjorn said. “It comes at a time when certain people are not going to play, but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a world-class field on a fantastic golf course. There’s a couple of players missing, but not too many. This event has everything it needs. It showcases the game in this part of the world. And this is where the future is lying financially for golf.”

The Tour makes a reasonable argument for giving the HSBC Champions only partial status.

Because of where it falls on the calendar and on the globe, many of its stars aren’t playing as much. The HSBC Champions has the fewest percentage of PGA Tour players (44 percent compared with about 70 percent for the other WGCs), thus the Tour is hesitant to award all its perks when the majority of the field is not already a member.

Fair enough.

But if any player wins against this field, is that not worthy of PGA Tour membership?

“I don’t think it can be both ways,” Nick Watney said. “If it’s a WGC event, it should count as official money. It should be all or nothing. I don’t understand how it can be an official win, but not be official money. It’s kind of like, ‘Who do we think we are?’ Yeah, you can put our name on it, but we’re not going to count it toward our Tour. I just don’t get it.”

Why shouldn’t it count as official money?

Remember, when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem first introduced the WGCs more than a decade ago, the idea was to end the season with back-to-back blockbuster events – the Tour Championship and a World Golf Championship in Spain. Of course, this was before the FedEx Cup came along, and before Europe began tapping into the lucrative Asian market.

The problem with counting this toward the PGA Tour money list was the guy hitting balls Tuesday afternoon between Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy. It was Bobby Gates, and if the name sounds familiar, he was the one who missed a 7-foot par putt on his final hole at Disney that ultimately cost him his card.

Gates wound up at No. 126 on the money list by $1,431. If the HSBC Champions counted as official money, he would be guaranteed at least $25,000 and assured of finishing in the top 125.

“It is weird to be here at a World Golf Championship before I go back to Q-School,” Gates said. “But it’s a bonus to be here. It’s a WGC, and the best in the world are here. I’m one of those anomalies.”

This is where it gets a bit muddled – for Gates and Jim Herman, an American who finished 196th on the money list.

Both were on the Nationwide Tour last year when they won in consecutive weeks Down Under – Gates in New Zealand, Herman in Australia. Because those events were co-sanctioned with the Australasian Tour, both finished high enough on the Australasian Tour’s money list that they got into the HSBC Champions through the allotment of spots awarded that tour.

Is it fair that Gates gets into a WGC event when some 70 guys ahead of him on the money list weren’t even eligible?

Probably not.

Then again, the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and the Cadillac Championship at Doral always seem to have a few players who raise two questions: Who is this guy, and how did he get in this field? It shouldn’t matter that in this case they happen to be Americans.

The solutions are simple.

The HSBC Champions will be played a week before Disney next year. There is no reason it shouldn’t count as official money. If the money list means that much, a player should be willing to travel to Shanghai. And if players aren’t eligible, they can always play better.

What might help is increasing talk about starting a new PGA Tour season – the money list and FedEx Cup points – with the Fall Series. In that case, the HSBC Champions and even the Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia could be part of the schedule.

The Tour delayed sending out awards ballots out of fairness to the players in Shanghai, and out of respect to the title sponsor. That should not be dismissed lightly. HSBC is aware that it is not looked upon in the same way as the other WGCs.

“Is it something we’d like to see worked on? Absolutely,” said Giles Morgan, head of sponsorship for HSBC. “It’s less important for us. This is a showcase for golf in China. It’s a relatively new market for golf, and a hugely important market for HSBC. At the same time, we believe this is a World Golf Championship, and therefore we want all the best players in the world.”

Maybe more of them would come if it counted.

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."