HSBC lacks catalyst Woods, but offers strong field

By Doug FergusonNovember 4, 2014, 1:26 pm

SHANGHAI – The stone clubhouse at Sheshan International should have a plaque that says, ''Tiger Woods was here.''

That's not an indictment on his absence this year.

It's a reminder of the role he played in getting the HSBC Champions to where it is now.

''He was the firepower who got the needle moving,'' said Giles Morgan, the global head of sponsorship and events at HSBC.

Woods has not played this World Golf Championship since 2010, which marked his fourth appearance in six years. The HSBC Champions began in 2005 as a European Tour event and it has grown into more than organizers ever imagined. It is regarded in this part of the world as ''Asia's major,'' which is not to suggest it's one of the four majors or ever will be.

Woods never won at Sheshan International in four tries. Riviera (eight times) is the only other course he has played more often without winning, although that is not – or should not – be related to his absence. He was not eligible in 2011 and played corporate outings throughout Asia and Australia the next two years. Woods was never expected this time while he recovered from back injuries. He is just now hitting balls to prepare for his own tournament in Florida the first week of December.

The HSBC Champions is celebrating its 10th year with its strongest field – 40 players from the top 50 in the world ranking. That's an increase from 28 of the top 50 when it received WGC status in 2009, and 13 of the top 50 when it began in 2005.

WGC-HSBC Champions: Articles, videos and photos

Golf is about star power, however, and it's difficult to consider any field without paying more attention to who isn't playing than who is. And it doesn't help that the three biggest names in golf are not in Shanghai.

Phil Mickelson is not competing again until late January. Rory McIlroy was the big blow. He announced last month that he would miss both events in China because he needed time to prepare for a February court case involving his former management firm. He might even have time to get that wisdom tooth removed.

''Of course it's disappointing,'' Morgan said. ''But it doesn't detract from the tournament. It's their responsibility to turn up and play well. It's our responsibility to present the stage. ... We have no doubt in the future the world No. 1, whoever it is, will be back. All the great players will. You're always going to lose one or two – we're quite sanguine about that. But we know we have 80 percent of the top players.''

''Yes, some of the top players aren't here, whether because of injury or personal reasons,'' Morgan said. ''The key point is the majority are. And there are great new golfers coming through. We feel there's kind of an evolution going on in golf the last seven or eight years.''

That much is clear.

The host hotel has images of the top players on all the elevator doors – Adam Scott and Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell, Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia.

Golf is at a stage where it's time to end this fascination that it can't be a big event unless Woods and Mickelson – and now McIlroy – are playing.

Woods turns 39 next month. He will be compelling in any capacity until he stops playing, though he does not look capable of dominating the way he once did because of age, mounting injuries and competition that is younger and stronger.

Mickelson is 44. Time moves on.

A new era is emerging, if it is not already here. Woods has been behind the wheel for two decades, with Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh taking turns riding shotgun.

McIlroy is no longer the heir apparent. Winning four majors at age 25 makes him the next driver. Boy Wonder will never have the level of worldwide appeal as Woods. But what he has is a supporting cast that is stronger and deeper than when Woods ruled the world of golf.

Morgan was agitated a year ago when Woods didn't play because he was in China at the start of the week for an exhibition with McIlroy. That didn't diminish his appreciation of what Woods has meant to golf for two decades, and for the HSBC Champions in its infancy.

Where would the HSBC Champions be today if Woods had never played when it was just getting started?

''Tiger was an enormous catalyst in the growth of the HSBC Champions,'' Morgan said. ''The momentum has taken the sport into a much bigger force than one individual, and that's a great indicator for the strength of a sport when it is greater than one or two individuals.''

Yes, he is disappointed that McIlroy withdrew, Mickelson is resting and Woods is recovering from an injury.

''But we've got momentum behind us,'' Morgan said. ''We're beyond needing a player to turn up to get some PR and instant gratification and media coverage. We're not interested in that. We're interested in genuine growth of the sport. And we're sitting on top of a fantastic new chapter.''

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Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

He's making his first start in the event.

''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

How rare is his missing the cut there?

The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.