Notes: Tour peeved at Shanghai money grab

By Doug FergusonOctober 18, 2011, 7:04 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Upon seeing the PGA Tour join other tours in trying to stake out a presence in Asia, one high-ranking tournament official said two years ago, “The Far East looks a lot like the Wild, Wild West.”

That appears to be the case with two tournaments next week.

The PGA Tour has its Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, which began last year with 25 top players from the FedEx Cup standings as part of a 40-man field playing for a $6 million purse. The winner gets $1 million. The field includes Brandt Snedeker, Lucas Glover, Brendan Steele and Jhonattan Vegas.

It’s up against a new tournament called the Shanghai Masters that IMG put together at Lake Malaren. It’s not sanctioned by a major tour, thus has no set criteria and will get no world ranking points. But it has put together a field that dwarfs Malaysia. And while it has a $5 million purse, it is offering $2 million to the winner, the richest first-place check in golf.

The 30-man field includes three major champions - Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley - along with Lee Westwood, Jim Furyk, Geoff Ogilvy, Hunter Mahan, Anthony Kim, K.J. Choi, Louis Oosthuizen, Padraig Harrington, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Y.E. Yang. All are getting appearance money, and last place pays $25,000. John Daly and Colin Montgomerie also are in the field.

The PGA Tour - not to mention Malaysia title sponsor CIMB - is not happy about the new tournament, especially with 16 of its tour members involved. Because it is not a sanctioned event, the players do not need a conflicting-event release.

The HSBC Champions in Shanghai is the following week, adding to the appeal of the Shanghai Masters.

Chubby Chandler of International Sports Management said he expects the Shanghai Masters to be a European Tour-sanctioned event next year. If that’s the case, there must be an established criteria.

“It’s probably a similar event to Malaysia,” Chandler said.

It was a perfect fit for China, which is desperate to attract top players but still needs help - IMG, in this case - to run the tournament.

Chandler just returned from China after an exhibition in which McIlroy, Westwood and Poulter were part of a group that went to seven courses in seven cities over seven days to play a total of 18 holes, promoted as the best holes in China.

“We went to one city I had never heard of that had 32 million people,” Chandler said. “It was a fantastic experience. It was like an adventure. There is no recession in China, believe me. The middle class is growing. There’s a lot of people with a lot of money, but there’s a lot more with a little bit of money.”

That explains the interest in China, along with other parts of Asia. Chandler has predicted there would be more European Tour events in Asia than in Europe within five years. After his trip, he adjusted his forecast.

“It will be three years,” he said.

Next week is another example of a crowded schedule, and how competition is not just among players. Chandler said he expected the PGA Tour to be upset with the new tournament in Shanghai. But noting that the field included the likes of Mahan, Furyk and Bradley, he added, “I’m just glad it’s not my boys taking all the heat this time.”

CADDIE ADJUSTMENT: Tiger Woods has his third full-time caddie in Joe LaCava, and the idea was to break him in slowly. Woods said he told LaCava at the Open that he wouldn’t ask him questions on club selection or reading putts. LaCava, who spent two decades working for Fred Couples, was to spend a week observing how Woods played.

It wasn’t long before Woods made an observation of his own.

“When it rained on Thursday, we had four towels in the bag,” Woods said. “I’ve never seen four towels in my golf bag. Well, Freddie doesn’t use gloves, so out of habit, he just had all these towels in the bag. I was like, ‘What the hell are you doing with all these towels?’ So I said, ‘We don’t need that many towels.”’

Woods has three more tournaments this year, and said LaCava will play more of a role each week.

ONE LAST TRY: David Duval was on the practice range at Sea Island late Wednesday afternoon when he said, “Last tournament of the year.” He is playing in Malaysia at the Asia Pacific Classic next week.

Friday morning, before his second round, he entered the season finale at Disney. Duval went on to miss the cut, falling to No. 152 on the PGA Tour money list.

Why change his mind?

“I thought I’ve just played too well for most of the year and there’s no reason to be in the position I’m in,” Duval said. “The only thing that will help me at Disney is winning the tournament. You can’t do that unless you’re trying, unless you’re there.”

CASEY FUTURE: A year after he finished a career-high eighth on the PGA Tour money list with over $3.6 million, Paul Casey failed to keep his PGA Tour card. He withdrew after two rounds of the McGladrey Classic with an illness and wound up No. 131 on the money list.

Casey was slowed much of the year with an injury to his right foot, which made it painful to shift his weight in his swing. He won the Volvo Champions in Bahrain early in the year, and after missing the FedEx Cup playoffs, won in Korea.

Losing his card shouldn’t hurt too much. Casey is still No. 22 in the world, meaning he should be in good shape for the four majors, the World Golf Championships and The Players Championship. He’ll get in some events on conditional status (No. 126-150 on the money list) and should have no trouble picking up exemptions as a former Ryder Cup player with such a high world ranking.

“The most important thing is to get that fixed,” he said, nodding to his foot, “and get back to playing the golf I know I’m capable of playing. It’s been such a strange season.”

DIVOTS: If anyone other than Luke Donald wins at Disney, then Webb Simpson will be the PGA of America player of the year. … The Tiger Woods Invitational last week at Pebble Beach raised more than $700,000 for his foundation’s college-access programs, including the Earl Woods Scholarship program named after his late father. … The Champions Tour is moving its season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in 2012 from Harding Park in San Francisco to the Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. … The Nationwide Tour is adding another even in South America, The Chile Classic will be played March 8-11 at Prince of Wales Country Club in Santiago. … Bud Cauley played most of his golf in Jacksonville at Windsor Park, a public course. As a PGA Tour member, he will have access to the TPC network, including the TPC Sawgrass. Cauley said he already has been sneaking onto the back of the range at Sawgrass.

STAT OF THE WEEK: The last player to lose his lead atop the PGA Tour money list in the final tournament of the year was Phil Mickelson in 1996, when Tom Lehman won the Tour Championship to move past him.

FINAL WORD: “You can shoot your lowest score ever and still feel as though you could have done better.”- Robert Allenby, on why golf is so appealing.

McCormick to caddie for Spieth at Aussie Open

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 2:21 pm

When Jordan Spieth returns next week to defend his title at the Australian Open, he will do so without his regular caddie on the bag.

Spieth and Michael Greller have combined to win 14 tournaments and three majors, including three events in 2017. But Greller's wife, Ellie, gave birth to the couple's first child on Oct. 13, and according to a report from the Australian Herald Sun he will not make the intercontinental trip to Sydney, where Spieth will look to win for the third time in the last four years.

Instead, Spieth will have longtime swing coach and native Aussie Cameron McCormick on the bag at The Australian Golf Club. McCormick, who won PGA Teacher of the Year in 2015, is originally from Melbourne but now lives in Texas and has taught Spieth since he was a rising star among the junior golf ranks in Dallas.

While Greller has missed rounds before, this will be the first time as a pro that Spieth has used a different caddie for an entire event. Greller was sidelined with an injury last year in Singapore when Spieth's agent, Jay Danzi, took the bag, and trainer Damon Goddard has subbed in twice when Greller was sick, including this year at the Dean & DeLuca Invitational.

Spieth's torrid 2015 season traced back to his win at The Australian in 2014, and he returned to Oz last year where he won a playoff at Royal Sydney over Cameron Smith and Ashley Hall.

Rahm wins finale, Fleetwood takes Race to Dubai

By Will GrayNovember 19, 2017, 1:42 pm

Jon Rahm captured the final tournament on the European Tour calendar, a result that helped Tommy Fleetwood take home the season-long Race to Dubai title.

Rahm shot a final-round 67 to finish two shots clear of Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Shane Lowry at the DP World Tour Championship. It's the second European Tour win of the year for the Spaniard, who also captured the Irish Open and won on the PGA Tour in January at the Farmers Insurance Open.

"I could not be more proud of what I've done this week," Rahm told reporters. "Having the weekend that I've had, actually shooting 12 under on the last 36 holes, bogey-free round today, it's really special."

But the key finish came from Justin Rose, who held the 54-hole lead in Dubai but dropped back into a tie for fourth after closing with a 70. Rose entered the week as one of only three players who could win the Race to Dubai, along with Sergio Garcia and Fleetwood, who started with a lead of around 250,000 Euros.

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With Fleetwood in the middle of the tournament pack, ultimately tying for 21st after a final-round 74, the door was open for Rose to capture the title thanks to a late charge despite playing in half the events that Fleetwood did. Rose captured both the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open, and was one round away from a two-trophy photo shoot in Dubai.

Instead, his T-4 finish meant he came up just short, as Fleetwood won the season-long race by 58,821 Euros.

The title caps a remarkable season for Fleetwood, who won the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship as well as the French Open to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes and a fourth-place showing at the U.S. Open.

"I find it amazing, the season starts in November, December and you get to here and you're watching the last shot of the season to decide who wins the Race to Dubai," Fleetwood said at the trophy ceremony. "But yeah, very special and something we didn't really aim for at the start of the year, but it's happened."

Battling mono, Kaufman tied for lead at CME

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 2:05 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Kim Kaufman’s bout with mononucleosis might leave fellow tour pros wanting to catch the fever, too.

A couple months after Anna Nordqvist battled her way into contention at the Women’s British Open playing with mono, and then thrived at the Solheim Cup with it, Kaufman is following suit.

In her first start since being diagnosed, Kaufman posted an 8-under-par 64 Saturday to move into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. It was the low round of the day. She’s bidding to win her first LPGA title.

“I’ve been resting at home for two weeks,” Kaufman said. “Didn’t do anything.”

Well, she did slip on a flight of stairs while recuperating, hurting her left wrist. She had it wrapped Saturday but said that’s mostly precautionary. It didn’t bother her during the round.

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“I’m the only person who can take two weeks off and get injured,” Kaufman joked.

Kaufman, 26, left the Asian swing after playing the Sime Darby Malaysia, returning to her home in South Dakota, to see her doctor there. She is from Clark. She was told bed rest was the best thing for her, but she felt good enough to make the trip to Florida for the season-ending event.

“We had some really cold days,” Kaufman said. “We had some snow. I was done with it. I was coming down here.”

How does she feel?

“I feel great,” she said. “I’m a little bit shaky, which isn’t great out there, but it’s great to be here doing something. I was going a little bit stir crazy [at home], just kind of fighting through it.”

Kaufman made eight birdies in her bogey-free round.

New-look Wie eyes CME Group Tour Championship title

By Randall MellNovember 19, 2017, 1:32 am

NAPLES, Fla. – Michelle Wie is sporting a new look that even has fellow players doing double takes.

Bored during her six-week recovery from an emergency appendectomy late this summer, Wie decided to cut and die her hair.

She went for golden locks, and a shorter style.

“I kind of went crazy after being in bed that long,” Wie said. “I just told my mom to grab the kitchen scissors and just cut all my hair off.”

Wie will get to sport her new look on a big stage Sunday after playing herself into a four-way tie for the lead at the CME Group Tour Championship. With a 6-under-par 66, she is in contention to win her fifth LPGA title, her first since winning the U.S. Women’s Open three years ago.

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Wie, 28, fought her way back this year after two of the most disappointing years of her career. Her rebound, however, was derailed in late August, when she withdrew from the final round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open to undergo an emergency appendectomy. She was out for six weeks.

Before the surgery, Wie enjoyed getting back into contention regularly, with six finishes of T-4 or better this season. She returned to the tour on the Asian swing in October.

Fellow tour pros were surprised when she came back with the new look.

“Definitely, walk by people and they didn’t recognize me,” Wie said.

Wie is looking to continue to build on her resurgence.

“I gained a lot of confidence this year,” she said. “I had a really tough year last year, the last couple years. Just really feeling like my old self. Really feeling comfortable out there and having fun, and that's when I play my best.”