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.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."