Woods remains noticeably absent from HSBC

By Doug FergusonOctober 29, 2013, 7:55 pm

SHANGHAI – Three years ago at Sheshan International, hundreds of fans wanting an autograph stood outside the clubhouse where Tiger Woods was signing his scorecard at the HSBC Champions. They excitedly began chanting in Chinese, ''We want Tiger! We want Tiger!''

Their hopes faded and the chanting stopped when they realized he had left, and then a lone voice pierced the late afternoon air with a wistful plea in broken English.

''Tiger, where are you?''

That question resonates even louder this year.

The HSBC Champions embarks on a new era as a World Golf Championship that finally is treated the same as the other three – an official PGA Tour event.

But there's one big difference. Woods is a no-show.

He has been a huge supporter – and financial benefactor – of the WGCs since they began in 1999 by playing in 41 of 44 events. The three he missed were the Match Play in Australia when it was held just after the holidays in 2001, and two in early 2010 when Woods was recovering from the scandal in his personal life.

That he is not playing in Shanghai after a year that featured five wins and two injuries is not the issue. Eight other top players are not playing, either. The golf season never ends. Players can and should take breaks when it best suits their schedules. Adam Scott also is missing, though he faces a month of celebration in Australia, his first time home since winning the Masters.

What makes Woods' absence so unsettling to tournament organizers is that he's already in China.

He was in Hainan Island on Monday for an exhibition match (and a reported $2 million fee) against Rory McIlroy. He has at least one more outing, maybe more, scheduled this week in Asia. Woods and McIlroy played in China last year and both skipped the HSBC at Mission Hills. Two years ago, Woods was in Australia for outings during the HSBC, regarded as ''Asia's major.''

''I do think that's something, from the Tour's point of view, that does need to be looked at,'' Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC, said Tuesday. ''I'm not here to knock Tiger at all, because I feel that he's been absolutely instrumental in the growth. But we've reached a point where it's not about individuals. It's about growing the game of golf globally.

''I really hope that Tiger will want to come back in following years,'' he said. ''China is a vast country, so him playing a meaningless match yesterday doesn't really affect us. But yeah, we're disappointed.''

Morgan said he was told a few months ago by Woods' agent that this was not going to work with his schedule. After a week of corporate work, Woods is playing (for another big appearance fee) in the Turkish Open, a European Tour event.

Like other overseas events, HSBC once paid to get the best players. But now that it's a full-fledged WGC, big appearance fees have been replaced by an $8.5 million purse.

''What I can't do is pay him,'' Morgan said. ''And I feel enormously strong about that. This is a World Golf Championship. This is the flagship event of Asia. This is going to be the beacon to carry the game into this continent for many years to come. We could do the wrong thing by golf and drop the prize money right down and just pay one or two players huge fees. From a publicity standpoint, that would give us a certain amount of kudos because we'd get the top player in the world. And I'm absolutely not going down that route.

''We have an opportunity to be a genuine top-10 event in the world,'' he said. ''That requires a massive investment, which we're pleased to do. And that means we want to be an authentic sponsor in the world of golf.''

Morgan looked out across the range at Sheshan International at one of his strongest fields ever – 40 of the top 50 in the world, a group that includes McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and PGA champion Jason Dufner. There are nearly two dozen Americans in the field. He believes it will get even stronger as more players realize the economic potential of playing in China.

Woods was instrumental in getting the HSBC Champions launched. He was runner-up in 2005 and 2006, attracting huge crowds. He returned in 2009 when it was a WGC (though not official on the PGA Tour) and was upstaged by Mickelson in the final round. And the London-based financial company has been involved with Woods as a founding partner of the Tiger Woods Learning Center.

''He's genuinely a friend of the company,'' Morgan said.

Woods hasn't been back since 2010.

These outings could signal a change in his economic model, for Woods no longer has the blue-chip corporate support he enjoyed for so many years. Since his personal life crumbled after he was exposed for serial adultery at the end of 2009, he no longer has endorsement deals with Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, Gillette and Tag Heuer.

EA Sports is the most recent corporate relationship to end, after 15 years.

Woods signed a deal with Rolex in October 2011, and five weeks later announced a deal with Florida-based Fuse Science to display its logo on his bag. For the last two years, however, he hasn't added another sponsor. What remains unknown is whether companies aren't interested or the price tag is too high.

Meanwhile, HSBC staged a photo call Tuesday afternoon in the riverfront Bund district to celebrate the start of the tournament. It wasn't long ago that Woods and Mickelson shared the stage by playing Chinese checkers. This time, defending champion Ian Poulter was joined by Mickelson, McIlroy, Dufner and Rose. They dressed in ceremonial cloaks with traditional weapons and performed with the Shanghai Jingju Company on a rooftop overlooking the Bund.

The theme was ''returning heroes.''

Just not all of them.

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.

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Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:04 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.

“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.


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“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.

In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010. 

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Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 23, 2018, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.

“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”

So was Woods.

DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.

“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”

Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.

“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.


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“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”

Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.

“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.

“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”

Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time. 

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With blinders on, Rahm within reach of No. 1 at Torrey

By Rex HoggardJanuary 23, 2018, 10:10 pm

SAN DIEGO – The drive over to Torrey Pines from Palm Springs, Calif., takes about two and a half hours, which was plenty of time for Jon Rahm’s new and ever-evolving reality to sink in.

The Spaniard arrived in Southern California for a week full of firsts. The Farmers Insurance Open will mark the first time he’s defended a title on the PGA Tour following his dramatic breakthrough victory last year, and it will also be his first tournament as the game’s second-best player, at least according to the Official World Golf Ranking.

Rahm’s victory last week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, his second on Tour and fourth worldwide tilt over the last 12 months, propelled the 23-year-old to No. 2 in the world, just behind Dustin Johnson. His overtime triumph also moved him to within four rounds of unseating DJ atop the global pecking order.

It’s impressive for a player who at this point last year was embarking on his first full season as a professional, but then Rahm has a fool-proof plan to keep from getting mired in the accolades of his accomplishments.

“It's kind of hard to process it, to be honest, because I live my day-to-day life with my girlfriend and my team around me and they don't change their behavior based on what I do, right?” he said on Tuesday at Torrey Pines. “They'll never change what they think of me. So I really don't know the magnitude of what I do until I go outside of my comfort zone.”

Head down and happy has worked perfectly for Rahm, who has finished outside the top 10 in just three of his last 10 starts and began 2018 with a runner-up showing at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and last week’s victory.

According to the world ranking math, Rahm is 1.35 average ranking points behind Johnson and can overtake DJ atop the pack with a victory this week at the Farmers Insurance Open; but to hear his take on his ascension one would imagine a much wider margin.

“I've said many times, beating Dustin Johnson is a really, really hard task,” Rahm said. “We all know what happened last time he was close to a lead in a tournament on the PGA Tour.”


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Rahm certainly remembers. It was just three weeks ago in Maui when he birdied three of his first six holes, played the weekend at Kapalua in 11 under and still finished eight strokes behind Johnson.

And last year at the WGC-Mexico Championship when Rahm closed his week with rounds of 67-68 only to finish two strokes off Johnson’s winning pace, or a few weeks later at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play when he took Johnson the distance in the championship match only to drop a 1-up decision to the game’s undisputed heavyweight.

As far as Rahm has come in an incredibly short time - at this point last year he ranked 137th in the world - it is interesting that it’s been Johnson who has had an answer at every turn.

He knows there’s still so much room for improvement, both physically and mentally, and no one would ever say Rahm is wanting for confidence, but after so many high-profile run-ins with Johnson, his cautious optimism is perfectly understandable.

“I'll try to focus more on what's going on this week rather than what comes with it if I win,” he reasoned when asked about the prospect of unseating Johnson, who isn’t playing this week. “I'll try my best, that's for sure. Hopefully it happens, but we all know how hard it is to win on Tour.”

If Rahm’s take seems a tad cliché given the circumstances, consider that his aversion to looking beyond the blinders is baked into the competitive cake. For all of his physical advantages, of which there are many, it’s his keen ability to produce something special on command that may be even more impressive.

Last year at Torrey Pines was a quintessential example of this, when he began the final round three strokes off the lead only to close his day with a back-nine 30 that included a pair of eagles.

“I have the confidence that I can win here, whereas last year I knew I could but I still had to do it,” he said. “I hope I don't have to shoot 30 on the back nine to win again.”

Some will point to Rahm’s 60-footer for eagle at the 72nd hole last year as a turning point in his young career, it was even named the best putt on Tour by one publication despite the fact he won by three strokes. But Rahm will tell you that walk-off wasn’t even the best shot he hit during the final round.

Instead, he explained that the best shot of the week, the best shot of the year, came on the 13th hole when he launched a 4-iron from a bunker to 18 feet for eagle, a putt that he also made.

“If I don't put that ball on the green, which is actually a lot harder than making that putt, the back nine charge would have never happened and this year might have never happened, so that shot is the one that made everything possible,” he explained.

Rahm’s ability to embrace and execute during those moments is what makes him special and why he’s suddenly found himself as the most likely contender to Johnson’s throne even if he chooses not to spend much time thinking about it.