With the WGC-HSBC Champions event taking place in China this week, there’s no better time to take a look the best traveling golfer on the pro tour. More then 20 countries are represented in the field at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, and although Americans have won five of the last seven WGC events, it’s an international star and an international tour that takes center stage this week.
This is the fifth event of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season. More importantly it is the second event in the Final Series on the European Tour, as that circuit counts down toward its 2013-14 season finale in Dubai later this month. Eleven of the 12 players on Europe’s Ryder Cup team are present in China – all except Rory McIlroy, who’s taking time off to prepare for a lawsuit against his former management company – but one player is worth eyeing more than any other. Sergio Garcia (shown), now third on the Official World Golf Ranking, just might be the world’s best traveling golfer.
Garcia has four runner-up finishes in his last eight PGA Tour starts, and all have come in different parts of the world – Connecticut, England, Ohio* and Malaysia. In the last 12 months he has played in 10 different countries, with wins in Thailand and Qatar and runner-ups in four. For his career, he has five official victories in Asia, one less than Australian Adam Scott as the best total among players in this week’s field. (*-Granted Connecticut and Ohio aren’t that far apart, but try telling someone from New England that his climate is the same as that of the Great Lakes region.)
Sergio Garcia travels in the last 12 months (since the 2013 HSBC Champions)
|United States||13||2 WGC-Bridgestone, T-2 Travelers|
|England||2||T-2 British Open|
|China||1||4 WGC-HSBC Champions|
|South Africa||1||T-2 Nedbank|
|Thailand||1||Won Thailand Golf Championship|
|Abu Dhabi||1||T-19 Abu Dhabi Championship|
|Qatar||1||Won Commercialbank Qatar Masters|
|Spain||1||T-38 Spanish Open|
|Germany||1||T-12 BMW International Open|
|Malaysia||1||T-2 CIMB Classic|
Career wins in Asia for the top players in the WGC-HSBC Champions field
|2||6||2002 Qatar Masters, 2005 Johnnie Walker Classic (China), 2005 Singapore Open, 2006 Singapore Open, 2008 Qatar Masters, 2010 Singapore Open|
|3||5||2002 Korean Open, 2008 HSBC Champions (China), 2012 Iskandar Johor Open (Malaysia), 2013 Thailand Golf Championship, 2014 Qatar Masters|
|5||2||2006 Qatar Masters, 2007 Dubai Desert Classic|
|6||1||2002 Chunichi Crowns (Japan)|
|13||4||2008 Abu Dhabi, 2010 Abu Dhabi, 2011 Abu Dhabi, 2011 HSBC Champions (China)|
|17||1||2008 Ballantine’s Championship (South Korea)|
Missing from the résumé
As good as Garcia has played around the world, there are a few things missing from his record. The 34-year-old Spaniard notably has not won a major championship, and because his HSBC Champions win came before the tournament came under the World Golf Championships umbrella, he also does not have a WGC victory. He’s one of two players in the world’s top 10 who have not won either type of championship.
Highest-ranked players without a major or a WGC victory
|Player||World rank||Best major||Best WGC|
|Sergio Garcia||3||2, four times||2, 2014 Bridgestone|
|Rickie Fowler||10||2, two times||T-2, 2011 Bridgestone|
|Billy Horschel||12||T-4, 2013 U.S.||T-17, 2014 Match Play|
|Jordan Spieth||14||2, 2014 Masters||T-5, 2014 Match Play|
|Jimmy Walker||18||T-7, 2014 PGA||T-17, 2014 Match Play|
|Victor Dubuisson||19||T-7, 2014 PGA||T-2, 2014 Match Play|
Garcia’s runner-up finish at the CIMB Classic pushed him past the $33 million mark in PGA Tour earnings for his career. He’s ninth on the Tour's the all-time money list, and he has made more money than any other European-born player. He’s the third-ranked international player, trailing Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.
Most PGA Tour earnings by an international player
Watch out for Poulter
Garcia has played the HSBC four times, making a return to the tournament with a fourth-place finish in 2013 after an absence of four years. He is one of just three past champions in this week’s field - with Ian Poulter and Martin Kaymer – as Dustin Johnson, last year’s winner, is still on a leave of absence from professional golf. Two-time winner Phil Mickelson chose not to play, and as of Tuesday afternoon, 2010 champ Francesco Molinari was still on the alternate list.
Poulter represents Garcia’s greatest challenge. The Englishman won in 2012 and was runner-up in 2013, having posted identical 21-under scores each year. He’s the only player to score 20-under or less two times in the HSBC Champions event.
Poulter is one of seven players who have won multiple WGC events. Tiger Woods (18) and Geoff Ogilvy (3) are the only players with more WGC titles than Poulter, who is tied with Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Hunter Mahan at two wins.
Poulter has seven top-five finishes in WGC events, one fewer than Garcia. Tiger Woods is the only player with more than 10 top-five finishes, his 25 easily outdistances runner-up Ernie Els, who has nine.
Lowest 72-hole scores in the HSBC Champions: 2005-2013
The most top-five finishes in World Golf Championships history
|Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia||8||0|
|Justin Rose, Stewart Cink, Vijay Singh||7||1|
One final thought: Scott and Watson are among those players making their season debuts this week. Scott has had better luck in his career in season openers than Watson. Although neither player has ever won his first PGA Tour start of the season, Scott does have six top-10 finishes with a runner-up at the 2007 Tournament of Champions. Watson has only finished in the top 10 of his season debut two times in his career.
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