Vietnam to Host Golf Event
It's an unlikely sight in the communist country where the average annual income still hovers around $420, and a monthly wage often wouldn't cover greens fees.
For access and economic reasons, sports like soccer and badminton usually reign.
Vietnam will host the inaugural Carlsberg Masters 2004 Vietnam tournament this week, an unmistakable sign of emerging wealth in a country that no longer wants to be known for war and isolation.
'I think that the staging of the tournament fits in well with the development of the country,' said Lars Holden, general manager of Chi Linh Star Golf & Country Club, about 50 miles outside the capital of Hanoi, where the tournament will be held.
'We're probably five years ahead of when most people say this event should be played. But for me, I want this event to kick start mega interest in golf in Vietnam.'
Golf was first introduced to the country in 1922 at the Central Highlands' resort town of Dalat, where the French colonialists built an 18-hole course. Vietnam's last emperor played there in the cool mountain air as did French military officers and later the Americans.
But after Ho Chi Minh's revolutionary army ousted the French in 1954, the country endured years of hardship and poverty during the Vietnam War. The Dalat course escaped virtually unscathed, but fell into disrepair when it was abandoned after the communists reunified the country in 1975. It wasn't reopened for nearly 20 years.
Since the war ended, Vietnam has been struggling to find its place in the world. But over the past decade, it has opened its doors widely to foreign investors while gradually moving toward a market economy. As a result, many golfers teeing off on Vietnam's nine courses today are Japanese or South Korean business people, but unprecedented economic growth has spurred an increasing interest among Vietnamese players as well.
Hanoi native Nguyen Thai Duong, 18, is one. He began golfing just four years ago with his father and now dreams of becoming Vietnam's version of Tiger Woods - or at least the first player in his country to go professional.
After training in Malaysia, Australia and the United States, Duong hopes to have a strong showing at the Carlsberg Masters. But he'll have his work cut out for him as 1995 U.S. Open champion Corey Pavin and 142 others compete for the $200,000 purse during the 19th leg of the Asian Tour.
'I think I have to practice every day seven or eight hours a day for two or three years' to turn professional, said Duong, who recently graduated from high school and hopes to go to college in the United States to further advance his game.
'Golf is very new and not popular in Vietnam. Not many people are watching it,' he said. 'The tournament is a big deal to Vietnam's economy and also because Vietnam is changing on a lot of levels - especially golf.'
Duong is among a handful of young, aspiring Vietnamese players who want to see the game take off as it has in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand. But despite increasing wealth, the gap between rich and poor remains wide - keeping most ordinary Vietnamese from even dreaming about swinging a club.
'Golf is still seen as a selected sport. It's not like football where they can grab a ball and find a little piece of concrete out in the street and kick it around and become superstars,' Holden said. 'It's so expensive that a monthly wage wouldn't get you a game of golf, and it makes it tough.'
Still, the Chi Linh course opened in August and already has more than 900 members, most of whom are wealthy Vietnamese businessmen and government officials. The Vietnamese-owned course - which will add 18 more holes, 300 houses and a hotel - is estimated to cost $40 million when it's completed in 2006.
About a half dozen other new courses are expected to open in Vietnam over the next five years, and Holden is hopeful more exposure will lead to tougher competition, lower costs and ultimately more local and foreign players.
'We're trying to really get out there and grab the attention of the golfing community and show them that Vietnam is a destination to come to,' he said. 'Instead of going to Bangkok or going to Malaysia, come and try Vietnam.'
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba
Conor Moore is known for his impressions of golfers, and he is back with a new video just in time for The Open.
Moore even got the thumbs up from Ian Poulter.
This is hilarious..— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) July 16, 2018
Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite
Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.
Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.
Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.
Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:
12/1: Dustin Johnson
16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose
20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm
25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods
30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed
40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton
50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick
60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson
80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele
100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen
Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC
If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.
Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.
Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.
There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.
There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.
Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.
John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.
Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.
Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.
Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.
“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”
Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.
“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”
But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.
“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”