HSBC Champions: WGC red-headed stepchild

By Doug FergusonNovember 1, 2011, 6:23 pm

SHANGHAI – Except for the red carpet in bunkers on the practice range, signs posted in English and Chinese, and bicycles competing with BMWs for space on the road, the HSBC Champions looks like any other World Golf Championship.

Too bad the PGA Tour doesn’t see it that way.

The Tour opened itself to criticism – and even silly whispers of a conspiracy – by deciding to wait until after the HSBC Champions before sending ballots for its postseason awards. The tournament counts as an official win if a PGA Tour member is holding the trophy Sunday at Sheshan International, so it was the right decision to wait

For those who saw ballot delay as a slight against Luke Donald, they’re missing the point.

The only bias this exposed was how the PGA Tour continues to treat this WGC differently from the other three. Otherwise, there is no way it would have forgotten that the season really didn’t end when Donald ran off six straight birdies, shot 64 to win at Disney and establish himself the clear favorite as player of the year.

And the bias looks even worse considering the other “world” events are all played in America.

“This should be treated as the rest,” Thomas Bjorn said. “It comes at a time when certain people are not going to play, but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a world-class field on a fantastic golf course. There’s a couple of players missing, but not too many. This event has everything it needs. It showcases the game in this part of the world. And this is where the future is lying financially for golf.”

The Tour makes a reasonable argument for giving the HSBC Champions only partial status.

Because of where it falls on the calendar and on the globe, many of its stars aren’t playing as much. The HSBC Champions has the fewest percentage of PGA Tour players (44 percent compared with about 70 percent for the other WGCs), thus the Tour is hesitant to award all its perks when the majority of the field is not already a member.

Fair enough.

But if any player wins against this field, is that not worthy of PGA Tour membership?

“I don’t think it can be both ways,” Nick Watney said. “If it’s a WGC event, it should count as official money. It should be all or nothing. I don’t understand how it can be an official win, but not be official money. It’s kind of like, ‘Who do we think we are?’ Yeah, you can put our name on it, but we’re not going to count it toward our Tour. I just don’t get it.”

Why shouldn’t it count as official money?

Remember, when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem first introduced the WGCs more than a decade ago, the idea was to end the season with back-to-back blockbuster events – the Tour Championship and a World Golf Championship in Spain. Of course, this was before the FedEx Cup came along, and before Europe began tapping into the lucrative Asian market.

The problem with counting this toward the PGA Tour money list was the guy hitting balls Tuesday afternoon between Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy. It was Bobby Gates, and if the name sounds familiar, he was the one who missed a 7-foot par putt on his final hole at Disney that ultimately cost him his card.

Gates wound up at No. 126 on the money list by $1,431. If the HSBC Champions counted as official money, he would be guaranteed at least $25,000 and assured of finishing in the top 125.

“It is weird to be here at a World Golf Championship before I go back to Q-School,” Gates said. “But it’s a bonus to be here. It’s a WGC, and the best in the world are here. I’m one of those anomalies.”

This is where it gets a bit muddled – for Gates and Jim Herman, an American who finished 196th on the money list.

Both were on the Nationwide Tour last year when they won in consecutive weeks Down Under – Gates in New Zealand, Herman in Australia. Because those events were co-sanctioned with the Australasian Tour, both finished high enough on the Australasian Tour’s money list that they got into the HSBC Champions through the allotment of spots awarded that tour.

Is it fair that Gates gets into a WGC event when some 70 guys ahead of him on the money list weren’t even eligible?

Probably not.

Then again, the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and the Cadillac Championship at Doral always seem to have a few players who raise two questions: Who is this guy, and how did he get in this field? It shouldn’t matter that in this case they happen to be Americans.

The solutions are simple.

The HSBC Champions will be played a week before Disney next year. There is no reason it shouldn’t count as official money. If the money list means that much, a player should be willing to travel to Shanghai. And if players aren’t eligible, they can always play better.

What might help is increasing talk about starting a new PGA Tour season – the money list and FedEx Cup points – with the Fall Series. In that case, the HSBC Champions and even the Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia could be part of the schedule.

The Tour delayed sending out awards ballots out of fairness to the players in Shanghai, and out of respect to the title sponsor. That should not be dismissed lightly. HSBC is aware that it is not looked upon in the same way as the other WGCs.

“Is it something we’d like to see worked on? Absolutely,” said Giles Morgan, head of sponsorship for HSBC. “It’s less important for us. This is a showcase for golf in China. It’s a relatively new market for golf, and a hugely important market for HSBC. At the same time, we believe this is a World Golf Championship, and therefore we want all the best players in the world.”

Maybe more of them would come if it counted.

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Molinari holds off McIlroy to win BMW PGA

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 3:20 pm

VIRGINIA WATER, England - Rory McIlroy left his victory charge too late at Wentworth as Francesco Molinari delivered a clinic in front-running to win the BMW PGA Championship by two shots with a 4-under 68 on Sunday.

McIlroy, who led by three shots at halfway, entered the final round tied for the lead with Molinari on 13 under par but a Sunday shootout at the European Tour's flagship event never really materialized.

Instead, as McIlroy toiled to a 70 that was propped up by birdies on the par fives at Nos. 17 and 18, Molinari went bogey-free for a second straight day to claim the fifth victory of his career and the biggest since a World Golf Championship in Shanghai in 2010.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

The Italian only dropped two shots all week and finished on 17-under 271, with McIlroy alone in second place. Alex Noren (67) and Lucas Bjerregaard (65) were tied for third place a stroke further back.

Molinari moved into the automatic qualifying places for the Ryder Cup, which he hasn't played since 2012 when Europe beat the United States in the so-called ''Miracle at Medinah.''

He'd previously had five top-10 finishes in the last six years at Wentworth, including being runner-up to Noren last year.

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Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

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Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

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Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.