HSBC impressive even without Americans

By Doug FergusonNovember 4, 2009, 2:32 am

HSBC ChampionshipSHANGHAI – The field for a World Golf Championship is never as strong when Americans require a passport.

The HSBC Champions is no exception.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, the best two players in the world, are competing at the same tournament in Asia for the first time. That alone is enough to give the HSBC Champions the appearance of a world-class event, just as it would any tournament at home.

Even so, it is difficult to ignore the number of Americans who chose to stay home.

And it’s equally difficult to ignore the sarcastic, yet caustic comment from Stuart Appleby at the start of the decade when a dozen Americans decided against going to Spain to close out the PGA Tour season.

“They’re like a bag of prawns on a hot Sunday,” he said in 2000 at Valderrama. “They don’t travel well.”

The PGA Tour isn’t helping the cause in this case.

It did the right thing by converting a tournament with only four years of history into a World Golf Championship. At the very least, that ensures at least one “world” event is played outside the boundaries of the United States, and that’s important.

The next step is to give more Americans a reason to go.

Because it is played so late in the year – and partly because the HSBC Champions did not become a WGC until six months ago – it will not count as an official event on the PGA Tour.

Earnings from the $7 million purse won’t count toward the PGA Tour money list.

The winner will not get a three-year exemption.

For PGA Tour members, it is little more than an exhibition except for the world ranking points. The Tour did make one exception by granting the winner a spot in the season-opening SBS Championship at Kapalua.

Instead of asking why 10 Americans didn’t come to China, perhaps the better question is why any of them came at all.

“Why wouldn’t I be here?” Steve Marino said. “I’ve never competed in one of these.”

Jason Dufner feels the same way. Ditto for Brian Gay, who last played in China when he was just out of college trying to earn a living.

“I’m in no position to skip free money,” Jerry Kelly said with a laugh.

Sean O’Hair doesn’t get a chance to travel much with three children. Pat Perez won for the first time at the Bob Hope Classic this year and wants to enjoy the rewards that come with winning. “It’s cool to be in these things,” he said.

Not so cool is that it doesn’t count.

“I can’t believe it’s not official,” Perez said. “It’s a world event. Tiger and Phil are here. It should count on the money list.”

Rod Pampling, the Australian living in Dallas, said he spoke to the Tour not long after the HSBC Champions became a WGC and asked why it wouldn’t be treated like the other WGC events held in America during the heart of the PGA Tour season.

“They said, ‘We’ll get back to you on that.’ Typical answer,” Pampling said. “It’s a world event. How does this not count?”

Those who stayed home had their reasons, and some are tough to argue.

U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover is a no-show, yet his schedule should not be subject to criticism. After winning a career-defining major at the U.S. Open, and enduring the crush of publicity that followed, Glover played the next four weeks on the PGA Tour because he made a commitment he refused to break.

Kenny Perry played the Presidents Cup a few days after his mother died. This is time to be home with his family.

Steve Stricker? Even if a WGC were played within a car drive of his home in Wisconsin, he probably wouldn’t leave the deer stand. Stricker hardly ever plays after September.

British Open champion Stewart Cink understands why the PGA Tour treats the HSBC Champions differently from other WGC events. He is on the policy board and recalls the concerns of some players that it might give an unfair advantage to international players.

“We thought it might have an impact on the top 125 this time of the year,” Cink said.

The 78-man field doesn’t include anyone outside the top 100 on the U.S. money list. Still, there has been grumbling from the lower end of the food chain that international players have too many shortcuts to a PGA Tour card, and this would be another one.

“You get a World Golf Championship outside America, it doesn’t sit well with people outside the top 50,” Cink said. “But I fully expect it to be official very soon.”

It can’t happen soon enough.

Whoever wins this week, is that not worthy of the same three-year exemption from winning at Doral or Firestone or in match play in the Arizona desert? He will have beaten a field that includes Woods, Mickelson, Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Geoff Ogilvy, Henrik Stenson and others who comprise 15 of the top 20 in the world.

Why shouldn’t the money apply? The PGA Tour season doesn’t end until next week at Disney. No one in the field is going to keep anyone from finishing in the top 125 on the money list required to earn a card for next year.

If the PGA Tour wants this to be a World Golf Championship, it’s time to treat it like one.

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Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

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

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

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.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

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.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

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.

Full coverage of the 147th Open 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.”