Who most needs to win the HSBC Champions?

By Randall MellNovember 3, 2011, 1:06 pm

Keegan Bradley leads the WGC-HSBC Champions after an opening 7-under 65. A victory would be his third on the PGA Tour this season and could lead to being named 2011 player of the year. But does anyone need a win more than Bradley? GolfChannel.com writers give their players for whom this is the biggest week.


Keegan Bradley could cause some mayhem in PGA Tour Player of the Year voting with his fast start at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

The Tour might receive a lot of messy ballots with one name (Luke Donald) scratched out and another (Bradley) added if Bradley goes on to win this weekend. He may even cause a felony or two with players trying to dig their ballots out of corner mail boxes.

I thought Donald locked up the award with his clutch finish at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic at Disney World two weeks ago, but Bradley’s got me re-evaluating. If he wins, it’s another clutch performance, a really impressive response to a really impressive statement by Donald at Disney.

If Bradley wins, he separates himself from all the other player-of-the-year candidates as not only the lone guy with three PGA Tour victories in 2011, but also as the only realistic candidate with a major championship title this season. If Bradley wins this week, he’s beating some big names. He's beating Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Graeme McDowell, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan and more.

Yeah, I don’t like the fact that Bradley has missed 10 cuts this year, but winning more than anyone else, winning a major, that trumps the failures. Bradley’s still got to finish this weekend off, no easy task, but if he does, he’s my PGA Tour player of the year. Donald? He’s my world player of the year.


Rory McIlroy needs a big week in Shanghai and not just because he’s under the gun to hold up his end of the “Wozzilroy” super tandem. Nor does the Ulsterman need to prove he’s moved on following his split with uber-manager Chubby Chandler or that he’s fully recovered from the wrist injury he sustained during the PGA Championship.

His overtime victory last week at the Shanghai Masters cleaned up concerns on all those fronts. Unfortunately for McIlroy, none of the record $2 million he hauled in last week counts toward his European Tour cash total this season.

Which is why McIlroy needs a solid showing at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He trails Luke Donald by 1.3 million euro in the Race to Dubai. A victory at this week’s $7 million stop would allow him to close that gap by almost a million euro with only five events remaining before the December finale in Dubai.

Keegan Bradley, your front-runner through 18 holes in China, could influence the voting for PGA Tour Player of the Year by putting the “W” in WGC, but given the popular undercurrent in Donald’s favor for POY that doesn’t seem likely.

McIlroy, however, can make up serious ground on Donald with a victory, and make the Race to Dubai worth watching.


There are plenty of players in this week’s HSBC Champions field who would benefit from a victory, but none more than Bobby Gates – even after his disappointing opening-round 75.

Just the fact that Gates is competing in the tournament is a story in itself. As a member of the Nationwide Tour last year, he won the New Zealand Open, which is co-sanctioned by both the developmental circuit and the Australasian Tour. That victory got him into a few of the late-season Aussie triple crown events, including the Australian PGA Championship, where he finished in a share of sixth place, which helped him vault into fourth place on that tour’s money list.

Gates’ presence inside the top 5 gained him entry into the WGC; however, not much else has gone his way lately. Thanks to a final-hole three-putt at the PGA Tour season finale, the rookie dropped from 124th on the money list to 126th.

That’s where things get weird.

Because the HSBC is unofficial money, Gates can’t improve his standing in China and will need to play Q-School in a few weeks – unless he wins. For players who are already PGA Tour members, an HSBC victory comes with a three-year exemption, which means he could skip Q-School and proceed directly to Kapalua for the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the beginning of next year.

So if you’re scoring at home, his schedule will read either Disney-WGC-Q-School or Disney-WGC-Kapalua. If that sounds more than a little awkward, don’t convince yourself otherwise. It is.

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Furyk: Not worried about ' overconfidence, complacency'

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 12:44 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – After seeing the course for the first time this week on Tuesday, the U.S. Ryder Cup team convened for a dinner.

Although the team wasn’t giving away any secrets, according to captain Jim Furyk the goal was to allow players to share ideas on the course, potential pairings and to further solidify this week’s game plan.

“We sat down and had a great conversation with the players last night. The players spoke a lot,” Furyk said following his team’s morning practice. “There's not a worry on my end of any overconfidence, complacency. No one is putting the cart before the horse here.”

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Specifically, vice captain Davis Love III said he reminded the team of a speech Michael Jordan gave at the 2012 matches.

“We started a little bit last night talking about the ultimate goal. Michael Jordan said if you think about the goal of winning the championship you’re not going to be able to play. You’re going to be too nervous,” Love said. “You break it down goal by goal.

The U.S. team only played nine holes on Wednesday at Le Golf National, the back nine, and will likely play the front nine during Thursday’s practice before the matches begin. Although Furyk has said the key to this week is getting the U.S. team to understand the course, he’s also aware of the need for rest following a grueling stretch of playoff golf for most of his squad.

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Underdogs? Label doesn't concern Bjorn

By Will GraySeptember 26, 2018, 12:37 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – As the opening-day sessions draw near, European captain Thomas Bjorn is keeping his plans close to the vest. But he’s not getting bogged down in the notion that his squad might be the underdog this week at Le Golf National.

Jim Furyk’s American squad is one of the strongest on paper in Ryder Cup history, with only Phil Mickelson lower than 17th in the latest world rankings. It’s led Las Vegas oddsmakers to install the Americans as slight favorites in the biennial matches despite the fact that the Europeans haven’t lost at home since 1993.

Bjorn didn’t make any changes to his three practice foursomes one day to the next, lending some potential clarity to who will be paired with whom once the competition begins in earnest. And while he’s not shying away from the notion that his team might lack the firepower of the Americans, he’s not going to make it a significant focus in the team room, either.

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“My job is to create a process for those 12 players to go out and perform their best. Are we underdogs? Probably on paper we are,” Bjorn said. “But we still believe that we can win. We still believe that we can go out and do a job on the golf course, and we concentrate on us.”

Bjorn remained coy when asked if he plans to ensure all 12 players see the course for at least one match Friday, although he reiterated that a plan is in place and “everyone knows where they are going.”

But with strength on both sides, Bjorn did open up about his expectation that this week’s matches could take an already historic competition to another level.

“These teams are the two best teams, world ranking-wise, that have been across from each other in this event,” Bjorn said. “It’s all lined up to be something special, so it’s for those 24 players to go out and show that.”

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It's been a while: Happy 25th anniversary, America!

By Rex HoggardSeptember 26, 2018, 12:20 pm

SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France – The last time the U.S. team won a Ryder Cup in Europe, Bryson DeChambeau was a week old, Jordan Spieth 2 months old, and Justin Thomas 5 months old.

Nearly a third of this week’s U.S. team was diapers when the Tom Watson-led Americans pulled off a 15-13 victory in 1993 at The Belfry.

Davis Love III, a two-time captain who is serving as an assistant this week, was playing in his first Ryder Cup in ’93 and secured the winning point, beating Costantino Rocca, 1 up, in his Sunday singles match.

Now 25 years removed from that victory, Love concedes it would have been unthinkable that 25 years later, the ’93 match would be the U.S. side’s last road victory.

“It’s surprising, 25 years,” Love sighed on Wednesday as the U.S. team went through its paces at Le Golf National.

It hasn’t been a complete bust for Team USA on the road since ’93; there have been close calls. The Americans dropped a one-point decision in 1997 in Spain and lost by the same margin in 2010 at Celtic Manor. But everything in between has been utterly forgettable. There was a three-point decision in 2002 at The Belfry and that nine-point boat race in 2006 in Ireland. Most recently, the Continent rolled 16 ½-11 ½ in 2014 in Scotland.

“It's not anything I need to mention in the team room. There's not like a big ‘25’ sitting in there anywhere. They are well aware of it, and they are well aware of how difficult it is to win in Europe. That's the battle we fight this week,” said U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who was playing Q-School in ’93 when Love and Co. were winning at The Belfry.

There is no shortage of reasons for America’s European failures, nor is there some sort of secret sauce for reversing U.S. fortunes.

“I'll praise both the European Tour and the way they choose golf courses, venues where they have European Tour events,” Furyk said. “We're coming into a golf course that they know a lot better than we do, that will be set up in a fashion that they think suits their game. Those are obstacles we have to overcome.”

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Le Golf National annually hosts the French Open, and the setup this week has a distinctly European flare, with narrow fairways ringed by thick rough - mowed toward the tee box, no less - and relatively slower greens than what the Americans are used to on the PGA Tour.

Then there’s the crowd, a group that has proven itself formidable even when they travel to a U.S.. This week’s scene promises to be particularly intense from the outset, with the massive grandstand behind the first tee poised to hold more than 6,000 fans.

“They make a lot of noise,” Furyk said. “When we walk into that first tee, and they announce both teams, they are going to say, ‘And from the United States,’ announce two guys, and there's going to be a nice applause. And when they announce the two folks from Europe, there's going to be a giant roar and those players are going to feel that presence, and you're going to hear those roars around the golf course.”

And finally there will be pressure. We’re talking pressure the likes of which many have never experienced. Some would compare it to the intensity of being in contention during the final round at a major, but that really doesn’t do it justice.

The American contingent always wants to win for team and country, but this year’s matches bring in the added load of breaking a 25-year slide. The U.S. team will say the right things, dismiss the notion that somehow this Ryder Cup is more important than all others, but simmering under that calm exterior is the nagging truth.

“Phil [Mickelson] started in ’16 on the 18th green; he started talking about winning this Ryder Cup,” Love said. “We hadn’t even finished. He took someone off to the side of the green and said, ‘Look, in Paris it’s going to be a different ballgame. It’s an away game. We’re going to have to be on our game.’”

Ryder Cup captains always wear a variety of hats, but this week the U.S. leaders have taken on the role of arm-chair sports psychologists. It’s simple stuff really: Focus on your job and not the outcome; ignore the noise; win your point.

In an attempt to change his team room's mindset, Love is trying out a new narrative, that it’s been four years since a U.S. team Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team has lost.

“They have to hear that. We have won three in a row. Don’t worry about the last 25 years,” Love said.

For three days, the U.S. team has been busy trying to learn as much as they can about Le Golf National. You know the deal, luck favors the prepared. This match and America’s 25-year losing streak, however, may depend on what they’re able to forget.

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Tiger Tracker: 42nd Ryder Cup

By Tiger TrackerSeptember 26, 2018, 11:15 am

Fresh off his 80th PGA Tour victory at the Tour Championship, Tiger Woods is competing in his first Ryder Cup since 2012. We're tracking him.