Asia Minor?

By Jason SobelOctober 27, 2011, 7:43 pm

A few weeks ago, Lee Westwood participated in what can only be described as the boondoggliest boondoggle in recent memory. Teamed with Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Liang Wen-Chong, the four elite-level professionals played 18 holes of golf across China over an eight-day span.

Yes, that’s right – an average of 2.25 holes per day. In their spare time – and let’s face it, there was plenty of spare time – the players partied like they were auditioning for roles in “The Hangover 3” and were feted with lavish gifts. For his troubles, Westwood was even awarded his own villa, for goodness sake.

At one point in the middle of this epic ’doggle, a reporter sidled up to the world’s second-ranked player and asked him whether Asia should host its own major championship. What’s he supposed to say? No? Like an obedient guest, he gave the home crowd the answer for which it was clamoring.

'I think the men's game has got it pretty much right, although I'd like to see another major somewhere else in the world – somewhere like Asia or Australia,' Westwood said. 'I see the way that the Asian economy and markets have supported golf over the last few years and they deserve to have big tournaments there.'

It speaks volumes about the game’s advancement in Asia that immediate reaction to these comments varied from “He’s got a point there,” to “Well, not yet, but soon.” There’s no denying the impact golf is having on Asia, but it’s the inverse result – Asia’s impact on golf – which is truly unlimited.

After all, the biggest potential growth market is Asia. The preceding could be an explanatory sentence into the examination of such fields as financial or technology, as the continent currently carries the greatest upside in so many realms, but in this case it refers to golf – and where the game is progressing on all levels at the most rapid pace.

For the next two weeks, the eyes of the golf world will be firmly affixed on Asia, with the Shanghai Masters and PGA Tour-sanctioned CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia currently taking place in advance of the WGC-HSBC Champions. That these tournaments are already luring elite golfers to the Far East proves that a transition in the balance of power is already under way.

“There are so many courses and so many tournaments now [in Asia],” said Vijay Singh, who is playing in this week’s CIMB. “When we played here [a few years ago], we were trying to look for tournaments to play in. Nowadays, we can pick and choose what we want to play. That’s the big change. Golf in Asia is so much bigger now. You have courses wherever you go. The opportunities are there for the game to grow further.”

Though it’s been a gradual process, one particular tipping point occurred two years ago, when South Korea-born Y.E. Yang became the first player to defeat Tiger Woods in come-from-behind fashion at a major championship, claiming the PGA Championship title. Soon thereafter, the first Asian Amateur Championship was contested, organized in conjunction with The Masters Tournament and featuring a berth in the field of the year’s first major to the winner.

The future appears bright, as well. While only one Asian-born player – Players Championship winner K.J. Choi at No. 13 – ranks within the top 20 on the Official World Golf Ranking, three are currently inside the top 10 on the World Amateur Ranking, including No. 5 Hideki Matsuyama, the two-time defending champion of the Asian Amateur.

It’s a phenomenon that has subsisted for years on the ladies’ side of the game, with Se Ri Pak spurring a movement of top professional golfers from the region. The current Rolex Ranking includes runaway No. 1 player Yani Tseng and her 10 worldwide victories this season as one of five Asians in the top 10, while a total of 15 rank inside the top 25. The LPGA has also adapted to contesting tournaments in Asia quicker than its PGA Tour counterpart, with a total of five tournaments being played there in 2011.

All of which has led to increased growth that isn’t being seen elsewhere in the world. While the number of courses being designed and built in the United States and other countries has been relatively nonexistent in recent years, expansion in China has not only failed to deteriorate, but continues to improve (although Jack Nicklaus recently said construction is shut down in Asia).

'They're building golf courses daily here. This is a place you want to market yourself,' explained Hunter Mahan, who is playing in Shanghai this week. 'No question this is one of those events I think is going to grow through time and get bigger and bigger and I'm excited to be at the beginning part of it.'

It may not mean that Asia is ready to host its own major championship anytime soon, but just the fact that there’s a conversation proves that progress is being made and golf’s boundaries continue to spread globally.

The golf world will be focused on Asia-based events over the next two weeks, but we should pay attention during all other times, too, because the Far East focus isn’t shifting away anytime soon.

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Descending into golf's depths, and trying to dig out

By Brandel ChambleeApril 23, 2018, 3:05 pm

Watching Alvaro Quiros finish second this past week in Morocco, I was reminded of just how rare it is for player to come back from the depths of golf hell.

Quiros, a player of immense ability, hype and length, won the Dubai World Championship – his sixth win in four years – to close out 2011 and then went down the rabbit hole of trying to change his golf swing. He would miss 11 cuts in 2012 and either miss the cut or withdraw in another 41 European Tour events over the next four years. Because he hadn’t won a major championship, his epic backwards slide in the world rankings (435th prior to this past week) mostly went unnoticed – but it was far from unusual.

Ian Baker-Finch won the 1991 Open Championship, but just three years later, when he played 20 events on the PGA Tour and missed 14 cuts, he no longer looked anything like a recent major champion. In 1995, he played in 18 events and either missed the cut, withdrew or was disqualified from every one of them. In 1996, he missed the cut in all 11 events he entered on the PGA Tour; and in 1997, he shot 92 in the first round of The Open, withdrew from the championship and stopped playing professional golf.

Like Quiros, Baker-Finch’s downfall came after his biggest win, when he finally thought he had the time, because of the 10-year exemption he received, to change his golf swing.

David Duval won the 2001 Open Championship and just two years later he shot 83-78 in the same event and missed the cut, which was one 16 events he either missed the cut or withdrew from that year. In 2005, he missed 18 cuts in 19 starts. Duval’s competitive demise may well have been precipitated by injuries and an existential malaise after winning golf’s oldest championship, but it was accompanied by queries far and wide as to how to correct his swing and thinking, just like Baker-Finch before him and Quiros thereafter.

These desperate searches for help, like the indelible ink stains on dyer’s hands, are the one common thread amongst those who suffer from the absolute negation of their technical and then creative abilities. Those who take as indisputable the theories of others are, in the deepest sense, wounding their own intuition. They are controverting the evidence of their own senses in such a way that is comforting to the insecure player, but tragic to the artist. To quote Carl Jung: “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

As I write this, PGA Tour winners Steven Bowditch (1,885th in the world) and Smylie Kaufman (337th) are in similar downward spirals in their careers and no doubt are desperate for, and susceptible to any suggestion.

One player they can look to who made it back from the frantic madness that accompanies losing one’s game, is Henrik Stenson. He put his trust in one man, Pete Cowen, even though while working with Pete he missed 14 cuts in 2002, followed by 15 missed cuts in 2003, and 11 in 2004. What Stenson did not do was panic and run from teacher to teacher, from shrink to shrink, as the missed cuts piled up.

Stenson, with Cowen’s help, slowly built one of the most reliable swings in the history of the game. A swing that regularly leads events in fairways found and greens hit in regulation. A swing that authored the lowest score ever shot in major championship history. A swing that is a far cry from the OB-launching swipes he was taking in late-2001 and 2002.

Given the soul-eating depths of where he came from, a place from which few have dug themselves out of, I watch Stenson play golf with a far great admiration than I otherwise would, and similarly was pulling for Quiros in Morocco. The same way I am pulling for Bowditch and Kaufman to find their games again.

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Langer skipping Senior PGA for son's HS graduation

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 2:53 pm

Defending champion Bernhard Langer will miss this year’s Senior PGA Championship to attend his son’s high school graduation.

Langer made the announcement Monday, during Senior PGA media day at Harbor Shores in Michigan. The event will be held May 24-27.

“I won’t be able to defend my title this year because my son graduates from high school that very same weekend,” he said. “Family comes first in my life, so I have to be there to celebrate.”

Langer said that his son, Jason, will play golf for the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. Langer and his family live in South Florida.

Langer won last year’s event at Trump National outside Washington, D.C. The 60-year-old has no wins but three runners-up in eight senior starts this season.  

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Landry reaches OWGR career high after Valero win

By Will GrayApril 23, 2018, 12:40 pm

After notching his first career PGA Tour win at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry also reached unprecedented heights in the latest installment of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Landry shot a final-round 68 at TPC San Antonio to win by two shots, and in the process he cracked the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time at age 30. Landry started the week ranked No. 114, but he's now up to 66th. The move puts him within reach of a possible U.S. Open exemption, given that the top 60 in the May 21 rankings will automatically qualify for Shinnecock Hills.

Trey Mullinax went from No. 306 to No. 169 with his T-2 finish in San Antonio, while fellow runner-up Sean O Hair jumped 29 spots to No. 83 in the world. Jimmy Walker, who finished alone in fourth, went from No. 88 to No. 81 while fifth-place Zach Johnson moved up five spots to No. 53.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Alexander Levy took home the title at the European Tour's Trophee Hassan II, allowing the Frenchman to move from No. 66 to No. 47. With no OWGR points available at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Levy is guaranteed to stay inside the top 50 next week, thereby earning a spot in The Players.

Idle since an MDF result at the Houston Open, former world No. 1 Lee Westwood dropped two spots to No. 100 this week. It marks the first time Westwood has been ranked 100th or worse in nearly 15 years, ending a streak of consistency that dates back to September 2003.

The top 10 in the rankings remained the same, with Dustin Johnson leading off at No. 1 followed by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Justin Rose. Rickie Fowler remains No. 6 with Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Sergio Garcia rounding out the top 10.

With no starts announced until the U.S. Open in June, Tiger Woods dropped two more spots to No. 91 in the latest rankings.

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What's in the bag: Valero Texas Open winner Landry

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 23, 2018, 12:34 pm

Andrew Landry won his first PGA Tour event at the Valero Texas Open. Here's a look inside the winners' bag.

Driver: Ping G30 (9 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 65X shaft

Fairway woods: Ping G (14.5 degrees adjusted to 15.5), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 75X shaft; (17.5 degrees), with Project X HZRDUS Yellow 85X shaft

Irons: Ping iBlade (3-PW), with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 105 S shafts

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM7 (52, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts

Putter: Ping PLD ZB-S

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x