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Bunker Shots Asian Invasion

Blasting into the week ahead, from Asia to Bubble Boy Mania.PGA Tour

PGA Tour

CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia

This inaugural tournament is billed as a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

What’s that mean? It does not mean the winner gets credit for an official PGA Tour victory or claims the two-year exemption that usually goes with official victories. And, thus, it does not mean money won will count as official money.

Mostly, it means the PGA Tour sees a benefit in partnering with the event, much the same way it sees the benefit in partnering with Tiger Woods’ Chevron World Challenge, which also doesn’t carry official-victory or official-money status.

Mostly, in the new CIMB Asia Pacific Classic, the PGA Tour sees a future in Asia and wants another foot in the door to the Far East.

What kind of future?

“As far as I have heard, the Asia Pacific Classic is going to become a full-field event in the future, and will count towards the PGA Tour Money List,” Jeev Milkha Singh wrote in a story special to the Gulf News of the United Arab Emirates.

Whether that’s the reality remains to be seen as we all wait to see what kind of plans the PGA Tour has in the Far East. The event is followed a week later by the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, China.

Bunker shot: Ernie Els spoke last week about how he’ll tailor down his international schedule next year, but he’s making the most of this year. Els is the second highest ranked player in this week’s 40-man field at No. 11 in the Official World Golf Ranking (only No. 8 Luke Donald ranks ahead of him). Els is also scheduled to play in next week’s WGC-HSBC Champions. Els, Donald, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott, Tim Clark and Rickie Fowler are among the draws this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Luke Donald. Contender – Adam Scott. Dark horse – Ben Crane.

Course: The Mines Resort & Golf Club, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Purse: $6 million (winner’s share, $1 million).

TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Sunday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Inaugural event.


LPGA Tour _new

LPGA Hana Bank Championship

Paula Creamer moved back into the top 10 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Ranking this week off a fourth-place finish at the Masters GC Ladies on the Japan LPGA Tour last weekend. She’s among eight of the top 10 in the world rankings in this week’s field. No. 3 Ai Miyazato and No. 5 Yani Tseng are the only top-10 players who aren’t scheduled to play in the 54-hole event in South Korea.

Bunker shot: Cristie Kerr reclaimed the No. 1 ranking she so desperately wanted this week, but it won’t be easy holding on to the top spot down the home stretch of the season with so many players grouped so close at the top of the Rolex world rankings. No. 2 Jiyai Shin and No. 4 Suzann Pettersen have a chance to ascend to No. 1 with victories this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Na Yeon Choi. Contender – Song Hee Kim. Dark horse – Meena Lee.

Course: Sky 72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course, Incheon, South Korea. Par 72, 6,364 yards.

Purse: $1.8 million (winner’s share, $270,000).

TV times: Golf Channel, Friday-Sunday, noon to 2 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Na Yeon Choi won, defeating Yani Tseng and Maria Hjorth by a shot.

Champions Tour

Champions Tour

AT&T Championship

Though the money list hovers as a major storyline this week, so does the golf course.

Oak Hills, a favorite venue among Champions Tour veterans, is in the final year of hosting the championship on the A.W. Tillinghast-designed course. The event’s moving next year to the AT&T Canyons Course at TPC San Antonio, ending Oak Hills’ 29-year run as home to a Tour event. This week’s event is the last before the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. The top 30 on the money list advance to next week’s season-ending event.

Bunker shot: Nobody ought to be sadder to see the event moving away from Oak Hills than John Cook, who won Champions Tour starts there in ’07 and ’08 and sports a 66.7 scoring average in nine rounds on the course.

Mell’s picks: Winner – John Cook. Contender – Bernhard Langer. Dark horse – Mark Wiebe.

Course: Oak Hills Country Club, San Antonio, Texas. Par 71, 6,670 yards.

Purse: $1.75 million (winner’s share, $255,000).

TV times: Golf Channel, Friday-Sunday, 4:30-7 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Phil Blackmar claimed his first Champions Tour title, finishing a shot ahead of Jay Haas, Tom Kite and Andy Bean.


Nationwide Tour Championship at Daniel Island

It’s choke or thrive time for the PGA Tour’s developmental circuit.

Twenty-nine tournaments come down to this pressure-packed finale.

The Nationwide Tour’s season-ending event offers up Q-School like pressure with players trying to finish among the top 25 on the money list and earn their promotions to the PGA Tour next year.

Bunker shot: Jamie Lovemark sits atop the money list with Chris Nallen “on the bubble” at No. 25, but all 60 players in the field have mathematical chances to win PGA Tour cards. Players who finish 26th-40th in money are exempt into the final stage of Q-School in December.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Won Joon Lee. Contender – Kevin Chappell. Dark horse – Jeff Curl.

Course: Daniel Island Club’s Ralston Creek Course, Charleston, S.C. Par 72, 7,446 yards.

Purse: $1 million (winner’s share: $180,000).

TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Sunday, 2-4:30 p.m. (ET).

Last year: Matt Every won, finishing three shots ahead of Michael Sim.