Asian swing a significant move for PGA Tour
>Taking a few minutes away from the communications law book and the latest Tiger rules chatter to get to a few other subjects in golf.
To call it historic might be too strong, but this week's visit to Malaysia is nonetheless a significant first for the PGA Tour.
The CIMB Classic, which begins Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, marks the first time the PGA Tour will play an official points-earning, money-counting event in Asia. The following week it moves to China for the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Two weeks, two Asia-based PGA Tour events, both of which earn FedEx Cup points and a spot in the Masters, and count toward the season-long money list.
How big is it? Well, Asia, one of the game's emerging markets, had sort of passed by the PGA Tour. While commissioner Tim Finchem has understandably sought to strengthen his domestic events while watching over the World Golf Championshp events -- three of which are played in the U.S. -- the European Tour moved into Asia.
This year the European Tour is playing five times in China, South Korea or Malaysia. Throw in four events in United Arab Emirates and Qatar, and that's nine tournaments total.
Now the PGA Tour can claim two.
The CIMB Classic and the HSBC Champions have been around for awhile. This is the fourth year for the CIMB, which is being played for the first time at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club. Nick Watney is the defending champion. Tiger Woods, who is not playing, tied for fourth last year.
The HSBC Champions dates to 2005 but didn't become a World Golf Championship event until 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament for a second time.
But it doesn't count among Mickelson's 42 PGA Tour victories because it wasn't official. It didn't count on the money list nor did he get FedEx Cup points for it. All of that changes now, and while it might not cause the earth to shake, it is a new step for the PGA Tour.
As for this week, the CIMB Classic has a 78-player field, with more than 30 who competed in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. It includes the top 60 available players from the final FedEx Cup list as well as the top 10 available players from the Asian Tour money list.
Among those in the field this week are Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson, Bill Haas and Sergio Garcia. In all, there are 19 players from the top 50 in the world, a figure a good number of PGA Tour events would understandably covet.
The purse is $7 million, with $1.26 million going to the winner, and there's no cut. Next week, they'll play for an $8 million purse, again without a cut.
Now that these tournaments count on the PGA Tour, look for these events to gain even more traction.
At The Turn
Okay, so Jordan Spieth turned 20 in July. And he won a tournament and more than $3.8 million as a rookie.
But if that doesn't cause some feelings of envy, perhaps this will: Last week, Spieth played Pine Valley and Augusta National -- in the same day. The two courses are generally regarded among the top venues in the United States.
After playing Pine Valley, Spieth tweeted: "Golf Day to remember today. Pine Valley is incredible! The 18th is just one of the many amazing views." He then jetted to Augusta where he tweeted: "The back nine at Augusta this evening. Only group on the course. Heaven on earth."
When the PGA of America's Pete Bevaqua told GolfWorld recently that the organization will consider taking the PGA Championship overseas, it understandably was met with varying reaction. On the negative side, of course, is the fact that organization has "America" in its name, and thus the desire to keep in the United States every year.
But there are some intriguing ideas to explore when it comes an overseas move -– Bevaqua said perhaps once or twice a decade -– and it would finally give the PGA Championship a distinctive aspect to its résumé.
With three of the four major championships held in the United States while golf is growing around the world, it makes sense to move the tournament to some other locales at least occasionally. Australia immediately comes to mind, specifically Royal Melbourne -– where the Presidents Cup was played in 2011 and where the Australian Masters and World Cup of Golf will be staged next month.
Nobody would argue with the venue.
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Other places mentioned were South Africa, China and perhaps South America, where golf will return to the Olympics in Brazil in 2016.
Olympic years might offer the best opportunity for a move. The schedule is extremely crowded in 2016, and the PGA Championship really gets squeezed as it needs to come after the Open Championship in July and prior to the Olympics, which begin in early August.
In 2020, it might be nice for the PGA to be played in the winter -- say, Australia's summer -- so as to move away from the Olympics and give golf a big boost in some great location.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is the desires of U.S. television networks. Playing overseas can be dicey with big time changes. Australia offers the possibility of nighttime golf in the U.S., although it is inevitable that the telecasts would run past midnight on the East Coast.
1. Webb Simpson. His first victory since the 2012 U.S. Open was the fourth of his PGA Tour career, and it came by six strokes in Las Vegas.
2. Ryo Ishikawa. The Japanese phenom had fallen on some tough times of late, but now has consecutive top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour, including a tie for second in Las Vegas – meaning he is well on his way to securing his tour card through two events.
3. Rory McIlroy. You'd be hard-pressed to name another player in the field, but McIlroy finished second at the Kolon Korean Open, a bright spot in an otherwise tough year.
1. Andres Romero. He opened the Shriners Hospitals tournament with a 61 - then followed with an 81 to miss the cut. Ouch.
2. The PGA Grand Slam of Golf. A good idea - bringing together the game's major champions for the year - isn't as good when all don't show (Phil Mickelson skipped). And now that it's played during the official season, the event is more awkward. Masters champ Adam Scott added a pink jacket to his wardrobe for his victory.
3. Kim Hyung-tae. He lost the Korean Open when he was assessed a two-shot penalty for grounding his club in a hazard. Kim argued the penalty for two hours and had three members of a rules committee on his side, yet still suffered his fate and ended up losing the tournament by a shot.
When Padraig Harrington fell to 101st in the Official World Golf Rankings last week, it was the first time the Irishman had dropped out of the top 100 in more than 14 years. According to irishgolfdesk.com, only five current players have had a longer presence in the top 100, led by Ernie Els, whose place among the top 100 dates to March 1, 1992.
Els is followed by Phil Mickelson (Aug. 22, 1993), Jim Furyk (Oct. 15, 1995), Tiger Woods (Oct. 6, 1995) and Sergio Garcia (July 4, 1999). Harrington, who has not won on either the PGA or European tours since his 2008 PGA Championship victory, first entered the top 100 on Aug. 15, 1999).
While the PGA Tour is in Malaysia, the European Tour is playing the first of two straight weeks in Shanghai at the BMW Masters. It is one of four events in the Race to Dubai Final Series. Next week is the WGC-HSBC Champions (which is also a PGA Tour event), followed by the Turkish Airlines Open and the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. ... Rory McIlroy gets a lot of attention for not having won this year, but he'll be joined in Shanghai by Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood -– none of whom has a victory this year, either. ... Ryo Ishikawa's tie for second in Las Vegas was his first top-10 on the PGA Tour since a tie for 10th at the Byron Nelson Championship in May. Ishikawa regained his PGA Tour card at the Web.com Tour Finals (he had three straight top-10s in those events). ...There were seven UNLV alums in the field at Las Vegas, led by Charley Hoffman, who tied for fourth. ...After shooting 11-under 60 in the opening round in Las Vegas, J.J. Henry failed to break 70 the rest of the way and tied for 15th. ... Another thing to keep in mind with the start of the new season: Ryder Cup points. Only the major championships counted in 2013, but now every event through the PGA Championship will count toward making the U.S. team. Phil Mickelson leads the way, followed by Jason Dufner, Webb Simpson and Jimmy Walker. Tiger Woods is sixth. ... The Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship begins Thursday in China, where Guan Tianlang defends his title.
"This year I feel like I've gotten better, but I hadn't won. And I felt a lot better mentally, too. It was nice to finish [my] year off with a W." -- Webb Simpson after his victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, his first since the 2012 U.S. Open.