Rory McIlroy won an unofficial event last week in Shanghai.
Paul Childs/Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com
Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The winner of this week's WGC-HSBC Champions at Shanghai's Sheshan International Golf Club will earn just under $1.2 million. He will qualify for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua in January, he will accrue valuable World Ranking points, and, if he is a member of the European tour, his winnings will count on the official money list.

If he is a member of the PGA Tour, though, HSBC will count as an official victory, but not as official money. Luke Donald, who withdrew from the HSBC to be with his pregnant wife, already won the money title in America. It's over [MDASH] but only here. What's not over is the PGA Tour's Player of the Year race, which major winners Keegan Bradley and Charl Schwartzel can theoretically win with another victory in Shanghai, since the Tour postponed sending out the ballots until after HSBC. Got all that?

Also not over is the race for the European Tour money title, which Donald leads by about $1.8 million over Golf Magazine's Player of the Year, Rory McIlroy. After playing the pro-am in the rain Wednesday, with girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki following the action, McIlroy said, "I feel like I've got a chance to cut into the lead a little bit." That might be an understatement. Not only is McIlroy coming off a playoff victory over Anthony Kim at the Shanghai Masters last weekend, the U.S. Open champ finished fifth at Sheshan last year and fourth in 2009.

One of the fastest rising new cliches is that golf is a global game now; sit in any press conference at any tournament and it's only a matter of time until it wafts over the audience, sometimes with its dull friends, It is what it is, and, I can only control my own game out there. But it's true. Only 14 European tour members played in the (inaugural) 1999 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, but by the time of the 2011 Accenture, 30 of the 64 players were Euro tour members, who made up six of the top 10 and 20 of the top 30 in the World Ranking.

The best players come from all over, and they play all over, and the game's relatively new international emphasis can make following it somewhat complicated. McIlroy won $2 million at the Shanghai Masters, which is not sanctioned by any of the major tours, the same day Sergio Garcia won the European Tour's Andalucia Masters last weekend, but only Garcia earned World Ranking points. He won for the second week in a row after an 11-stroke romp at the Castello Masters, but only the Andalucia win got him into the HSBC. (It turns out to be a moot point as he's not playing anyway.) Bo Van Pelt won the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic the day Garcia and McIlroy won, but while the CIMB is a PGA Tour co-sanctioned event, Van Pelt's was not an official victory, nor were his winnings official prize money, in the eyes of the PGA Tour.

So you have to read the fine print. Donald leads the Euro money list, but he is no sure thing to become the first player to bank the most money on both sides of the Atlantic in the same season. Seven more tournaments over six weeks, ending with the Dubai World Championship Dec. 8-11, could rearrange the standings.

The chase pack will be out in force at Sheshan, including McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and others. Noticeably absent this year: Tiger Woods, who has plummeted to 56th in the world and did not qualify, and Phil Mickelson, who is taking the week off before coming back at next week's Barclays Singapore Open.

Also absent from the HSBC will be Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Steve Stricker, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar, which isn't to say the tournament is short on glitz. According to a report by Golfweek's Alex Miceli, Bradley, coming off a victory at the Grand Slam of Golf, arrived at his villa at Sheshan to find he would be afforded his own private chef and butler for the week. (Hey, that's one way to create jobs.)

Another win by Bradley would shine even more light on one of the strangest turns of the year: his omission from the U.S. Presidents Cup team that will take on the International side in Melbourne, Nov. 17-20, despite having won two tournaments, including the PGA Championship.

Others like Hunter Mahan [MDASH] winless in 2011, he qualified via the FedEx Cup points list [MDASH] aim to build momentum for Royal Melbourne.

If golf is to continue toward globalism [MDASH] and many, including the vocal Westwood, say there's no point in calling them the World Golf Championships if they're all going to be in America [MDASH] then expect the future to include more important far-away tournaments like the HSBC.

Seniors bring season to a close at TPC Harding Park
Only five players have a mathematical chance at winning the season-long Schwab Cup points race as the Champions tour winds to a close at the Schwab Cup Championship at Harding Park: Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia, Peter Senior, John Cook and Russ Cochran.

Cook, who will replace Michael Jordan as Fred Couples's assistant at the Presidents Cup, is the two-time defending champion at Harding, although he won the '09 Schwab Championship at Sonoma G.C.

Lehman, who shot a final-round 75 to tie for fifth at the 1998 U.S. Open at San Francisco's Olympic Club, needs a solo second or better at Harding to win the season-long chase. He would become the first to win Player of the Year on the Nationwide, PGA and Champions tours.

Short game:
Graeme McDowell, who was the defending champion at the Andalucia Masters last week, shot 81-82 on the weekend to finish 25 over par and in last place. ... Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer's grandson, shot 17-under to earn medalist honors in the first stage of Q school at St. Johns Golf and Country Club in St. Augustine, Fla. Travis Wadkins, son of Lanny, also advanced to the second stage. ... Dustin Johnson still hasn't hired a new caddie since Joe LaCava left to join Team Tiger, but he'll have Keith Sbarbaro, TaylorMade's vice president of tour operations, on the bag for the Presidents Cup. Sbarbaro will tweet about his experiences on TaylorMade's Twitter handle, @taylormadegc ... Richie Ramsay, the Scot who finished in third place at last year's HSBC, nine strokes behind Westwood and 10 behind Molinari, is coming off a third-place finish at Andalucia. ... The Nationwide Tour Championship, which had been played at Daniel Island, S.C., returns to TPC Craig Ranch outside Dallas starting next year. ... After earning enough in just five starts to put him inside the top 150 on the 2011 PGA Tour money list, Adam Hadwin of Canada was waved through the second stage of Q school and into the finals, which start Nov. 30 at PGA West.

 

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