The HSBC Champions teed off in Shanghai on Thursday and, despite attracting 40 of the world’s top 50 golfers, the Chinese won’t be paying much attention. That’s because there’s no Tiger Woods and no Rory McIlroy.
Tiger has an excuse – he’s been injured and hasn’t played since August – but Rory? Officially, he’s preparing for a court case 4-6 months from now. Unofficially, he’s tired after a long season, China is a long way away, he’s still likely to win the big end of season climax without playing here, he won’t make as much money as last year, or perhaps a little of everything. Whatever the truth, it doesn’t reflect too well on McIlroy – and it hurts Chinese golf too. This week’s Sports Talk column is below: Continue reading Rory’s China snub does double damage→
The long-awaited PGA Tour China Series – a collaboration between the PGA Tour and the China Golf Association – teed off on Thursday at the Mission Hills resort in Haikou on Hainan island, the first of 12 tournaments that will run throughout the year.
To say scores were low on Saturday at the HSBC Champions at the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai is something of an understatement. The top five players of the day combined for a total of 41-under-par. Five players. Leading the way was Martin Kaymer, now in 7th, who shot ten birdies for a course record of 62 – beating the mark of 63 he tied two years ago while winning this tournament. Next came Ian Poulter with a 63 (2nd), and Graeme McDowell with a 64 (3rd), and so on…
Despite taking the first set 6-2, Li Na lost the final of the WTA Championships in Istanbul (the last before the end-of-season showpiece moves to Singapore next year), as world number one Serena Williams won the next two sets 6-3, 6-0. It was Serena’s 11th title of the year, and her 10th win in 11 games against Li Na, but after going into the game as a massive underdog, Li can be happy she at least forced a third set. Crucially, she now moves up to 3rd in the world rankings – a career high – by leapfrogging both Maria Sharapova and Agnieszka Radwanska.
American Luke Guthrie takes a four-shot lead into the weekend at the BMW Masters in Shanghai, after an up-and-down 1-under par 71 took him to -8, while Paul Casey headlines a group of six players in second place on 4-under par. My prediction that John Daly would start brightly fade and then fade badly was largely right: two bogeys and a double bogey in the last five holes gave him a 2-over-par 74, to put him tied for 9th on 2-under par. But Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter are among those lurking on 1-under-par and it should be a good weekend.
John Daly is the Mike Tyson of golf: you never know what’s coming next, but you can’t look away. During a brief visit to the BMW Masters at Lake Malaren Golf Club in Shanghai on Thursday, I watched as Daly – at that time leading the tournament at 4-under-par – hit his drive on the 18th hole straight into the rough, just a few yards from where I was standing. As the trio of Daly, England’s Simon Khan and home favorite Wu Ashun prepared to play their shots, Daly looked on incredulously as one of the walking marshals stood on his ball, pushing it further into the grass.
“Oh man! You just stood on my ball! You just stood on my ball, didn’t you?”
Today marks the start of a big couple of weeks for Rory McIlroy in China. His second-place finish in last week’s Korea’s Open, despite an awful third round, would suggest he’s back to something approaching his best, but as the papers never fail to remind him, he remains without a win this year – and after five wins (including a major) in 2012, that’s quite a comedown. Here’s his upcoming schedule: