Pretty clear, right? Well, actually, no. As this article from shougolf.com points out [in Chinese], it turns out that the Washington Post and the BBC (its two main targets) and others jumped the gun somewhat on their “China bans golf/golf club memberships” headlines.
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…
[UPDATE: Fresh off his Hainan payday and his visit to the Venetian Macao, Tiger spent Friday at the Marina Bay Sands casino-hotel in Singapore, where he held a clinic for young golfers and dyslexic children. Again, call me cynical, but the kids + special needs combo is fooling no one: clearly it’s easier to bank a large, guaranteed sum for a couple of hours of work than fight it out over four rounds with the other pros, even if the $8.5 million on offer this week in Shanghai means there’s plenty to go around. These promotional appearances, by the way, have apparently been in the pipeline for “well over a year”, meaning they would have been on his calendar before any golf tournaments were added].
Apologies if you read the headline and were expecting a story about a dance producer on the rampage in a glitzy club. Marginally less rock and roll – but only by a whisker – was Dustin Johnson’s 9-under-par round of 63 on Friday at the HSBC Champions that took him to 12-under, five shots clear of Bubba Watson, Boo Weekley and first round leader Rory McIlroy. DJ’s round was four shots better than anyone else and included ten birdies and a lone bogey on the 10th.
It turns that hollow one-shot victory against a sick, rusty and disinterested Tiger Woods in Hainan may just have done enough to get Rory McIlroy’s season back on track. Paired with Jason Dufner and Luke Donald in the opening round of the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, McIlroy opened birdie-bogey. But six birdies in nine holes took him to -6, and another birdie on the 8th hole (his 17th) put him at -7, two shots ahead of last week’s winner Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and chopsticks maestro Jamie Donaldson. McIlroy rated it as his best round of the year.
Many of the world’s top golfers are in Shanghai right now for the HSBC Champions – an official event of both the European and PGA Tours – so the world’s golfing media are paying attention. And golfers like to tweet: Jason Dufner starting the whole #dufnering meme earlier this year, Ian Poulter likes to talk about his car collection, Rory McIlroy writes messages to his (possibly now ex-) girlfriend tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, Tiger Woods announced he was seeing Lindsay Vonn on social media and so on.
But China, as we know, has these rules about silly matters like Facebook and Twitter. It is also, as we know, not exactly hard to bypass those rules using a VPN. But apparently that is still news to many in the west, judging by this article from Golf Digest, titled “PGA Tour golfer D.A. Points and caddie Kip Henley are defying the Chinese government”.