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Jonathan Wall

GolfTube: Sizing up the coverage of the HSBC Champions

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No Woods, Mickelson or Kaymer? No problem ... for Francesco Molinari.

While Lee Westwood solidified his spot at the top of the world golf rankings with a second-place showing at the WGC-HSBC Champions event, the other half of the "Super Molinari" brothers was showing the rest of the world that he could win when it mattered most.

For an event that was promoted all week as a battle royale for the top spot in the world rankings, Molinari's wire-to-wire win wasn't exactly what the Golf Channel wanted to see. But with the rest of the field falling off the pace on Sunday, the head-to-head battle between the Italian and the top golfer in the world made for some compelling television.

Both players matched each other shot-for-shot, with Molinari coming out on top by one. The win added to a common theme that's been prevalent on the European and PGA Tour this year: when one top ranked player decides to show up, the rest of the top players in the field lay down. That was the case in Shanghai, where only one of the top four decided to show up and make a case for golf's top spot.

It's too bad the pre-tournament story line never lived up to the hype. Maybe golf's biggest guns can get on the same page next season and give us some must-see TV when they're all in the same field.

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Covering the field

Even though Tom Abbott, Renton Laidlaw and the rest of the European Tour commentary contingent have contracts with the Golf Channel, you wouldn't know it from the coverage that goes on each week on the network.

Everything has a decidedly Sky Sports-esque feel to it - all the way down to the hole flyovers and leaderboards. It's one of the reasons why the European Tour broadcasts are such a different feel from the usual PGA Tour broadcasts during the year.

Another one of the differences between the broadcasts? The equal coverage of the players in the field. As opposed to having all-Tiger, all the time, the HSBC tried their best to show coverage of the top four players in the world, going back-and-forth between Mickelson, Woods, Westwood and Kaymer during Thursday's opening round.

They - gasp - didn't show all of Tiger's shots, and occasionally spent more time following Westwood and Kaymer around the course.

While the network could have easily gotten away with showing most - if not all - of Woods' opening round - especially after he opened with a 4-under 68 - the number of big names near the top warranted equal coverage.

Thankfully, the coverage continued in that manner for the rest of the tournament.

The Albatross has landed?

If Francesco Molinari's wire-to-wire win was the biggest story of the HSBC, then Padraig Harrington's albatross during the third round, on the par 5 15th hole, was story 1A.

It's just a shame the Golf Channel didn't get a better view of the shot. While it's impossible to predict when these shots are going to happen, the replay almost looked scripted.

The cameras caught Harrington following through on his shot, only for a camera to snap in tight as a ball rolled in the hole. Whether that ball rolling in the hole was Harrington's was never confirmed. For all we know it was a five-footer that Westwood made on the previous hole.

Golf Channel commentator Renton Laidlaw had an interesting note during Sunday's final round on Harrington's shot.

Whether anybody noticed it or not, the hole-out was followed by a host of errors by Harrington, leading Laidlaw to wonder if the albatross had a negative effect on the rest of his round.

"He nearly had it going yesterday," Laidlaw said of Harrington's third round. "In a way I think the albatross yesterday affected his concentration over the last couple of holes. He actually dropped two shots in his last four holes, when he was looking to pick up. That cost him dear - especially when he dropped shots on two of the easiest holes, 16 and 18."

Letdown on the links

No Woods, Mickelson or Kaymer? No problem. While the Golf Channel probably wished one of the three players mentioned had stepped up to the challenge of knocking Lee Westwood off the number one pedestal, it was clear from the start that it was never meant to be.

Even a Westwood-Molinari final round battle wasn't enough to keep Julian Tutt from stating the obvious: Lee Westwood is playing on another level at the moment.

"Lee Westwood held up his end of the bargain this week, playing some brilliant golf in the process," said on-course commentator Julian Tutt. "There's a reason why he's the number one player in the world at the moment. I'm not sure any of the other three players are on his level right now."

Warren Humphrey tried to make excuses for Woods and Mickelson's sub-par showings:

"Phil Mickelson always says it takes him a couple of weeks to get his game in order after a long layoff, and Tiger has been working on his swing recently so you don't know what to expect from him," said on-course commentator Warren Humphreys during the third round.

Yul better know this kid

Noh Seung-yul is a name that's not often mentioned in golf circles. While the 18-year-old became the second-youngest winner in European Tour history earlier this year, his lack of face time on the PGA Tour has made him a relative unknown to casual fans.

On-course commentator, Julian Tutt, threw out some interesting tidbits during the broadcast about the young Korean, mentioning that while his career is on the rise, it could be halted in the near future.

"He's got all the talent in the world," Tutt said during Thursday broadcast. "But the one thing that could hold him back is that he still has to serve two years [in the military]. I'm not sure if he's going to get an exemption at this point - even if he's playing some brilliant golf."

Hard as it is to believe, Noh still has to serve in the Korean military before he can concentrate fully on his golf career.

Tiger Talk

With the exception of discussions early in the week when Tiger Woods was still in contention, the coverage of the world's second ranked golfer was decidedly subdued.

However, the one Tiger topic that did linger throughout the week was Woods' fall from the top spot in the world golf rankings.

"It seems strange to call him [world number two]," said commentator Tom Abbott. "He was the best player in the world for such a long time, but now he's playing catch-up to [Lee Westwood].

"Woods has been working with Sean Foley since the PGA Championship and still says that he's trying to understand the changes. And although it's been working pretty well on the range, he's still finding it hard to commit to those changes on the golf course."

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