Golf notebook: PGA Tour launches Chinese satellite circuit

Tom LaMarre, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

--The PGA Tour, while holding its first official event in China, the WGC-HSBC Champions, announced that it is making more inroads into that country, which is experiencing enormous golf growth.
The U.S. circuit will be partners in a new Chinese tour that kicks off with 12 tournaments in 2014.
The China Tour-PGA Tour China Series, modeled after what the U.S. tour did in Canada and Latin America, will begin in March with events that have purses of about $200,000.
"We know from looking at the history of golf that the growth of the game is driven first and foremost by the development of elite players," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.
"Having the opportunity to grow the elite players ... will also translate into the acceleration of the growth of the game in China, which is in all of our interests."
The China Tour-PGA Tour China Series is a partnership between the U.S. Tour and two Chinese organizations, the China Golf Association and the China Olympic Sports Industry.
Qualifying procedures have yet to be ironed out, but an unspecified number of the top players from China will have access to the Tour in the United States, the Triple-A circuit of the PGA Tour.
In making the move, the PGA Tour is trying to keep up with the European Tour, which first played in China in 1992 and has three events in the country -- the Volvo China Open, the BMW Masters and the Foshan Open, which is a tournament on its Challenge Tour.
"The mission is trying to bring not only China golfers into the Olympics, but also to be able to bring China golfers into the world-class level to showcase the development and the skill set of China golfers," said Zhang Xiaoning, executive vice president of the China Golf Association.
China is accelerating its golf program with the sport set to return to the Olympic Games for the first time in 112 years in 2016 at Rio de Janeiro.
--After Ernie Els criticized the European Tour for mandating that players must compete in two of the first three events of the Final Series to be eligible for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship-Dubai, the tour announced that changes are being contemplated.
There also was criticism in a panel discussion on the Golf Channel about why the WGC-HSBC Champions in China was part of the Final Series when only 78 players were in the elite field.
That left dozens of players trying to climb into the top 60 in the Race to Dubai and qualify for the finale with one fewer event to play down the stretch.
"The Final Series is a concept which was initiated through discussions with the membership of the European Tour and their input will continue to be important as the Final Series evolves and moves forward," said Keith Waters, chief operating officer and director of international policy for the European Tour.
Details of any changes will be announced by chief executive George O'Grady on the final Sunday of this year's DP World Tour Championship, Waters added.
The Final Four was a particularly difficult ask for players this year with two tournaments in China, one in Turkey and the final in Dubai.
Els skipped the BMW Masters in Shanghai, the first event of the Final Series, to play in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, and he decided not to compete last week in the Turkish Airlines Open.
That means even though he is 17th in the Race to Dubai standings after tying for 11th in the WGC-HSBC Champions, he isn't eligible for the finale in Dubai.
Henrik Stenson of Sweden, who captured the FedEx Cup on the PGA Tour, leads the Race to Dubai heading to the finale, followed in order by Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter.
--Brandt Snedeker returned home to Nashville, Tenn., and said that the left leg injury that forced him to withdraw from the Australian PGA Championship last week was caused when he lost his balance and landed awkwardly while hopping off a Segway scooter in China.
Snedeker was taking part in a corporate outing at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai when the injury occurred, and doctors determined that he bruised his left tibia and strained the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The injury came one day after he tied for 55th in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan.
"I felt a pop in my knee and pain," said Snedeker, who won twice on the PGA Tour in 2013 and is No. 9 in the World Golf Rankings. "Fortunately this is a relatively minor injury and no surgery is required, so that is good news.
"It could heal in two to three weeks, or six to eight. Different people heal differently."
Snedeker, who was diagnosed with low bone turnover earlier this year, has had four cracked ribs since 2007 and missed about six weeks of the 2013 season because of an injury in the ribcage area.
Following the 2010 season, Snedeker underwent surgery to correct a degenerative issue in his left hip, and he underwent a similar operation on his right hip the following year.
Snedeker hopes to play in the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club Thousand Oaks, Calif., on Dec. 5-8, and the Franklin Templeton Shootout a week later at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla.
--Tiger Woods took a 12-hour flight to Istanbul and 20 minutes later was involved in a Turkey Shoot.
Woods teed it up on a platform set up on the Bosphorus Bridge, which spans the Bosphorus Strait, separating Europe from Asia. Traffic was stopped on one side of the bridge as Woods hit several golf balls from Asia into Europe.
"I've never done that one before," said Woods, who played an exhibition against Rory McIlroy in China several days earlier. "I've hit balls down airports before on runways but never down a bridge. The scary part was just getting off a plane having flown for 12 hours and having to hit driver down the narrowest fairway I've ever seen.
"The wind was coming off the left a little bit, all these cars were driving on the right, so if I lose any balls to the right, there's an international incident right there. So, that was a little bit nerve-racking, but, trust me, every ball drew. But it was pretty cool. Somebody was telling me I hit one 550 meters (601 yards) or something like that, which was not bad."
The No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings was in Turkey to play last week in the Turkish Airlines Open on the Montgomerie Maxx Royal Golf Club in Antalya, on the Mediterranean Sea, where he tied for third.
The publicity stunt arranged by the Turkish government, which is a sponsor of the tournament, was criticized by many locals because to took place during one of the busiest traffic periods of the day, but thousands of people showed up to watch.
Woods reportedly received a $3 million appearance fee for playing in the tournament, a European Tour event, and the "Tin Cup" moment, hitting the ball down the road, apparently was part of the deal.
Pictures of the event were tweeted by Chubby Chandler of International Sports Management.
--Farmers Insurance extended its title sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open by five years, through 2019. The news was announced jointly by the PGA Tour, Farmers and the Century Club of San Diego, which manages the tournament.
The old contract was due to expire after next year's event, which will be played Jan. 23-26 on the North and South courses at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla.
The tournament was first played as the San Diego Open in 1953, when Ted Kroll claimed the title at San Diego Country Club in Chula Vista. It was played at six courses in the San Diego area before becoming a fixture at Torrey Pines in 1968.
Among the names on the trophy are Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Mark O'Meara, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Weiskopf, Jose Maria Olazabal, Tommy Bolt, Bob Goalby, Bob Rosburg, Bob Tway and San Diego natives Phil Mickelson, Gene Littler, Scott Simpson and Craig Stadler.
Tiger Woods claimed the title for a record seventh time earlier this year and also captured the 2008 U.S. Open on the South Course at Torrey Pines in an epic playoff with Rocco Mediate.

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