Monday, November 2, 2009

"There's never been anything on this scale in Asia before": Tim Maitland on WGC-HSBC Champions

This week may well be the biggest ever for professional golf in Asia. Not only are we expecting one of the most diverse fields ever in the 2nd stage of JLPGA Q-School just days before the joint LPGA-JLPGA Mizuno Classic--which will play a key role in determining the top players on each tour for 2009--but we will also see the strongest field ever in an Asian men's professional event. Tim Maitland has more on the WGC-HSBC Champions.

New Highs for Golf in Asia Expected at WGC-HSBC Champions
Tim Maitland

Asia's first World Golf Championships event is to set new landmarks for tournament golf in the world's most populous continent. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions at Shanghai's Sheshan International Golf Club is projected to have the strongest field of world-class golfers ever seen in Asia, according to the experts who compile the ratings system for golf globally.

"Although the field is yet to be finalised, our estimation is that the strength of field is such that this year's winner will receive 68 World Ranking points which is 30% more than in any previous year's winner. It is certainly the strongest field ever seen in Asia," said Ian Barker, the Administrator of the Official World Golf Ranking.

The World Ranking points for each tournament, except for Majors and certain other events which are given separate ratings to reflect their special status, are determined by a calculation based upon which of the world's top 200 players at the time are playing in the event. Barker confirmed that the 68 points projected for the WGC-HSBC Champions would make it the second-highest ranked event played outside the United States this year, behind only the (British) Open Championship.

Meanwhile, the Shanghai event is also thought to be one of the largest, if not the largest, televised golf tournament in the history of Asian golf. Although it's impossible to get precise comparable figures for other events, Richard Bunn, the Head of Operations for European Tour Productions, said the TV platform had to be setting new records.

"Undoubtedly! The hours of coverage and the global distribution that goes with WGC status means it will definitely be one of Asia's biggest televised golf events ever," said Bunn.

"We're projecting 1,000 hours of coverage worldwide reaching approximately 500 million homes globally. It's going to around 190 territories, it'll be live with repeat coverage on Golf Channel in the US, Canada and Australasia, Sky Sport in the UK, Supersport in South Africa, NHK Jupiter in Japan, SBS in South Korea among others. There’s never been anything on this scale in Asia before."

The final places in the field will be taken by the winners of this week's Volvo World Match Play Championship in Spain and the European and Asian Tour co-sanctioned Barclay's Singapore Open.

Already, with 23 countries represented in the field, the WGC-HSBC Champions has officially got the most international field of any of the year's World Golf Championships. The world's top two players, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, both WGC winners this year, are competing together in Asia for the very first time. The other 2009 WGC winner, Geoff Ogilvy, is also in the field, along with Asia's first Major champion "Y.E." Yang Yong-Eun, 2009 Open Champion Stewart Cink, and the 13 leading players on the Race to Dubai Rankings.

As a result, Giles Morgan, HSBC Group's Head of Sponsorship is convinced that the 2009 event will produce a victor worthy of joining a roll of honour that already includes Yang Yong-Eun, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.

"The objective for the first year of the WGC-HSBC Champions has been to produce a field worthy of the title. This we have accomplished with four of the World's top five and seven of the World's top 10 players," Morgan said.

"After the Open Championship we've got the strongest field seen outside the U.S. this year and the strongest field in the history of golf in Asia. We're making history in the world's most populous region year in and year out and as Tim Finchem said we're changing the map of the golfing world."

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