SHANGHAI — Except for the red carpet in bunkers on the practice range, signs posted in English and Chinese, and bicycles competing with BMWs for space on the road, the HSBC Champions looks like any other World Golf Championship.
Too bad the PGA Tour doesn’t see it that way.
The tour opened itself to criticism and even silly whispers of a conspiracy – by deciding to wait until after the HSBC Champions before sending ballots for its postseason awards. The tournament counts as an official win if a PGA Tour member is gets the trophy at Sheshan International, so it was the right decision to wait.
For those who saw ballot delay as a slight against Luke Donald, they’re missing the point.
The only bias this exposed was how the PGA Tour continues to treat this WGC differently from the other three. Otherwise, there is no way it would have forgotten that the season really didn’t end when Donald ran off six consecutive birdies, shot 64 to win at Disney and establish himself the clear favorite as player of the year.
And the bias looks even worse considering the other “world” events are all played in America.
“This should be treated as the rest,” Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn said. “It comes at a time when certain people are not going to play, but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a world-class field on a fantastic golf course. There’s a couple of players missing, but not too many. This event has everything it needs.”
The tour makes a reasonable argument for giving the HSBC Champions only partial status.
Because of where it falls on the calendar and on the globe, many of its stars aren’t playing as much.
But if any player beats this field, is that not worthy of PGA Tour membership?
“I don’t think it can be both ways,” Nick Watney said. “If it’s a WGC event, it should count as official money. It should be all or nothing.”
The tour delayed sending out awards ballots out of fairness to the players in Shanghai, and out of respect to the title sponsor. That should not be dismissed lightly. HSBC is aware that it is not looked upon in the same way as the other WGCs.
“Is it something we’d like to see worked on? Absolutely,” said Giles Morgan, head of sponsorship for HSBC. “It’s less important for us. This is a showcase for golf in China. … At the same time, we believe this is a World Golf Championship, and therefore we want all the best players in the world.”
Maybe more of them would come if it counted.