With Luke Donald’s incredible win at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic (Disney), the PGA Tour’s 2011 schedule has come to a successful close. In the Masters this year, Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to come from out of the pack to win by two. It was a pretty big surprise. To be sure, the Disney is not the Masters, but given all that was on the line and the fact that Donald “called his shot” in the beginning of the week, his six-birdie run to begin the back nine on Sunday to win by two was every bit as impressive if not more so. Given how far back he was (T13) Sunday morning, you’d have to argue that it was a bigger surprise than Schwartzel’s win.
First of all, he entered the tournament late when it became clear that he had a mathematical chance to catch Webb Simpson for the Tour’s money title. And he knew that he probably had to win to make up the $362,000 he was short. So this was not something he did lightly. And although he wasn’t thinking about it specifically, that also gave him a chance to become the favorite to win the Player of the Year, although you never know with that one. And it also gave him the chance to be Leading Money Winner on the European Tour as well. To hold both U.S. and European money titles at the same time has never been done before.
As we all know, he pulled it off. It was an incredible display of courage and talent, of grit and belief in himself, of sheer marksmanship and good luck. It could hardly have been better scripted by Hollywood.
So with that, we now roll into the “Featured Events” portion of the Tour’s post-season schedule. These are events that aren’t on the Tour’s official schedule, but are events that are officially sanctioned by the Tour.
We lead off this week with the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia. It will be played again at the MINES Resort and Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (where the LPGA just finished up on a different course a few weeks ago and was won by Na Yean Choi).
It was won last year by Ben Crane and it features the best players from the PGA Tour and the Asian Tour. It’s a limited field of only 48 players, so it will be intimate and offers nice visibility to players who might otherwise get lost in the crush of an international tournament on the other side of the world.
The following week beginning November 3rd, the World Golf Championships—HSBC Champions cranks up. Played once again on the Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China, all the top-ranked players in the world will be there. They are selected from the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, the Australasian Tour and the Asian Tour. It will include the winners of all four majors and all four WGC events together with players off of the World Rankings not otherwise included.
In short, it’s a collage of all the best players in the world off the best tours in the world and is the capstone to the first three WGC events: the Accenture Match Play in Tucson, the Cadillac Championship at Doral in Miami and the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in Akron, OH. It’s a very big deal.
The week after that beginning November 10th, an important tournament kicks off that isn’t on the Featured Events schedule but definitely will be for hardcore professional golf fans. It’s the JBWere Australian Masters played at the Victoria Golf Club in Cheltenham, Australia, just outside of Merbourne.
The reason it’s important is that it is a time-zone acclimation and warmup tournament for the United States Presidents Cup team the following week just up the road at Royal Melbourne Golf Club. The Australian Masters is the tournament that Tiger originally had on his schedule as his “return” tournament until Captain Fred Couples cajoled him into playing the Frys.com Open just south of San Jose, California. Remember that? It seems so long ago now. Tiger finished T30 shooting 73-68-68-68 and won $30,375. Chump change for him, but it will help feed the Gulfstream.
The Presidents Cup begins the following Friday, November 18th. Royal Melbourne is one of the world’s greatest clubs. There are two courses there, the West and the East and the tournament will be played on the Composite Course which combines 12 holes from the West course and 6 from the East Course. The Composite Course hosted the 1998 Presidents Cup and is considered one of the ten best courses in the world. The only downside is that we’ll all have to stay up into the very early morning hours to watch it live. As I said yesterday, thank God for our DVRs.
So there you have it, four really good international tournaments in a row to get you through to the Holidays and such tournaments as Tiger’s Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, California, Greg Norman’s Franklin Templeton Shootout in Naples, Florida, and the PGA Tour Q-School played this year at PGA West in La Quinta (Palm Springs), California.
I’ll be reporting on all of them, so stay tuned.