By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Bo Van Pelt wasn't quite sure what to expect this week at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions – and not because he was playing in China for the first time.
He came to Shanghai on the heels of a dominating win at the CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia where he beat Jeff Overton by six strokes. The two times he'd won previously, though, weren't exactly followed by some of his best golf.
Van Pelt tied for 64th at the 2009 RBC Canadian Open the week after he picked up his first PGA TOUR win in Milwaukee. And he missed his next two cuts after winning in Omaha in 2003 during his Nationwide Tour days.
Turns out, though, Van Pelt is off to a much better start this week at Sheshan International where his 67 left the Oklahoma State grad two strokes behind Keegan Bradley.
"My goal every year is to try to get better and try to do the best I can every time I tee it up and that's all I'm trying to do," Van Pelt said. "Obviously I wasn't expecting to shoot 23 under (in Malaysia), and very pleased.
"The two times I've won professionally, I haven't played well the following week, so obviously I'm concentrating today. ... This will probably be my last tournament of the year so want to end it on a high."
Van Pelt, who is tied with Fredrik Jacobson and Alexander Noren, started on the back nine Thursday. He bogeyed No. 12 but came back strong with three straight birdies starting at No. 14 to turn in 34. He added four more birdies and dropped just one shot to par on the front.
"Obviously happy with 5 under," Van Pelt said. "Got (off to) a
shaky start and didn't hit the ball very well the first few holes,
a hangover from yesterday, tough to play in those conditions. Made
a good birdie on the par 5 and kind of settled down and started
hitting some good shots.
"Played well from there on. I made a bad bogey on No. 3, it was a pretty easy hole. Wasn't too happy walking off that green and made a par and birdied three in a row coming in. Happy with the how I played."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
Rory McIlroy knows he has a golden opportunity this week at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
Money won in the tournament is official on the European Tour where McIlroy currently ranks second in earnings to Luke Donald by about 1.3 million Euro. Donald is skipping the event due to the impending birth of his second daughter and may not play another European Tour event until the season-ending Dubai World Championship.
Donald has already won the money title on the PGA TOUR and is hoping to complete the unprecedented sweep on both sides of the Atlantic. But in addition to the HSBC Champions, McIlroy will play in the UBS Hong Kong Open and in Dubai as he attempts to gain ground.
"I've got three big events coming up," said McIlroy, who will also team with Graeme McDowell in the unofficial World Cup. "... With him not being here is this week, because his wife is giving birth to their second child, I feel like I've got a chance to cut into that lead a little bit.
"It would be fantastic to get another win, the second win in two weeks, and cut into that lead. But it's such a strong field here, and there's a lot of guys with a chance to win.”
McIlroy won the U.S. Open earlier this year in record-setting fashion -- erasing the disappointment of his final-round meltdown at the Masters in a big way. But he's looking to this stretch run to given him even more momentum heading into 2012 when he has said he will take up membership on the PGA TOUR again, as well as play in Europe.
"It's been an interesting year. A lot's happened," said McIlroy,
who also split with his agent last month. "There's been incredible
highs and .. the one very disappointing low. But I think that
disappointing low was needed to experience the incredible high of
"So it's been a great year. When I get a chance to reflect on it over Christmas and the new year, it's been a fantastic year and I wouldn't take it back."
McIlroy has played in the HSBC Champions twice previously, finishing fourth in 2009 and fifth last year. He's got some added -- and high profile -- support this year at Sheshan International in the person of his girlfriend, Caroline Woznicki, the No. 1-ranked female tennis player in the world.
"It's obviously great to have Caroline here," said McIlroy, who is ranked No. 3 in his sport. "I've been to a couple of here tennis tournaments. This is the first time that she's at a golf tournament, and if the weather keeps going like this (it's been raining heavily), it might be the last one she's at, as well.”
McIlroy was kidding, of course. “It's good to have her here and she's enjoyed being in Shanghai for the last few days," he said.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
When Lee Westwood finished second a year ago at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, he had just replaced Tiger Woods as No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Martin Kaymer soon supplanted him, reigning for eight weeks, and Luke Donald has just matched the Englishman’s 22 total weeks at No. 1. The 37-year-old Westwood knows its only a matter of time before youngsters like Rory McIlroy, who won his first major earlier at the age of 22, stake their claims as well.
"I think that it's a game where I guess age is not such a big issue," Westwood said. "You can obviously play well into your 40s. The young lads that come out now in their early 20s have obviously a hunger for it, and they seem they are almost professional before they come out. They have played tour events, they have traveled the world. So it's not such a big jump for them and shock really."
Three weeks ago, the 20-year-old Tom Lewis won the Portugal Masters. As an amateur earlier this year at the British Open, he shot 65 and held a share of the first-round lead at Royal St. George's.
And then there's Matteo Manassero, who is just 18 years old. He already has won twice on the European Tour, including the 2010 Castello Masters when he was 17. The caliber of their talent is not lost on Westwood.
"And then you've got the old guys like Rory and AK (Anthony
Kim), who played very well last week, and (Seung-yul) Noh, as well,
who are top players,’ Westwood said. “One of them will
surely be world No. 1 one day and they are all going to win lots of
"But that's just the way it is in any sport. Golf is no different. It's just that I guess the old men can hang onto it a little bit longer in this sport than they can in football where age becomes a factor."
That said, Westwood would like to see the talented players enjoy their teenage years -- and he's not sure turning pro so young is the answer. Noh, for example, was barely 16 when he joined the Asian Tour.
"I think it's important to get a good education, whether you do
that by turning professional at 15 is debatable," Westwood said.
"... My first sort of tournament on Tour and abroad was the
Madeira Island Open, which was my first event as a professional on
The European Tour. It's very different now and they become more
worldly wise and more of a complete package when they come out.
"But, you know, I think 15 is a little bit young. If I had a 15-year-old son and he was a good golfer, I wouldn't be rushing to send him out on to the tour. He's still a kid. He should be enjoying golf and being a kid really."
The tee times have been released for the first round of this week’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in Shanghai. Here’s a look at some of the notable groups.
|Players||Round 1 tee times||Comment|
|9:25 p.m. Wednesday ET No. 10
(9:25 a.m. Thursday local)
|Watney already has a World Golf Championships title while Schwartzel and McIlroy, a winner last week, captured the first two majors of 2011.|
|9:35 p.m. Wednesday ET No. 10
(9:35 a.m. Thursday local)
|Clarke picked up his first major at the age of 42 this year. Haas won the FedExCup and TOUR Championship while Choi won THE PLAYERS.|
|9:45 p.m. Wednesday ET No. 10
(9:45 a.m. Thursday local)
|Bradley is looking for his third win of the season while Scott seeks his second WGC of the year and Westwood finished second in China in 2010.|