Notes: Finchem hints at Asian swing for Tour

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem during a press conference following Tiger Woods' 2010 statement at TPC Sawgrass.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem during a press conference following Tiger Woods' 2010 statement at TPC Sawgrass. ( Tracy Wilcox )

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. – The PGA Tour already has the West Coast Swing, the Florida Swing and now the Texas Swing. It might not be long before it has an Asian Swing after the FedEx Cup portion of the season is over.

In two years, the PGA Tour already has grown to two events there. It returns to Shanghai on Nov. 4-7 for a World Golf Championship, this time treating the HSBC Champions as an official victory if a tour member is holding the trophy. A week earlier is the inaugural Asia Pacific Classic in Malaysia, which is co-sanctioned with the Asian Tour and offers a $6 million purse.

And after that? Stay tuned.

“We’re looking at possibilities in Japan, Korea, China,” PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. “I’m not saying we will, but we may very well do a short series over there in the fall in the next two or three years. If we’re going to get serious about a presence in Asia, it would probably argue for a short series.”

The Malaysia event was not a critical building block in such a series. It has a short field – the top 25 players available from the FedEx Cup standings to fill a 40-man field at The Mines Resort and Golf Club – and Finchem said the Asian Pacific Classic “predated what might developing into a serious strategy.”

“If it continues, it will be part of it (an Asia series) in some fashion,” he said.

Finchem, who took an 18-day working vacation through Asia last fall, said he will be returning this year. However, Finchem didn’t make it sound like any series was around the corner. Asked if the tour was close to arranging an event in Japan, he flatly replied, “no.”

“I don’t see us announcing any details on that by the end of the year,” he said.

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CRYSTAL BALL: Tiger Woods has not returned to defend his title eight times on the PGA Tour – once when the tournament changed dates (BellSouth Classic), once after his daughter was born (Buick Open), five times recovering from knee surgery and once this year as he made his return from a sex scandal.

He has never failed to defend a title because he wasn’t eligible, and odds are it won’t happen.

Still, with the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs only seven weeks away, Woods is No. 105 in the standings. He still has two majors and a World Golf Championship on his schedule, and his game seemed to be improving at Aronimink. But this year, nothing is certain.

Woods is the defending champion at the BMW Championship outside Chicago, which is for the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings after two playoff events.

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CAPTAINS SPEAK: Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin has been talking to his predecessors to learn what he can, and that group finally includes the immediate past captain, Paul Azinger.

Azinger revealed as much in a tweet last week: “Talked to Pavin about RC. Sent him book Cracking t Code, $24.95. Shipping $7.50, texts $2.00, my advice 2 cents, another U.S. victory PRICELESS.”

“He text messaged me in May that he wanted the book,” Azinger said about “Cracking the Code,” in which he explains how he tried to create accountability and teamwork by grouping his teams into pods of four players. “He texted me when he got the book and said, ‘When are you going to play again?’ I told him I wasn’t going to play until I got my handicap below 3.”

They met last Thursday. Azinger said the new criteria assured that Pavin would have the hottest eight American players, and that how Pavin wanted to pick one-third of the team was up to him.

“I told him I valued the wives’ opinions about their husbands,” Azinger said. “I said, ‘If I could have you any advice, it would be to create what you feel is the best environment for them.’”

Azinger also said he told Pavin that once the week of the Ryder Cup arrived, it was better to say nothing to a player than to risk saying the wrong thing.

“I micromanaged for two years,” Azinger said. “And when we got to the Ryder Cup, then I let go.”

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EVERY SHOT COUNTS: In another example of how every shot can matter in golf, Jeff Overton is headed to the British Open at St. Andrews, and he might have Charlie Wi to thank for that.

Overton and Wi were tied for third place as they played the final hole of the AT&T National. Wi hit through the 18th green, chipped on and missed his par putt to finish alone in fourth.

With third-place points, Overton moved to No. 62 in Monday’s world ranking, which is used for the alternate list at the British Open. He was awarded a spot Monday, with first alternate being Ricky Barnes at No. 64. If Wi had made his par putt on the last hole at Aronimink, Overton would have tied for third and gone to No. 68 – and Barnes would have secured a spot at St. Andrews.

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GOING HOME: Former Masters champion Zach Johnson returned to his roots to create a foundation designed to help children in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the seven-time PGA Tour winner grew up.

The Zach Johnson Foundation, announced on Monday, wants to further develop a program in which children who have a parent in the judicial system are linked with a mentor. To support the foundation, he plans an annual pro-am tournament that will start next year with at least four PGA Tour players at Elmcrest Country Club, where Johnson learned to play.

Johnson said he hopes to raise $250,000 for his foundation during the first year.

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DIVOTS: Tiger Woods wrapped up the Mark H. McCormack award for the 13th consecutive year since it was created to honor the player at No. 1 in the world ranking for the most weeks in a calendar year. Phil Mickelson, for his fifth straight tournament, will have a chance to overtake Woods atop the ranking if he were to win or finish second at the Scottish Open. ... Robert Allenby led the field with 20 birdies at Aronimink, and still tied for 41st at the AT&T National. He made 14 birdies in the second and third rounds combined – along with 10 bogeys and a double bogey. ... The PGA Tour’s scoring system includes a “T1” for Justin Rose in the Tavistock Cup. Seriously.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Five of the top six Europeans on the world points list for the Ryder Cup have won in America this year – Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose.

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FINAL WORD: “I think it’s more of a Cal Ripken thing than a Tiger Woods thing.” – Bob Estes, on making his 400th career cut on the PGA Tour. readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.