Already properly leaked, rumored and reported, the International Federation of PGA Tours made it official Tuesday morning at a press conference at the Shangri-La Hotel in Pudong: Shanghai’s HSBC Champions golf tournament has been elevated to World Golf Championship status. To many in the golf world, this immediately makes the HSBC event, which has called Shanghai home since its 2005 debut, the most prestigious golf tournament outside of the United States and the United Kingdom. That China — which opened its first golf course in 1984 and currently has no professional golfers in the global top 100 — has been chosen as the locale for such an event speaks volumes about China’s role in the current global marketplace. It’s also a strong indicator that golf’s governing bodies realize globalization, with Asia being the primary focus, is the key to the sport’s survival in an increasingly harsh economic environment.
Some other news and notes related to the announcement:
- The World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament will take place November 5-8 at Sheshan International Golf Club in Songjiang District. Sheshan has played host to the event since its inception.
- Prize money for the event will rise from US$5 million to US$7 million. Eligibility rules have also been revised. View them in full here. The format will be 72-hole stroke play with no cut. Four Chinese players who do not qualify by other means will be eligible to compete, half the number of local golfers allowed in previous years.
- World No. 1 Tiger Woods has already confirmed his involvement in this year’s HSBC Champions as has defending champion Sergio Garcia from Spain. Although not mentioned as a confirmed participant, Ireland’s Padraig Harrington seemed to acknowledge his participation in a video shown at the press conference. “I’m really looking forward to returning to Asia and having a chance at winning the WGC HSBC Champions,” he said.
- It appears likely the tournament will be leaving Shanghai sooner rather than later. In his video address, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said, “We look forward to playing the HSBC Champions at one of the Mission Hills properties in the next few years.” When asked for further comment, IMG Golf Global Managing Director Mark Steinberg said “we hope that we’ll be back here” in 2010 for the World Expo, but 2011, 2012 and beyond are “up for discussion.” He added, “There certainly is a chance that we would move to a Mission Hills property.”
- In his brief statement, China’s trailblazing self-taught pro golfer Zhang Lianwei referred to Zhang Xiaoning, Secretary General of the China Golf Association, as “Zhang Laoban” or “Boss Zhang.” (Zhang Laoban was not too proud to shill for the title sponsor during his mic time, encouraging attendees to open up bank accounts with HSBC.)
- Previous HSBC Champions press events have included photo ops featuring golfers banging drums and painting Chinese characters. Today’s photo op: a toast with Chinese tea.
- The HSBC Champions becomes the fourth WGC event, and the only one Tiger Woods has not won (Woods was runner-up in 2005 and 2006, his only two HSBC appearances). The others are the Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona, the Doral Championship in Florida and the Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio. (More information about the WGC here.) But the Shanghai event will not be the first WGC tournament ever held outside the United States. Since the WGC’s start 10 years ago, Spain and Australia have played host to events, and golf’s World Cup was a WGC event from 2000-2006.