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Olazabal wants more South African-like talent in Spain

PRETORIA, South Africa (Reuters) – Jose Maria Olazabal is longing for Spanish golf to produce a similar conveyor belt of talent to the one on show in South Africa, the 2012 Ryder Cup-winning captain said on Tuesday.

Twice major champion Olazabal, who along with the late Seve Ballesteros forged the most successful Ryder Cup partnership in the history of the competition, said standards were dropping in his native country.

“It’s true that for a while we had great players in Spain but we are struggling to see a new generation coming through,” Olazabal told reporters ahead of this week’s inaugural Tshwane Open.

“You have a lot of great players, major winners, in this country. In a way I envy that.”

Ballesteros, who died in 2011 at the age of 54 after a long battle with brain cancer, and Olazabal blazed a trail for Spanish golf.

Shotmaker extraordinaire Ballesteros bagged the last of his five majors in 1988 before Olazabal assumed the mantle, winning the U.S. Masters in 1994 and 1999.

Sergio Garcia burst on to the scene at the 1999 U.S. PGA Championship when he finished second behind Tiger Woods but a lipped-out putt on the 18th at Carnoustie in 2007 is as close as he has come to winning one of the game’s four coveted trophies.

In Monday’s world rankings Spain had two players, Garcia (17) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (32) inside the top 50 with Rafael Cabrera-Bello just outside at number 59.

In contrast South Africa had Louis Oosthuizen at five, Charl Schwartzel (14), Ernie Els (24), Branden Grace (30), George Coetzee (42) and Tim Clark (48) with Richard Sterne at 52.

Four-times major champion Els won last year’s British Open while Schwartzel triumphed at the 2011 Masters and Oosthuizen claimed his first major at the 2010 British Open on the iconic Old Course at St Andrews.

“You have a lot of great players, no question. For whatever reason this country is able to deliver great players,” said Olazabal.

“The level here is much better than in Spain.”

New Zealander Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion, said greats like nine-times major winner Gary Player were responsible for the burgeoning state of the game in South Africa.

“There must be something in the water here – it’s incredible,” said the world number 231.

“There are so many wonderful players coming out of South Africa now. It’s a tribute to the guys who paved the way such as Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.”

Goosen won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004 before Trevor Immelman joined the long line of South African winners with his 2008 Masters triumph.

(Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Olazabal wants more South African-like talent in Spain

Chinese prodigy Guan seeks British Open berth

(Reuters) – Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang, who will become the youngest player to compete at the U.S. Masters in April, is attempting to get into this year’s British Open at Asian International qualifying on Thursday.

Guan is hoping to secure one of the four available spots at the Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand where he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November to seal his Masters debut.

“I have played at some professional golf tournaments before and it is always great to play with the professional golfers,” the 14-year-old Guan said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I can learn so much from them and the experience of playing at the professional events.”

Guan started swinging a club for fun at the age of four and impressed his parents so much within two years that they decided to invest heavily in his future.

The Asian International qualifying event will take place on March 1 for the July 18-21 British Open at Muirfield, Scotland. Three players booked their places at the Australasian qualifiers in January.

African qualifying takes place in Johannesburg on March 5 and 6, the American leg is in Texas on May 20 and the European event will be contested in England on June 24.

(Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Chinese prodigy Guan seeks British Open berth

Golf-Olazabal wants more South African-like talent in Spain

PRETORIA, South Africa, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Jose Maria Olazabal is longing for Spanish golf to produce a similar conveyor belt of talent to the one on show in South Africa, the 2012 Ryder Cup-winning captain said on Tuesday.

Twice major champion Olazabal, who along with the late Seve Ballesteros forged the most successful Ryder Cup partnership in the history of the competition, said standards were dropping in his native country.

“It’s true that for a while we had great players in Spain but we are struggling to see a new generation coming through,” Olazabal told reporters ahead of this week’s inaugural Tshwane Open.

“You have a lot of great players, major winners, in this country. In a way I envy that.”

Ballesteros, who died in 2011 at the age of 54 after a long battle with brain cancer, and Olazabal blazed a trail for Spanish golf.

Shotmaker extraordinaire Ballesteros bagged the last of his five majors in 1988 before Olazabal assumed the mantle, winning the U.S. Masters in 1994 and 1999.

Sergio Garcia burst on to the scene at the 1999 U.S. PGA Championship when he finished second behind Tiger Woods but a lipped-out putt on the 18th at Carnoustie in 2007 is as close as he has come to winning one of the game’s four coveted trophies.

In Monday’s world rankings Spain had two players, Garcia (17) and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (32) inside the top 50 with Rafael Cabrera-Bello just outside at number 59.

In contrast South Africa had Louis Oosthuizen at five, Charl Schwartzel (14), Ernie Els (24), Branden Grace (30), George Coetzee (42) and Tim Clark (48) with Richard Sterne at 52.

Four-times major champion Els won last year’s British Open while Schwartzel triumphed at the 2011 Masters and Oosthuizen claimed his first major at the 2010 British Open on the iconic Old Course at St Andrews.

“You have a lot of great players, no question. For whatever reason this country is able to deliver great players,” said Olazabal.

“The level here is much better than in Spain.”

New Zealander Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion, said greats like nine-times major winner Gary Player were responsible for the burgeoning state of the game in South Africa.

“There must be something in the water here – it’s incredible,” said the world number 231.

“There are so many wonderful players coming out of South Africa now. It’s a tribute to the guys who paved the way such as Gary Player, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.”

Goosen won the U.S. Open in 2001 and 2004 before Trevor Immelman joined the long line of South African winners with his 2008 Masters triumph. (Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Golf-Olazabal wants more South African-like talent in Spain

Golf-Chinese prodigy Guan seeks British Open berth

Feb 26 (Reuters) – Chinese teenager Guan Tianlang, who will become the youngest player to compete at the U.S. Masters in April, is attempting to get into this year’s British Open at Asian International qualifying on Thursday.

Guan is hoping to secure one of the four available spots at the Amata Spring Country Club in Thailand where he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November to seal his Masters debut.

“I have played at some professional golf tournaments before and it is always great to play with the professional golfers,” the 14-year-old Guan said in a statement on Tuesday.

“I can learn so much from them and the experience of playing at the professional events.”

Guan started swinging a club for fun at the age of four and impressed his parents so much within two years that they decided to invest heavily in his future.

The Asian International qualifying event will take place on March 1 for the July 18-21 British Open at Muirfield, Scotland. Three players booked their places at the Australasian qualifiers in January.

African qualifying takes place in Johannesburg on March 5 and 6, the American leg is in Texas on May 20 and the European event will be contested in England on June 24. (Writing by Tom Pilcher in London, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Golf-Chinese prodigy Guan seeks British Open berth

I’ve had bellyful of cheating jibes, says Bradley

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida (Reuters) – American Keegan Bradley says he is sick of being called a ‘cheat’ by fans for using a long putter, as the controversy intensifies over the rules on anchoring the shortest club in the bag.

Bradley was the first player to win a major using a belly putter, at the 2011 U.S. PGA Championship, but has since been followed by fellow countryman Webb Simpson at last year’s U.S. Open and South African Ernie Els at the 2012 British Open.

Golf’s governing bodies, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A), proposed a ban on anchoring putters to the body in November.

However, U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has come out against the change, raising concerns about different rules emerging in different competitions.

Bradley is against the change and is also upset by the reaction of fans and some in the media.

“I take great offence to people calling me a cheater. I think that’s unbelievable,” he told reporters ahead of this week’s Honda Classic.

“It’s been pretty difficult especially lately. I’m being called a cheater more than ever by fans, by some writers.

“It’s really tough. I can’t imagine how people can say that to me or to anybody out here. I’m sick of it to be honest.”

Finchem raised his opposition to the change on Sunday, a stance which Bradley applauded.

“I’m very proud and it makes me feel good that my tour, the tour I play on, has my back,” said the U.S. Ryder Cup player.

The proposed new rule by the governing bodies, who argue putters should swing freely and not be anchored to any part of the body, would come into force in 2016.

“I realize this is going to be an issue now for the next couple of years at least,” said Bradley.

“I hope the USGA thought about us players before they did this because it’s been really difficult on me and I know it’s been really difficult on some other players too.”

Bradley said much of the abuse had come online but that he had also been heckled at tournaments.

“A lot of it is on Twitter which is ridiculous anyway, I know. I do read it and I shouldn’t,” he added.

“There are silly fans that will say stuff. There’s the occasional article that comes out, there was one recently that came out that I couldn’t believe.

“The word cheater, I mean, it’s amazing that people can say that. It’s probably the worst thing you could ever say to an athlete.”

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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I’ve had bellyful of cheating jibes, says Bradley

Golf-I’ve had bellyful of cheating jibes, says Bradley

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida, Feb 26 (Reuters) – American Keegan Bradley says he is sick of being called a ‘cheat’ by fans for using a long putter, as the controversy intensifies over the rules on anchoring the shortest club in the bag.

Bradley was the first player to win a major using a belly putter, at the 2011 U.S. PGA Championship, but has since been followed by fellow countryman Webb Simpson at last year’s U.S. Open and South African Ernie Els at the 2012 British Open.

Golf’s governing bodies, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the Royal and Ancient (R&A), proposed a ban on anchoring putters to the body in November.

However, U.S. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has come out against the change, raising concerns about different rules emerging in different competitions.

Bradley is against the change and is also upset by the reaction of fans and some in the media.

“I take great offence to people calling me a cheater. I think that’s unbelievable,” he told reporters ahead of this week’s Honda Classic.

“It’s been pretty difficult especially lately. I’m being called a cheater more than ever by fans, by some writers.

“It’s really tough. I can’t imagine how people can say that to me or to anybody out here. I’m sick of it to be honest.”

Finchem raised his opposition to the change on Sunday, a stance which Bradley applauded.

“I’m very proud and it makes me feel good that my tour, the tour I play on, has my back,” said the U.S. Ryder Cup player.

The proposed new rule by the governing bodies, who argue putters should swing freely and not be anchored to any part of the body, would come into force in 2016.

“I realise this is going to be an issue now for the next couple of years at least,” said Bradley.

“I hope the USGA thought about us players before they did this because it’s been really difficult on me and I know it’s been really difficult on some other players too.”

Bradley said much of the abuse had come online but that he had also been heckled at tournaments.

“A lot of it is on Twitter which is ridiculous anyway, I know. I do read it and I shouldn’t,” he added.

“There are silly fans that will say stuff. There’s the occasional article that comes out, there was one recently that came out that I couldn’t believe.

“The word cheater, I mean, it’s amazing that people can say that. It’s probably the worst thing you could ever say to an athlete.” (Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Golf-I’ve had bellyful of cheating jibes, says Bradley

McIlroy and Woods went head to head after WGC exit

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida (Reuters) – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy responded to their surprise early exit from last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship by going head to head in their own private challenge.

World number two Woods and top-ranked McIlroy spent Sunday morning in a golfing duel at the Medalist club in Hobe Sound, Florida.

“We thought we would play our own match play final except it was over 36 holes,” the Northern Irishman told reporters ahead of this week’s Honda Classic.

“We had two matches. He beat me the first time and I beat him in the second so we’re even. We teed off at about 8:00 and I was home by 1:30 so we played quick,” added McIlroy.

“He putts with the pin in…it’s speed golf. It was good, really enjoyable.”

Former NFL player and television presenter Ahmad Rashad also played with the pair.

McIlroy and American Woods have become friends in the past year, with the Northern Irishman now having a base near to the 14-times major winner in Florida and also having joined him in the Nike stable in January.

(Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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McIlroy and Woods went head to head after WGC exit

Golf-McIlroy and Woods went head to head after WGC exit

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Florida, Feb 26 (Reuters) – Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy responded to their surprise early exit from last week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship by going head to head in their own private challenge.

World number two Woods and top-ranked McIlroy spent Sunday morning in a golfing duel at the Medalist club in Hobe Sound, Florida.

“We thought we would play our own match play final except it was over 36 holes,” the Northern Irishman told reporters ahead of this week’s Honda Classic.

“We had two matches. He beat me the first time and I beat him in the second so we’re even. We teed off at about 8:00 and I was home by 1:30 so we played quick,” added McIlroy.

“He putts with the pin in…it’s speed golf. It was good, really enjoyable.”

Former NFL player and television presenter Ahmad Rashad also played with the pair.

McIlroy and American Woods have become friends in the past year, with the Northern Irishman now having a base near to the 14-times major winner in Florida and also having joined him in the Nike stable in January. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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Golf-McIlroy and Woods went head to head after WGC exit

Asian turf war one to avoid, say HSBC

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The political turf war between the Asian Tour and rival OneAsia has created a messy environment that has ruled out the involvement of global golf sponsor HSBC, the bank’s head of sponsorship Giles Morgan told Reuters.

The two golf circuits have been at loggerheads since OneAsia’s inception in 2009 with tournaments swapping hands and the Asian Tour fining their members who competed in their rival’s events.

Four members won a restraint of trade case against the Asian Tour in December over the penalties and the rivalry of the duo is set to continue next month when OneAsia’s season-opening event, the Thailand Open, goes up against the Asian Tour’s Avantha Masters in India on March 14.

The criticism, court cases and confusion were best avoided, said HSBC.

“We absolutely support that we would want to see a clear hierarchy for golf in Asia, there is so much potential and growth here, but I don’t want to be involved in it, no,” Morgan told Reuters in Singapore on Tuesday ahead of the HSBC Women’s Champions event which starts on Thursday.

“In this part of the world it hasn’t always been politically plain sailing in golf. We sit above it, so that is not an issue for us.”

The lofty perch comes through their World Golf Championship (WGC) HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, China, with an eye-catching $8.5-million prize fund in October.

As one of four WGC events, the tournament is run by the International Federation of PGA Tours, whose members include the U.S. PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the Australasia Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the Asian Tour.

“That is why we were delighted to be a World Golf Championship event, the reason we absolutely mandated that,” Morgan said, happy to be dealing with one united voice.

“Certainly sitting at the top table of golf is a good place for a sponsor to be.”

MISSING PLAYERS

Even with the elevated position, Morgan and HSBC have encountered problems.

Last year’s tournament did not feature the sport’s two top-ranked players, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who opted to compete in a lucrative head-to-head duel elsewhere in China. The players said they could not take part in every event in a schedule that has grown significantly.

Morgan described the snub as ‘disappointing’ and warned that the bank’s involvement could end, but he was confident that the new three-year contract extension they had signed, which increased prize money and key ranking points, would help to avoid a repeat scenario.

“I know the European and PGA Tour of America are acutely aware that if you are a big sponsor of one of the 15 big events, which are very expensive to put on, that sponsors are all requiring the top players to play. It is a very difficult balance and one I feel the game of golf needs to police rather than sponsors.

“If the World Golf Championship doesn’t offer us value for money at the end of the three years it is quite a simple decision – we don’t do it.

“I hope it does as there is nothing more we can do. The way we sponsor golf tournaments is as good a way as you can. The Tours are acutely aware the last thing they want to do is lose the top brands.”

With the China event, the $2.7-million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the men’s European Tour, the British Open men’s major, an LPGA event in Brazil and this week’s LPGA tournament, which has attracted the elite of the women’s game, Morgan believes their sponsorship portfolio is full, probably.

“We never say never,” said Morgan, whose company also heavily invest in junior golf, including the China Junior Golf team which helped to bring through 14-year-old Asia-Pacific amateur champion Guan Tianlang,

With a saturated market and multiple professional events taking place each week in all corners of the world, less is more.

“All successful sports run the risk of over-exposure,” he said.

“There is a lot of golf for sure and a lot of events, that’s why I think it is important, if you are a sponsor, if you can find an event that makes you stand out.”

(Editing by Clare Fallon)

Original article:

Asian turf war one to avoid, say HSBC

INTERVIEW-Golf-Asian turf war one to avoid, say HSBC

SINGAPORE, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The political turf war between the Asian Tour and rival OneAsia has created a messy environment that has ruled out the involvement of global golf sponsor HSBC, the bank’s head of sponsorship Giles Morgan told Reuters.

The two golf circuits have been at loggerheads since OneAsia’s inception in 2009 with tournaments swapping hands and the Asian Tour fining their members who competed in their rival’s events.

Four members won a restraint of trade case against the Asian Tour in December over the penalties and the rivalry of the duo is set to continue next month when OneAsia’s season-opening event, the Thailand Open, goes up against the Asian Tour’s Avantha Masters in India on March 14.

The criticism, court cases and confusion were best avoided, said HSBC.

“We absolutely support that we would want to see a clear hierarchy for golf in Asia, there is so much potential and growth here, but I don’t want to be involved in it, no,” Morgan told Reuters in Singapore on Tuesday ahead of the HSBC Women’s Champions event which starts on Thursday.

“In this part of the world it hasn’t always been politically plain sailing in golf. We sit above it, so that is not an issue for us.”

The lofty perch comes through their World Golf Championship (WGC) HSBC Champions event in Shanghai, China, with an eye-catching $8.5-million prize fund in October.

As one of four WGC events, the tournament is run by the International Federation of PGA Tours, whose members include the U.S. PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Japan Golf Tour, the Australasia Tour, the Sunshine Tour and the Asian Tour.

“That is why we were delighted to be a World Golf Championship event, the reason we absolutely mandated that,” Morgan said, happy to be dealing with one united voice.

“Certainly sitting at the top table of golf is a good place for a sponsor to be.”

MISSING PLAYERS

Even with the elevated position, Morgan and HSBC have encountered problems.

Last year’s tournament did not feature the sport’s two top-ranked players, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, who opted to compete in a lucrative head-to-head duel elsewhere in China. The players said they could not take part in every event in a schedule that has grown significantly.

Morgan described the snub as ‘disappointing’ and warned that the bank’s involvement could end, but he was confident that the new three-year contract extension they had signed, which increased prize money and key ranking points, would help to avoid a repeat scenario.

“I know the European and PGA Tour of America are acutely aware that if you are a big sponsor of one of the 15 big events, which are very expensive to put on, that sponsors are all requiring the top players to play. It is a very difficult balance and one I feel the game of golf needs to police rather than sponsors.

“If the World Golf Championship doesn’t offer us value for money at the end of the three years it is quite a simple decision – we don’t do it.

“I hope it does as there is nothing more we can do. The way we sponsor golf tournaments is as good a way as you can. The Tours are acutely aware the last thing they want to do is lose the top brands.”

With the China event, the $2.7-million Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship on the men’s European Tour, the British Open men’s major, an LPGA event in Brazil and this week’s LPGA tournament, which has attracted the elite of the women’s game, Morgan believes their sponsorship portfolio is full, probably.

“We never say never,” said Morgan, whose company also heavily invest in junior golf, including the China Junior Golf team which helped to bring through 14-year-old Asia-Pacific amateur champion Guan Tianlang,

With a saturated market and multiple professional events taking place each week in all corners of the world, less is more.

“All successful sports run the risk of over-exposure,” he said.

“There is a lot of golf for sure and a lot of events, that’s why I think it is important, if you are a sponsor, if you can find an event that makes you stand out.” (Editing by Clare Fallon)

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INTERVIEW-Golf-Asian turf war one to avoid, say HSBC

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