Adam Scott can join rare company with a second World Golf Championship. Keegan Bradley still has hopes of becoming the PGA Tour Player of the Year. Paul Casey thought his PGA Tour card was gone and has a shot at getting it back.
The HSBC Champions, the semi-official end of the PGA Tour and the start of a big finish on the European Tour, offers a little bit of everything to so many players.
Scott, Bradley and Casey put themselves in contention on a humid, overcast Friday at Sheshan International. They were chasing Fredrik Jacobson, who made six birdies and kept mistakes off his card for a 6-under 66. Jacobson tied the tournament record at 11-under 133 and led by one shot over Scott and Louis Oosthuizen going into the weekend.
Jacobson, a Swede who lives and plays primarily in America, won his first PGA Tour title this year at the Travelers Championship and believes his game has improved to the point that he can think about getting on his first Ryder Cup team.
That’s still 10 months away.
There are more immediate goals for others in Shanghai, and not just of the PGA Tour variety.
US Open champion Rory McIlroy still has the best chance of running down Luke Donald on the European Tour money list, though he might need to win the HSBC Champions and fare well in Hong Kong in three weeks to make a real game of it. McIlroy sputtered along Friday on a day of supreme scoring, trading birdies with too many bogeys for a 69 that left him six shots behind.
”I was just always trying to play catch up,” McIlroy said. ”I feel like over the past two days, I’ve left quite a few shots out there. It’s one of those things. I just have to try and make them up over the weekend.
”I’ll need to do something pretty good over the weekend if I want to try and win this tournament.”
Scott was in much better shape after making nine birdies in his 18 holes and missing only one green in his round of 65.
As always, Scott feels as though he could have done more this year, though he wouldn’t trade that one win at the Bridgestone Invitational. A win this week would allow him to join Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players to win multiple World Golf Championships in the same year. Woods did it five times; Mickelson won at Doral and the HSBC in 2009.
”That would be a really good year,” Scott said. ”I feel like overall I played really well this year, and I wouldn’t say I would be disappointed to only win one tournament for the year. But I feel like I’ve played well enough, and been in a position a few other times, and haven’t taken advantage of it. So I would like to be in a position late on Sunday and see if I can edge out the field here.
”And then to win two World Golf Championships . . . these are the tournaments that you want to add up by the end of your career.”
He certainly looked up to the task while playing alongside Bradley and Lee Westwood, a threesome that combined to make 16 birdies and an eagle that kept their gallery thoroughly entertained. Westwood wound up with a 68 and was four shots out of the lead.
Scott led the way by making four straight birdies early in his round, capped off by a 7-iron from 190 yards to 3 feet on the par-3 sixth. It looked as though he might make it five in a row until he tried to ram in a 12-foot birdie putt, only to run it about 5 feet past the hole and three-putt for bogey. He bounced back with two more birdies to close out his front nine and get into the hunt.
Bradley might have the most at stake this week. A win at Sheshan International would be his PGA Tour-leading third win of the year, and with two of those being the PGA Championship and a WGC, it might be enough to be voted Player of the Year.
For now, Bradley was pleased to still be in the game.
He was even par on the back — and thankful for it. On two holes, Bradley left himself 10 feet and 12 feet away for par, and both times he holed the putt. He missed his last four tee shots yet hit a sand wedge to 5 feet for birdie on the last hole to salvage a 70 and stay only two shots behind at the halfway point.
”The birdie on 18 was big,” Bradley said. ”Today could have easily been even par, and I was 2 under. I’m only two shots back. I’m in a really good spot. I know I could shoot a really good number on this course again.”
Malaysia winner Bo Van Pelt had a 69 — he’s 31 under in his six rounds of this Asian adventure — and was three shots behind. Joining him was Casey, who suddenly has a chance for a happy ending to an otherwise dour year.
Casey dealt most of the year with a foot injury that got his swing out of sync. His domestic PGA Tour season ended at Sea Island a few weeks ago when he missed the cut, and he wound up at No. 136 on the money list to lose his tour card.
However, just as it does for Bradley, a win at the HSBC Champions would count as official for PGA Tour members. That means Casey, who had limited status when he left for Shanghai, could return home with an official win and a three-year exemption.
”The season is not over yet, although I kind of feel like I’m working toward next year already,” Casey said. ”And the golf I played today is the golf I remember playing.”