Dustin Johnson starts junior event with eye toward China
SHANGHAI (AP) Dustin Johnson already is making a name for himself in China with his golf. He won the HSBC Champions two years ago, and was closing in on the lead Sunday until a bad break with his wedge. The ball hit the pin and caromed into the water on the par-5 eighth hole, turning a sure birdie into a double bogey.
The next step could be making an impact with juniors.His coach at Coastal Carolina, Allen Terrell, has been coming to Shanghai for six years to teach at Sheshan International and to educate families on how their children can get golf scholarships in America. Terrell runs the Dustin Johnson Golf School in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Johnson says they are looking into prospects for starting such a school in China.
The first step is a golf tournament.
The inaugural Dustin Johnson World Junior Golf Championship is Feb. 13-15 at the TPC Myrtle Beach, and Terrell said there will be qualifiers held in China that would allow Chinese juniors to compete in the tournament. The tournament will be Presidents Day weekend, and also around the time of the Chinese New Year.
”Dustin always wanted to have a junior tournament, and then we have a strong influence from China,” Terrell said. ”A group from China bought 23 golf courses in Myrtle Beach. We’re trying to bring Chinese families over, show them around and explain the college system.”
The PGA Tour launched its China circuit last year and it produced Li Haotong, who played well on the Web.com Tour this year and tied for seventh in the HSBC. Terrell said he first came over as a coach because he saw China as an untapped market. Other golf programs haven’t made much of a difference.
”Look at the number of players from China playing in college,” he said. ”It’s a small percentage. The transition is difficult. A lot of them haven’t made it more than one year, and that’s going to hurt China down the road. We’re hoping to bridge that.”
FALLING PHIL: Phil Mickelson dropped to No. 27 in the world this week, the wrong kind of milestone.
The last time he was out of the top 25 was Sept. 10, 1995. That was right after Tiger Woods won his second straight U.S. Amateur. It was two years after Jordan Spieth was born. Greg Norman was three months into his longest reign (96 weeks) at No. 1 in the world.
Because he is not playing again until the CareerBuilder Challenge in the California desert, Mickelson could be out of the top 50 the next time he tees it up. He hasn’t been outside the top 50 since the week before Thanksgiving in 1993.
GENDER BLENDERS: LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan believes there’s a place for men and women to share the same stage in golf.
He’s just not sure when.
Among the ideas that have been kicked around over the years is for the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour to compete on the same course at the same time, perhaps at a winners-only event or in a match play format. They could play their own set of tees and compete separately, different from the Mixed Team event from nearly two decades ago.
The U.S. Open and Women’s Open was a big hit in consecutive weeks at Pinehurst No. 2 last year. And the Olympics will feature men and women on the same course is successive weeks next year in Rio.
But playing the same course at the same time? Whan says PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem ”shares that interest.”
”I work on next year’s schedule, Tim works on 2019, so we have a slightly different sense of urgency in getting there,” Whan said. ”I’ve brought a few specific suggestions of tournaments where I thought we could do something together. It’s not tomorrow. But I feel comfortable we’ll get there.”
SURPRISE CALL: HSBC Champions winner Russell Knox has been managed by R.J. Nemers his entire career, and he still doesn’t know how it happened.
Nemers founded Icon Sports, which recently was acquired by IMG, and he counts Ian Poulter among his longtime clients. But his phone call to Knox came out of blue. He was at PGA Tour Q-school for the second time and failed miserably.
”I was at second stage and almost finished last,” Knox said. ”I was miles away from getting to the final stage. I went home and was depressed because I would have to wait another year to get on the Web.com. My phone rang and it was R.J. He said, `We’re interested in signing you. We think we’re going to make it.’ I had never spoken to an agent. I always thought it was the coolest thing if you had an agent.
”It was the nicest thing anyone had done for me.”
Knox played four years at Jacksonville University and even now can’t figure out why Nemers would be interested.
”I told him that 25 guys just make it through to the final stage from my site, and there are six or eight other sites. `Why are you picking me?”’ Knox said. ”He said, `We think you’re going to be better than them.’ He’ll be my agent for life.”
PRICE SUPPORT: Peter Thomson was captain three times in the Presidents Cup, which included the lone International team victory. Gary Player also was International captain three times, including the tie in South Africa.
Adam Scott is in favor of Nick Price getting a third shot at it.
The International team nearly pulled off a remarkable rally in South Korea until Chris Kirk made a 15-foot birdie putt that led to a 15 1/2-14 1/2 victory. Price was adamant that the number of matches be lowered to help make it a closer contest, and it’s difficult to deny that made a difference this year.
What didn’t change was the outcome, and Scott believes Price should get one more chance.
”I think that would be great if he is,” Scott said. ”I think he did a fantastic job for us this year. He learned so much after his first one and put that experience to good use. My personal feeling is I’d love to have Nick be the captain again and try and get a win for him. It would be something special for all the players, but something very special for Nick and his career.”
DIVOTS: Hunter Mahan and Matt Kuchar will have new caddies for 2016. Mahan and John Wood parted after nine years, and Wood went to work for Kuchar, who split with Lance Bennett. Mahan said he had a couple of caddies in mind. … Sei Young Kim has wrapped up the points-based Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year on the LPGA Tour. Kim won three times this year. … Branden Grace is buying a house in the West Palm Beach, Florida, area for his first full year on the PGA Tour. His only other home is in South Africa. The tournaments he has never played that excite him the most? The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. ”I’ve never played Pebble Beach,” Grace said. ”I know it’s with amateurs, but it’s Pebble Beach.” … Sports Illustrated selected Jack Nicklaus to receive its newly named Muhammad Ali Legacy Award.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Three of the four World Golf Championships were won by players from Britain and Ireland – Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Shane Lowry (Ireland) and Russell Knox (Scotland).
FINAL WORD: ”A full month of killing birds, drinking beer and watching football. All the stuff I wish I was doing now.” – Kevin Kisner, on plans for his offseason.