Scott hopes to profit from McIlroy’s absence in Shanghai
Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson the other big name absentees from Champions tournament
Australian Adam Scott plays out of the rough during the pro-am at Sheshan International Golf Club Shanghai yesterday ahead of today’s WGC-HSBC Champions tournament. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
World number two Adam Scott is ready to take advantage of the absence of Rory McIlroy at the $8.5 million (€6.8 million) WGC-HSBC Champions tournament starting at the Sheshan International Golf Club, Shanghai, on Thursday.
Australian Scott is part of a stellar field that includes 40 of the top 50 players in the world at the only World Golf Championships event played outside the United States.
The 2013 Masters champion has only played once since the American season ended in mid-September, a jetlagged tie for 38th at the Japan Open last month that followed a surfing holiday in Costa Rica.
But after a week of dedicated practice back home in Queensland last week, Scott is raring to go again. He acknowledges McIlroy’s late withdrawal – to prepare for a court case with his former management company – is a blow to the event, but understands that every player has to deal with off-course issues from time to time.
After all, Scott himself skipped this event last year to recharge his batteries for a busy end-of- year campaign in Australia.
“I know HSBC and everyone involved understands that’s the way this game is,” he told reporters at Sheshan yesterday.
Scott, who was surpassed at the top of the world rankings by McIlroy in early August, acknowledges his chances of victory are helped without the presence of the Northern Irishman.
“Selfishly, it [McIlroy being absent] opens up the field a little bit this week,” he said.
US Open champion Martin Kaymer agreed. “It’s definitely a loss for the golf tournament, but it’s still a very, very strong field to beat,” said the German. “One player, usually it doesn’t make a difference, but when you talk about number one in the world, of course you think, okay, one player less to beat and a good one less to beat.”
Kaymer has played only two competitive rounds since helping Europe win the Ryder Cup in late September, preferring instead to recharge his batteries for three consecutive tournaments to end the European Tour season.
McIlroy is not the only big name missing this week. Tiger Woods is also absent as he continues to rehabilitate from back surgery, while fellow American Dustin Johnson will not defend his title as he deals with personal issues.
But the tournament, in its 10th year, appears firmly established to the point where it no longer relies on the presence of a single superstar. “The golf course is beautiful, the atmosphere is great and the weather is perfect,” Masters champion Bubba Watson said, under a blue, cloudless sky.
Sergio Garcia will look to turn a string of near-misses into a lucrative victory in Shanghai. But the Ryder Cup star still does not hold out much hope of catching McIlroy at the top of the Race to Dubai standings to become European number one for the first time in his career.
Garcia has recorded four second-place finishes in his last eight events, including being joint runner-up in the CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. However, by opting to play on the PGA Tour rather than in the first event of the European Tour’s Final Series – the BMW Masters – the Spaniard was unable to close the gap to McIlroy, which stands at more than three million points.
And the 34-year-old – who had three straight second-place finishes this summer in the Travelers Championship, Open Championship and US PGA – actually dropped from second to third on the Race to Dubai thanks to Gleneagles team-mate Jamie Donaldson claiming a share of fourth place at the BMW Masters.