England’s Lee Westwood will look to complete a unique double at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club this week.
Westwood is part of a 78-strong field for the CIMB Classic, which is co-sanctioned by the PGA Tour and Asian Tour and is being held on the same course where he won the Maybank Malaysian Open on the European Tour in April.
And the former world No1 could then make it an impressive three wins on the same course in 10 months, with the Malaysian Open switching to February on the 2015 European Tour schedule.
“I’m playing nicely at the moment,” Westwood told a pre-tournament press conference. “I played well in Napa (finishing 12th at the Frys.com Open) a couple of weeks ago and it’s nice for me that it’s a nice setting here.”
Westwood won his 13th tournament in Asia the week after finishing seventh in the Masters and added: “I played it at 18-under-par and won by seven so you’d have to say it suits my game. That was a great week and it’s strange I’m going to be playing three tournaments in 10 months on this golf course.
“It doesn’t often happen and there’s obviously the reason for that…it’s obviously a good golf course because they keep putting tournaments around it and people enjoy playing it.
“I’m the most recent winner around this golf course so I’m pretty confident as far as this week’s tournament is concerned.”
Westwood has won in Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Macau and Malaysia and knows exactly what is needed to succeed in the testing conditions which can usually be relied upon to spark afternoon thunderstorms.
“You’re not going to function if you get dehydrated out there and lose energy,” the 41-year-old added. “Your brain is going to stop working and then you need to use your common sense and have good course-management skills.”
Westwood will play alongside Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia and Gleneagles opponent Patrick Reed in the first two rounds.
It’s ridiculous to write off Rory McIlroy’s chances at The Masters just because he is pulling out of a couple of tournaments now, and might take a short break from the game in February to deal with his legal situation.
As of now, McIlroy is scheduled to play both his usual Desert Swing events – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – followed by the Honda Classic in the last week of February.
That is more or less the same schedule he had last year, and the year before that. Of course, he also played the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February, but that tournament has now been moved to a later date.
The only difference this time would be the fact that he has a distracting date in the Dublin court in the second week of February, which can potentially save him millions of dollars, or force him to part with a huge amount as compensation to Horizon Sports for clinching him a couple of massive deals during the few months they were his manager.
I am sure even McIlroy realises that he needs to pay Horizon for representing him. The only question that remains now is how much? McIlroy’s contention is that Horizon were charging him way too much compared to industry standards and some other clients Horizon had at the time, namely Graeme McDowell.
A management company’s commission on deals secured for a player mostly depends on the earning capability of that player. So, while someone like Tiger Woods might pay in the region of three to five per cent, a newcomer would be paying close to 15 to 20 per cent for endorsement deals.
Without knowing the exact deal McIlroy had with Horizon, I’d guess he might have to pay them somewhere around $5 million for the $100m Nike deal. It may even be less considering that Horizon would no longer be ‘servicing’ the client on behalf of McIlroy.
Obviously, $5m is not a trivial amount, but for someone who is as young, as rich and as focused on his trade as McIlroy, it really isn’t going to give him sleepless nights. After all, we saw how he came out of his personal situation earlier this year and won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth the same week he called off his marriage to Caroline Wozniacki.
In fact, I am pretty sure that just the closure of his legal case against Horizon will cheer him up enough to go on another bullish run. If he saves some money, it would make him happy, and if he loses some, he’d probably be that much more motivated to earn it back.
It really looks like a win-win situation for McIlroy right now, and I certainly won’t scale down his chances at Augusta National in the second week of April.
Tiger’s big month
You’d think that after enduring what really has been the annus horribilis of his golfing career, Tiger Woods couldn’t wait for January.
Well, looks like it’s December that Woods is more excited about.
Two reasons for that – he makes his professional comeback in his own World Challenge tournament after a second lay-off because of his back issues, and also, because on December 16, the first golf course designed by Woods will be opened for scrutiny.
It is not for public consumption though, as the El Cardonal course at Diamante in Mexico is a private golf club.
The golf course will represent a major milestone in the career of the former world No1, who once told me in an interview that his interest in designing a golf course started late in his amateur career.
Dubai will always remain an important part in the process of his becoming a golf course designer, because it was here, way back in 2008, that Woods had announced his first golf course project.
The Tiger Woods Dubai never saw the light of the day and became a victim of the global economic downturn, but Woods did design several holes and four of them were even shaped and grassed.
In fact, even the greatest golfer of all time could not stand up to the recession and Tiger Woods Dubai was just one of his first three golf courses which never got completed. The others being one in Asheville, North Carolina, and one in Mexico’s Baja Coast.
And an update on his golf, Woods has now started taking full swings again as he recuperates from his back injury.
Quotes of the Week
“It makes a big statement in my opinion… I thought it was a wonderful idea and I’m really excited and anxious to hear the ideas” – Jim Furyk’s reaction on the formation of the Ryder Cup task force
“That’s sort of overkill. We’ve had 70 years of the Ryder Cup, and it’s gotten along just fine. The pendulum will swing back without making a monumental thing about it” – Jack Nicklaus’ contrasting view on the task force
WHAT’S IN THE BAG
Winner Volvo World Match Play Championship
Driver: TaylorMade SLDR (10.5 degrees)
3-Wood: Callaway X Hot (15 degrees) Callaway X Hot Pro (18 degrees)
3-4 Irons: Titleist 712U 5-9 Irons: Titleist AP2 714
Wedges: Titleist AP2 714 (48 degree); Cleveland 588 RTX (54 and 60 degree)
Putter: Odyssey Versa #1
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
EVENTS THIS WEEK
The McGladrey Classic Course: Seaside Course Sea Island, Georgia
Purse: $5.6 million
Defending champ: Chris Kirk
ISPS Handa Perth International
Course: Lake Karrinyup CC Perth, Australia
Purse: A$1.75 million
Defending champ: Jin Jeong
World number one Rory McIlroy is taking time away from golf early next year to better deal with the muliti-million dollar legal dispute he has with his former management company.
The Northern Irishman took the decision after lawyers representing himself and the Dublin-based Horizon company failed to reach an out-of-court agreement settling a complex contractual dispute.
"I'm going to need time away from tournament golf to prepare for the trial over my legal dispute with Horizon Sports Management," said McIlroy via his new management company.
"The court-directed mediation process failed over the weekend to resolve the issue."
The hearing is set to take place in February and McIlroy has already opted to withdraw from two top tournaments in Shanghai at the end of this month and early next – the BMW Masters and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament.
McIlroy signed up with Horizon in late 2011, only to begin proceedings against them almost a year ago, alleging the contract to be "unconscionable" due to "excessive commissions".
Via a counter lawsuit, Horizon, instrumental in McIlroy's lucrative five-year contract with Nike, are citing breach of contract and loss of future commissions.
Calls for an out-of-court settlement from Mr Justice Peter McGovern, who predominantly sits on Ireland's Commercial Court, fell on deaf ears.
The concern now is how the trial will affect 25-year-old McIlroy's preparations for the Masters, the first of the year's four majors, which starts on April 9.
The Ryder Cup star has won the last two majors – the British Open and the USPGA and he would likely be the favourite at Augusta to make it three in a row.
At present, McIlroy is scheduled to play in two events in the Middle East in mid-to-late January, early February, along with the Honda Classic in West Palm Beach from February 26.