Filipino stars must deal with tragedy their way

At face value, it may have appeared more than a little crass of the Asian Tour to go ahead with the Manila Masters last week in the wake of the devastation that visited other parts of the Philippines in the form of Typhoon Haiyan.

While Filipinos came to terms with the thousands of lives lost and their homes wiped from the face of the planet, professional golfers were teeing it up at a country club resort just 360 miles from where Haiyan, known to the locals as Yolanda, wreaked its havoc.

Yet aside from the need to press on with life as usual in the face of adversity, the Asian Tour golfers were right to play on. They raised whatever money they could for the disaster relief effort and tournament winner Liang Wen-Chong of China said he would donate half his US$135,000 (€100,000) winner’s cheque to the victims of the typhoon.

Liang will be at Royal Melbourne this week representing China at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf as will Angelo Que and Miguel Tabuena, flying the flag for the Philippines.

Typhoons are an awful but very real fact of life and death in their homeland and we should respect their right to compete, even it when it may sit a little uncomfortably in this darkest of hours for that country.

And beyond. Australia’s Jason Day, one half of the host nation’s powerhouse team with Masters and newly crowned Australian Masters champion Adam Scott, will go into the tournament this week having experienced first hand the unspeakable grief of Haiyan.

Day, the son of a Filipino mother who emigrated to Queensland 30 years ago, lost his grandmother, uncle and six young cousins when the typhoon hit.

“They found, I think, eight of our relatives,” Day said yesterday at Royal Melbourne. “It’s such a tragedy. It’s been toughest on my mother, there’s been no communication.

“Everything got wiped out in the area around where my grandma and my relatives lived.

“The only way we could communicate with anyone was with our relatives in Manila through Facebook.”

Why play on? Well, that’s Day’s job but he also hopes his participation in Melbourne this week can “spread awareness to assist with the relief efforts that continue in the Philippines”. Who are we to argue with that?

McDowell and Lowry on team and personal missions

Ireland’s dynamic duo at the World Cup this week at Royal Melbourne will be Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry, each having different reasons, aside from representing their country with honour, for finishing their seasons on a high.

This column has catalogued Lowry’s quest for a world top-50 ranking that will secure his place at next April’s Masters and the world-ranking points on offer in Australia this week means a strong showing for Team Ireland can boost his hopes of an Augusta National debut.

For McDowell, there will be disappointment that his challenge to Henrik Stenson at the DP World Tour Championship last weekend wasn’t stronger. Yet the Portrush star has had his best season since his breakthrough year of 2010, winning the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour, the French Open and the Volvo World Match Play as well as finishing fourth on the Race To Dubai with more than €2.4m in prize money.

It could have been better, and no-one knows that more than McDowell, whose best performance in a lacklustre major championship season this year was a tie for 12th at Oak Hill in the PGA Championship. But a strong finish at Royal Melbourne will send the Ulsterman into the New Year with a spring in his step and upwards towards a second career Major.

Stenson shows golf’s transatlantic chasm can be bridged

Henrik Stenson’s never-before achieved feat of winning both the Race To Dubai and FedEx Cup series has rightly earned the Swede praise from around the golfing world.

He did it in style with a closing 64 to win the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai on Sunday by six shots. Not bad for a man ranked 61st in the world at the start of the year.

The big man has banked around €12 million since finishing third at the Scottish Open in July, enough for his caddie, Gareth Lord, to allow himself the luxury of buying a Ferrari. And as Stenson’s thoughts turn to 2014, the newly installed world number three must surely be looking to land the major that has so far eluded him and snatch Tiger Woods’s world number one spot. Those objectives must have seemed outrageous as recently as January 2012 when he tumbled down the rankings from number four in 2009 to outside the top 230.

If ever there was an example to confirm the adage that form is temporary and class permanent, it is surely Stenson.

And there is bonus in all of this for the European Tour as it cops flak about its eligibility requirements for its ‘Final Series’, the four-tournament closing stretch to the Race To Dubai it introduced for this year. When it announced the series last year, the Tour stipulated that players would have to participate in at least two of the first three tournaments of the series in order to be eligible for its finale, the DP World Tour Championship.

Nay-sayers to the format and qualification criteria argue it fails to address the requirements of the world’s elite players to compete in a global calendar and there were three notable stars absent in protest in Dubai last weekend: Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel. That is their prerogative, of course, and their arguments are understandable with players increasingly required to choose between big-money events on the PGA and European Tours.

But hasn’t Stenson proved by winning both Tour Championships on either side of the Atlantic, that it is possible to meet the European Tour’s obligations and still be extremely successful around the globe?


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