Sponsor rips Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy for skipping HSBC event

Hong Wu

After Rory McIlroy beat Tiger Woods by a shot in Monday’s one-on-one showdown in Zhengzhou, China, golf’s Nos. 1 and 2 scattered to the four winds. The duo's disappearing act did not sit well with the primary sponsor of this week’s HSBC Champions tournament, which sent out its top sponsorship executive to bash the soon-to-be Nike twins for skipping the Guangdong, China, event.

''To have a World Golf Championship in Asia is really important for the sport, to balance the sport out, and to grow,'' Giles Morgan, HSBC’s global head of sponsorship and events, whined to -- er, told -- the Associated Press about the absence of the best buddies from the Mission Hills Golf Club lineup. ''And because it's a World Golf Championship event, it requires the best players to be here.''

Sure, every tourney would love to showcase golf’s most magnetic stars, and perhaps the two multi-millionaires tarnished their reputations by choosing the one-day, wallet-stuffing exhibition at China’s Jinsha Lake over a co-sanctioned PGA and European Tour tourney. But, really, the $7 million competition boasting several of the world’s best golfers “requires” the presence of Tiger and Rory?

Apparently so, according to reigning British Open champ Ernie Els.

''I don't know why they are skipping because it's a wonderful event,” said Els, who conceded that no one could play “every week” in every event. “It's unfortunate they are not here.''

Others in the talent-laden field were probably just as happy to see Tiger and Rory take a pass. Like 17th-ranked Peter Hanson, who defeated McIlroy at last week’s BMW Masters and can surpass the Northern Irishman on the European Tour money list if he captures the $1.2 million winner’s share this week.

McIlroy has already sewn up the PGA Tour money title and has his sights set on a two-fer, which would equal Luke Donald’s 2011 accomplishment. But the kid actually has a life off the course that involves tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, and his decision to travel to Bulgaria to watch Wozniacki compete in the WTA’s Tournament of Champions gave Justin Rose an outside chance at the Euro cash crown as well.

Woods chose “corporate commitments” in Singapore, according to the AP, over the HSBC tilt, which will feature seven of the world’s top 10, including Masters champion Bubba Watson, as well as U.S. Ryder Cup duo Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley.

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