- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2011

SHANGHAI (AP) - Except for the red carpet in bunkers on the practice range, signs posted in English and Chinese, and bicycles competing with BMWs for space on the road, the HSBC Champions looks like any other World Golf Championship.

Too bad the PGA Tour doesn’t see it that way.

The tour opened itself to criticism _ and even silly whispers of a conspiracy _ by deciding to wait until after the HSBC Champions before sending ballots for its postseason awards. The tournament counts as an official win if a PGA Tour member is holding the trophy Sunday at Sheshan International, so it was the right decision to wait.

For those who saw ballot delay as a slight against Luke Donald, they’re missing the point.

The only bias this exposed was how the PGA Tour continues to treat this WGC differently from the other three. Otherwise, there is no way it would have forgotten that the season really didn’t end when Donald ran off six straight birdies, shot 64 to win at Disney and establish himself the clear favorite as player of the year.

And the bias looks even worse considering the other “world” events are all played in America.

“This should be treated as the rest,” Thomas Bjorn said. “It comes at a time when certain people are not going to play, but that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a world-class field on a fantastic golf course. There’s a couple of players missing, but not too many. This event has everything it needs. It showcases the game in this part of the world. And this is where the future is lying financially for golf.”

The tour makes a reasonable argument for giving the HSBC Champions only partial status.

Because of where it falls on the calendar and on the globe, many of its stars aren’t playing as much. The HSBC Champions has the fewest percentage of PGA Tour players (44 percent compared with about 70 percent for the other WGCs), thus the tour is hesitant to award all its perks when the majority of the field is not already a member.

Fair enough.

But if any player wins against this field, is that not worthy of PGA Tour membership?

“I don’t think it can be both ways,” Nick Watney said. “If it’s a WGC event, it should count as official money. It should be all or nothing. I don’t understand how it can be an official win, but not be official money. It’s kind of like, ‘Who do we think we are?’ Yeah, you can put our name on it, but we’re not going to count it toward our tour. I just don’t get it.”

Why shouldn’t it count as an official money?

Remember, when PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem first introduced the WGCs more than a decade ago, the idea was to end the season with back-to-back blockbuster events _ the Tour Championship and a World Golf Championship in Spain. Of course, this was before the FedEx Cup came along, and before Europe began tapping into the lucrative Asian market.

The problem with counting this toward the PGA Tour money list was the guy hitting balls Tuesday afternoon between Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy. It was Bobby Gates, and if the name sounds familiar, he was the one who missed a 7-foot par putt on his final hole at Disney that ultimately cost him his card.

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