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PGA National (Champion Course)

The Loop

Forward Press: Big hitters take their turn in the spotlight

October 20, 2015

It’s time for the real athletes to take center stage again.

With all due respect to the PGA Tour’s jocks, the world’s most athletic looking and performing golfers have gathered at Oklahoma’s WinStar World Casino and Resort for another edition of the World Long Drive Championship.

This is the final edition under the full control of long drive founder, nurturer and all-out believer Art Sellinger. He has sold full control to Golf Channel, which plans to invest and build out from the annual finals seen live the last few years. Rumors of an exotic international venue, a true world championship qualifying model and other grand plans bode well for what as become an annual rush of physical prowess, emotion and testosterone.

If you plan to tune in for Tuesday and Wednesday night’s 9 pm ET telecasts, beware, the match play format that started a couple of years ago has expanded to a 64-player field. Organizers are already breathing a huge sigh as the early rounds have gone largely to the top seeds with very few drives drifting OB, the only potential buzzkill in long drive. Tuesday night will see the field whittled to eight for Wednesday’s live finale to crown the longest driver on the planet.

Morning Drive profiled defending champion Jeff Flagg, who was knocked out before the round of 16, but long drive stalwarts Tim Burke and Joe MIiller have survived.

Burke won the 2013 Long Drive Championship at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with one of the more thrilling clutch long bombs you’ll ever see.

The PGA Tour In Sin City, Not That You'd Know It

Poll PGA Tour players for the tour stop with the most potential to become something much bigger, the annual visit to Las Vegas might top the list. The combination of an enjoyable Bobby Weed-designed TPC prone to producing exciting finishes with the fun of visiting Sin City in the fall should attract more attention. But since Justin Timberlake was run off as tournament host and the Las Vegas sign was scrubbed from the logo, there is a sense that the PGA Tour feels uncomfortable visiting America’s gambling and entertainment capital.

That won’t stop young guns Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka from enjoying the Vegas scene, joined in the Shriners Hospital For Children Open field by veterans like Jimmy Walker and Davis Love. Coverage starts Thursday on Golf Channel at 5 pm ET.

To Asia They Come

The LPGA Tour continues its run of events in Asia with the Futon Taiwan Championship. Coming off last week’s thriller in South Korea won by Lexi Thompson, the Futon features 16 of the top-20 on the LPGA Tour’s Official Money List.

World No. 1 Inbee Park defends her 2014 title while former top-ranked star Yani Tseng returns to her come country appearing to have found her form. The 15-time LPGA Tour winner became the youngest player, male or female, to capture five major championships at the age of 22. In her last four LPGA Tour starts, Tseng has 3 top-5 finishes including two runner-ups. Coverage starts at noon ET Thursday.

The European Tour rolls out a strong field in Hong Kong where Justin Rose headlines the final tournament of the regular 2015 European Tour season. Miguel Angel Jiménez has won the UBS Hong Kong Open three times in the last eight years, and is joined by Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed, recent British Masters winner Matt Fitzpatrick, Graeme McDowell and defending champion Scott Hend, who won last week’s Venetian Macao Open on the Asian Tour. Golf Channel coverage starts Thursday-Sunday each day at 6 am ET.

Hong Kong Open host Fanling Country Club is loved by players for its old style, tree-lined design. Check it out in this drone flyover, and get some nice meditation music while you’re at it.