washburnespn111907.jpgCheck out my latest for ESPN.com here. A taste:

But while buckets of cash can build record-setting golf facilities — at 216 holes, Mission Hills is the world’s largest — and bring in top-shelf talent — the HSBC event boasted the strongest field ever assembled in Asia — such achievements do little to advance China’s domestic game. Golf talent can’t be built like so many Shanghai skyscrapers.

Of the HSBC’s $5 million purse, around $92,500 in winnings was spread out among the host country’s nine pro participants, and 65 percent of that total was shared by Zhang Lianwei and Liang Wenchong, China’s top two players, and the only ones in the group to make the cut. After the 89-player tournament’s second round, the bottom of the leaderboard was awash with red Chinese flags. After Zhang and Liang, there they were: Nos. 68, 73, 84, 85, 86, 87 and 89. The names — Li Chao, Zheng Wengen, Wu Kangchun, Wu Weihuang, Yuan Hao, Huang Mingjie, Yang Wenzhong — read like a who’s who of the players on the Omega China Tour, China’s fledgling domestic circuit.

You are forgiven for never having heard of the China Tour. Very few people in China have heard of it, either.

“Really, the tour is no different from anything in China,” explained Raymond Roessel, an executive with World Sport Group, the Singapore-based sports marketing and event management company that partnered with the China Golf Association to launch the tour in 2005. “It’s all growing, it’s all new, it’s all raw.”

And that describes Chinese golf in a nutshell. The sport in China is nine years younger than Tiger Woods.

Read the rest at ESPN.com. They will be publishing a few more items of mine throughout the week.

For more of my golf coverage, check out the writing archive. And please check out Par for China, a site dedicated to the book project that occupied much of my time in 2007 and no doubt will dominate 2008 for me, as well.