PGA Tour China, the Olympics & the Official World Golf Ranking
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PGA Tour China, the Olympics & the Official World Golf Ranking

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The PGA Tour planted a firm flag on Chinese soil on Sunday with the announcement of its involvement in a new, 12-tournament pro golf series in China. 

Teaming with the China Golf Association, the PGA Tour will help in the formation of the PGA Tour China Series, with its dozen-event schedule offering tournaments with fields between 120-156 players and with purses of about $200,000. While the Tour didn't immediately announce if and how many of the top money earners would earn status on the Web.com Tour -- akin to how PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica function -- it's almost a given that the top five earners will have a crack at the step just below the PGA Tour.


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It's a win for the PGA Tour, which gets to expand its brand reach into China, creeping further into territory long thought controlled by the likes of the European Tour, OneAsia and the Asian Tour.

It's a win for the China Golf Association, too. There's a new Tour that promises well-run events for second-to-third-tier national players, dangling the carrot of a chance to play on the third-most important tour in the world if they can graduate from PGA Tour China.

Most important to China, however, is that PGA Tour China can be a gateway over the next two-and-a-half years into the 2016 Olympic golf tournament.

The sport makes its return to the Olympic Games in Brazil in the summer of 2016 in a stroke-play format whose qualification criteria is arguably one of the most difficult to crack in the entire Olympic program.

Only 60 men and women will qualify for their respective golf tournaments. The fields will be determined through the Official World Golf Ranking for men and the Rolex Rankings for women. The top 15 players in each ranking, regardless of country, will qualify. Then, after that top 15, two players from each country can qualify for the tournament if they don't already have at least two golfers inside the top 15.

What's that field look like today?

1. Tiger Woods (USA)
2. Adam Scott (AUS)
3. Henrik Stenson (SWE)
4. Phil Mickelson (USA)
5. Justin Rose (UK)
6. Rory McIlroy (UK OR IRE)
7. Steve Stricker (USA)
8. Matt Kuchar (USA)
9. Brandt Snedeker (USA)
10. Jason Dufner (USA)
11. Graeme McDowell (UK OR IRE)
12. Dustin Johnson (USA)
13. Zach Johnson (USA)
14. Jim Furyk (USA)
15. Keegan Bradley (USA)
16. Luke Donald (UK)
18. Sergio Garcia (ESP)
20. Jason Day (AUS)
21. Charl Schwartzel (RSA)
24. Ernie Els (RSA)
29. Hideki Matsuyama (JPN)
32. Graham DeLaet (CAN)
33. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (ESP)
34. Martin Kayemer (GER)
35. Matteo Manassero (ITA)
37. Francesco Molinari (ITA)
39. Jonas Blixt (SWE)
46. Thomas Bjorn (DEN)
49. Thongchai Jaidee (THA)
54. Bernd Wiesberger (AUT)
55. Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN)
56. Angel Cabrera (ARG)
58. Nicolas Colaserts (BEL)
61. Joost Luiten (NED)
65. Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA)
70. Brendon de Jonge (ZIM)
81. Mikko Ilonen (FIN)
90. Koumei Oda (JPN)
96. Park Sung-joon (KOR)
105. Kim Hyung-sung (KOR)
113. Gregory Bourdy (FRA)
134. Julien Quesne (FRA)
132. Liang Wen-chong (CHN)
137. David Hearn (CAN)
140. Vijay Singh (FIJ)
142. Shiv Kapur (IND)
154. Anirban Lahiri (IND)
156. Felipe Aguilar (CHI)
196. Andres Romero (ARG)
204. Daan Huizing (NED)
206. Ricardo Santos (POR)
210. Michael Hendry (NZ)
213. Jose-Felipe Lima (POR)
214. Roope Kakko (FIN)
223. Wu Ashun (CHN)
247. Siddikur Rahman (BAN)
252. Juvic Pagunsan (PHI)
253. Adilson da Silva (BRA)
262. Camilo Villegas (COL)
290. Maximilian Kieffer (GER)

There are two Chinese players that make the field: Liang Wen-chong and Wu Ashun. Liang is 35, getting further from his best years than closer. Wu is 28, but being the only Chinese player in the top 300 under the age of 30 is a rather unimpressive distinction and a ranking that is in no way set in stone. The next-highest ranked Chinese player? Mu Hu at No. 547. After that? Hueng Wen-yi at No. 669.

China would love nothing more than to rival the United States for the country with the most players in the Olympic golf tournament. Even with PGA Tour China, however, it will struggle to land more than two players in Rio. So PGA Tour China has been formed with an eye toward the 2020 Olympics in Japan, which happens to be a long-time geopolitical rival of China.

But having two players crack the top 290 in the world to get into the Olympic golf tournament is just the beginning. Frankly, it'd be a pathetic benchmark for a country investing so much money in its potential athletes. PGA Tour China has also been formed with the hopes of gaming the Official World Golf Ranking.

PGA Tour China will serve as a developmental tour, yes. It'll provide opportunities for Chinese players (and those from other nations) to compete in a professional, prestigious environment. After all, it's not like there's a proliferation of Chinese mini-tours. But, by working with the PGA Tour to form this circuit, the China Golf Association will give its native-born athletes a chance to earn World Ranking points.

It will be tough. PGA Tour Canada and PGA Tour Latinoamerica events offer a minimum of 6 world-ranking points to its winner -- half of the minimum offering by the European Challenge Tour and eight less than the Web.com Tour minimum. If PGA Tour China lands the same arrangement, its dozen events will give ranking points to at least six players. Those are points players would be challenged to otherwise find on different tours around the world. A place to play at home is a place to get a world ranking.

PGA Tour China graduates will move on to the Web.com Tour with a chance to earn substantially more world-ranking points. Maybe some players will land on the PGA Tour through the Web.com Tour finals, where the points are consistently highest in the world.

Take MacKenzie Hughes, for example. He won the PGA Tour Canada money list this season, earning status on the Web.com Tour in 2014. Right now, he's 552nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. He gained 11.10 world-ranking points in 2013, but it's a base springboard into the Web.com Tour, where he can rapidly move into the 200s if he does well. Maybe he gets through to the PGA Tour in 2014-15. Now he has a chance to score enough world-ranking points to get into invitationals, World Golf Championships and major championships.

It's a long game, but that's how the PGA Tour's feeder system, being defined very quickly, will work.

Now imagine China throwing all of its resources and players into the same cauldron, hoping for the same results. It's the only way China really has available to them to make a splash in the world of golf. What better way to do it, then, than to join up with the professional game's most important brand, create a domestic proving ground for its players and play the long game?

It's how the country became an economic superpower and how, if it all goes to plan, they'll do the same in golf.

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