Is American Dominance of Golf Dwindling

By Associated PressFebruary 21, 2006, 5:00 pm
2005 WGC Accenture Match PlayCARLSBAD, Calif. -- The first World Golf Championship brought together players from 17 countries, a collection of flags from Paraguay to the Philippines flying over La Costa Resort.
 
It was strictly Stars & Stripes by the weekend.
 
The Americans always had numbers in their favor, which partly explains why it was an All-American semifinal at the inaugural Match Play Championship. Even in the years when Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson were knocked out early, there was always David Toms or Jeff Maggert or Kevin Sutherland to carry the flag.
 
But as this tournament enters its eighth year, American dominance in world golf is dwindling.
 
There were 40 Americans in the 64-man field when the Accenture Match Play Championship began in 1999. As recently as two years ago, Americans made up more than half the field. But when the brackets were set Monday night, the United States reached a new low with only 25 players.
 
Woods was the only American with a No. 1 seed in the four brackets, another first.
 
Whether this is a case of Americans getting worse or the world getting better is up for debate. The Match Play Championship field is determined by the world ranking. And more international players -- Europeans and Australians in particular -- have joined the PGA Tour, earned more points and climbed higher in the rankings.
 
'There's no sliding for Americans,' Ian Poulter said Tuesday. 'It's just that there are good golfers from around the world wanting to play good golf. And they're wanting to play on a couple of levels -- and that would be the PGA Tour. It's a progression of interest over the last 10 years from Tiger playing. Everybody wants to compete against him.'
 
Poulter, an Englishman who reached the semifinals last year before losing to Toms, is among a record 17 players from Europe who qualified for the Match Play Championship. Europe had 11 players the first year, and the numbers have steadily increased each year.
 
World parity also is reflected in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup.
 
Europe has dominated the Ryder Cup since 1995, winning four of the last five, and the 18 1/2 -9 1/2 margin two years ago at Oakland Hills was its biggest rout. There always seems to be an unheralded player who emerges as the star -- David Gilford and Phillip Price come to mind -- but that's no longer the case.
 
David Howell hit the pivotal shot at Oakland Hills, a 6-iron into 8 feet on the 17th hole in a better-ball match Saturday morning that stopped a U.S. rally. If no one knew him then, this is the same guy who beat Woods head-to-head on the weekend at the HSBC Champions event in Shanghai last November.
 
The Presidents Cup was a tie in 2003, and only the late heroics of Chris DiMarco kept it from being another one last year. The International team might be even stronger than Europe, and everyone knows theirs names -- from Retief Goosen to Vijay Singh to Michael Campbell. Most fans even know the names of guys who got left off that team.
 
Still, perhaps the best evidence of this shift from American dominance comes at La Costa.

The ratio of Americans to Europeans in 1999 was 40-11. Now it is 25-17, and Europe lost one when Thomas Bjorn of Denmark withdrew with a sore neck (Sergio Garcia previously was replaced by Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland).
 
'We're catching up,' Colin Montgomerie said. 'I think we had a particularly good year the last two years, especially in Europe, where a lot of the young guys and a lot of guys that had potential have now come through. It's one thing showing potential, but it's another proving it. All the players deserve this spot here.'
 
Perhaps of greater concern to U.S. golf is the emergence of young players.
 
The best young players on the PGA Tour carry international passports -- Garcia of Spain, Adam Scott of Australia, even Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, whose victory in the Nissan Open was his third on the PGA Tour. No American under the age 30 has more than two PGA Tour victories.
 
If you want to see young American stars, go to Hawaii this week, where Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis are playing on the LPGA Tour.
 
'There tends to be a lot of worldwide players coming through now, more than ever, international players coming through,' Montgomerie said. 'And since Tiger -- he's old, he's in his 30s -- there hasn't really been that progression that you might have thought after him here. It seems to have taken place internationally more than it has in the States.'
 
Indeed, this is an aging American group at La Costa.
 
Nine of the 25 Americans at the Match Play Championship are in their 40s, with six others at 35 or older. The average age for this group of Americans is 36.3.
 
This is not to suggest American golf is slipping. That won't be the case as long as Woods (30) and Mickelson (35) are around. Big-hitting J.B. Holmes might be the best hope for youth, although no one should get carried away with one victory in Phoenix.
 
And Americans still dominate where it matters, in the majors. The last European to win a major was Paul Lawrie at Carnoustie in 1999. Americans have won 18 of the last 25 majors since, with Woods capturing nine of those.
 
But at this rate, the World Golf Championship will truly be global events.
 
Even if they're all played in America.
 
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    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

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    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation. 

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    Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 20, 2018, 12:36 am

    Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

    He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

    “I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).

    Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129. 

    The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.